Opposite Igreja São Cristóvão in the district of Mouraria, a group of artists has paid tribute to the district: Escadinhas de São Cristóvão.
Escadinhas de São Cristóvão is not only a tribute to the Mouraria district, but also to Fado, the Portuguese song of life that originated in this district. Because the Mouraria district is not as well known as Alfama, you will find many travel guides stating that Escadinhas de São Cristóvão is located in Alfama, but we’re here to tell you that’s not quite true.
From alley to art gallery
In Lisbon you’ll find many Becos (narrow alleys) that take you to surprising places. If you are looking for Escadinhas de São Cristóvão, then look for the steps that lead to it.
The artwork on the wall shows the identity of the district in a stylish way. If you come from Rua da Madalena, the mural starts with the river Tagus. Next up is Saint São Cristóvão and the ladies dressed in black whispering in front of their doors.
Then there’s the man with a glass of wine, standing next to Maria Severa (the first fadista, or fado singer, ever and Portuguese legend). The musicians who play fado on a viola (fado guitar) and the old woman on the balcony who overlooks everything, with next to her Castelo de São Jorge.
OUnder the woman on the balcony is a table depicted, with wine and bread – the words Cheira Bem mean “smells good”. If you look further to the right you see the words Cheira LX with a dark colored man wearing a T-shirt with “Cachura” on it.
LX is an acronym often used to refer to Lisbon (like LX factory).
When you put all the texts of the mural together you get the words ‘Cheira Bem, Cheira LX’, which you can translate into Smell good, smells like Lisbon.
The adjacent wall contains the last part of the mural, with the words: ‘Holy Christ’ and next to it a Catholic priest.
From a citizens’ initiative to a work of art
This mural was created by a citizens’ initiative of a group of friends who used to live in Mouraria near São Cristóvão. The friends were impressed by the historical and cultural value of this part of Lisbon and felt compelled to show it to everyone.
They collected funds for this project by offering fado to the local residents (for a fee) with the church of São Cristóvão as the central point. They also organised a neighbourhood party to raise money. Several artists offered to participate in the mural and the result can be seen in this alley.
If you are in the neighbourhood it is definitely worthwhile to reserve some time to observe the mural. It is an interesting representation of culture and the clumping together of conventional art with urban expression.
If you are unlucky and come to a garbage collection day, there is a good chance that there are garbage bags in front of the mural.
Graffiti versus mural
Remarkable is the many graffiti around and on the mural. In fact there was graffiti in this alley before the mural, so the mural is painted over the graffiti.
Nowadays you see more and more graffiti on the mural, but very little of this takes the attention away from the beautiful colours and details that are shown in the mural.
Where to find Escadinhas de São Cristóvão
Address: Escadinhas de São Cristóvão, Mouraria
Opening Hours: freely accessible