The Graça Miradouro is the most popular of Lisbon’s sunset view points
We go there every day – not only because we live at the Miradouro. We go there for a cup of coffee, to read a book, to meet people, to enjoy some of the many concerts and performances that happens here and to have a sun-downer.
And then we go here for dinner – on the square just behind the Miradouro you find some of the best local restaurants in town and the legendary Botequim where the old poets used to sip wine and work, and the young creatives do the same today.
Only few knows that Graça Miradouro is much more than a viewpoint. And nobody knows its real name.
For connoisseurs Graça is the gateway to the old bohemian parts of Lisbon. Literature had an often unacknowledged link to this part of town, but posterity has changed its view on this, and started giving credit to literary figures like Natalia Correia, Angelina Vidal and poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.
The latter is one of Portugal’s most important and influential poet who used to get inspired and write her poems on the Miradouro – the reason why it was renamed Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen back in 2009.
We have always had strong relations and connections to this oasis, but didn’t know anything about neither Sophia, nor her works. So it was a big surprise to us not only to know that the view-point was named after her – but also the story behind.
Who was Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen?
In 1840 the only 14-year-old Jan Heinrich Andresen left Denmark for America.
When the ship stopped over for a few days in Oporto he decided to stay. True to his American Dream – Jan Heinrich Andresen ended up becoming a successful Port Producer and the President of the Commercial Association of Oporto Business.
Jan Heinrich Andresen married Maria Leopoldina de Amorim de Brito and got one child João Henrique Andresen whose son (also named João Henrique Andresen) entered the Portuguese aristocracy by marrying Maria Amélia de Mello Breyner. And that’s how Jan Heinrich Andresen’s great-gran daughter Sophia got her semi aristocratic semi common-Danish family name de Mello Breyner Andresen.
In 1946 Sophia married renowned journalist, lawyer and politician Francisco Sousa Tavares and moved from Oporto to Lisbon, where the couple became part of the opposition to Salazar’s dictatorship.
After the military revolution in 1974 Sophia became a deputy for the Socialist Party for a short period of time. Her last years were mostly dedicated to writing.
Sophia published her first book in 1944 at the age of 25 – Poesia – a selection of poems she has been writing since she was 12.
In 1999 she was the first woman to achieve the prestigious and most important Portuguese literary award Camões Award.
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen is buried at National Pantheon (10 minutes walk from Tings Lisbon) next to important Portuguese personalities like Eusébio and Vasco da Gama amongst others.
When Sophia died in 2004 she left behind a production of tales, poetry and a number of Children’s books where one of most famous stories is O Cavaleiro da Dinamarca or The Knight from Denmark.
In 2010 Berligske Tidende/Aok interviewed Portuguese tourists: visiting Copenhagen
AOK: How do you like Copenhagen?Sofia Lange (Portugal):I’m very happy being here, a lot of sun, its warm and people are really friendly.
We have a very famous Portuguese writer – Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen – who wrote the children’s book The Knight of Denmark. It begins Christmas Eve in Copenhagen and is about a travel to through Europe’s Cities to Jerusalem.
So for me it’s fantastic to visit Copenhagen.
Why do I find this so interesting?
And NO – I neither knew Sophia nor have read the Knight of Denmark or any other of her works for that matter.
It’s interesting for other reasons.
First: I was born and raised in Copenhagen and lived here for 47 years. And even though I left the city in 2009 and hardly hasn’t been there since I consider myself as a Copenhagener. So when I by coincidence fell upon the interview in Danish Newspaper, AOK and read the comments about Copenhagen and Sophia, I took it as a sign to gather all my notes and photos about her and the miradouro and share them.
Second: For the first time in many, many years we have found a city where we feel so much at home that we have brought our few belongings from Copenhagen. This City is Lisbon – and our ‘hood’ is Graça!
Third: I am surrounded by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen whom has not only given name to the Miradouro she is everywhere in this neighborhood.
Fourth: I really enjoyed Graça before I knew anything about Sophia. But after I got to know about her – and the stories about her fellow Graça writers – things have changed. You can feel their presence. It feels as if the whole neighborhood ‘lives’.
If you still don’t understand – go to Botequim and have a drink or sit and have a glass of Port Wine and watch the sun set from The Miradouro next to Sophia. Or why not both 🙂
What happened to The port wine?
After Jan Heinrich Andersen’s death their son got into financial problems and had to sell the Port Business to a society led by Albino Pereira dos Santos who already then was a respected name in the Port wine business.
Today this company remains one of the few totally family owned Portuguese Port firms.
You can’t get the Andresen Vintage at the cafe – still you should order a glass of Port and keep this story in mind when you enjoy the sunset.