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The Origins of the University of Porto

Nautical Class (1762 - 1803)
Sketching and Drawing Class (1779 - 1803)
Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs of the City of Porto (1803 - 1837)
Polytechnic Academy of Porto (1837 - 1911)

Royal School of Surgery (Régia Escola de Cirurgia) (1825 - 1836)
Medical-Surgical School of Porto (1836 - 1911)
School of Pharmacy (1836 - 1911)

The Porto Academy of Fine Arts (1836 - 1911)
Porto Fine Arts School (1881 - 1950)
Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts (1950 - 1992)

Nautical Class (Aula de Náutica) (1762 - 1803)

The earliest roots of the faculties that were to comprise the University of Porto can be traced back to the founding of the Nautical Class. It was instated by diploma on 30th July 1762, following a petition by 35 of the town’s leading tradesmen sent to the Crown on 18th October 1761, requesting the construction of two war frigates to convoy the merchant ships exiting the Porto sand bar. This class was run by the Administrative Board of the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro (General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture) and ministered merely practical instruction, complemented with training on board the merchant ships operating the overseas trade routes. The Nautical Class, located at the Colégio de Meninos Órfãos (College for Orphaned Boys), marked the beginning of public schooling in Porto. Its first lecturer was António Rodrigues dos Santos, appointed on 12th May 1764 and charged with the responsibility "to occupy the post of master of the Porto class, where he shall read on all the days that are not of duty, and shall explain nautical science to the naval officers and all those who wish to apply themselves to said science".
José Monteiro Salazar (1715-1789), also lecturer of the Nautical Class, was an important eighteenth-century cartographer, author of at least four nautical charts, belonging, three of them, to the Portuguese Geographical Society, and one to the Municipal Public Library of Porto.

Sketching and Drawing Class (Aula de Debuxo e Desenho) (1779 - 1803)

A few years after the Nautical Class was instituted, the Administrative Board of the General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture petitioned the king to create another teaching establishment, the Sketching and Drawing Class. It was instated by Decree on 27th November 1779, which also appointed its first "Class fellow", António Fernandes Jácome. He was succeeded by the painter Vieira Portuense, appointed on 20th December 1800, who was to become the establishment’s director three years later. Teaching was then conducted by José Teixeira Barreto, Raimundo José da Costa and, later on, Domingos Sequeira. Training in this class was primarily focused on the navigation course, although there were also concerns with the manufacturing industry, which was gaining growing importance in Porto.
The Sketching and Drawing Class was also located in the facilities of the College of Orphaned Boys, under the administration of the General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture, until 1802. In that year, it was transferred to the Hospício dos Religiosos de Santo António (Santo António Religious Hospice), owing to the high number of students who were attending the academy.

Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs of the City of Porto (Academia Real de Marinha e Comércio da Cidade do Porto) (1803 - 1837)

The notable progress achieved by the Nautical and Sketching and Drawing Classes, together with other interests on the part of the General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture, led the Administrative Board to once more address the Prince Regent, future King João VI, requesting the establishment of official trade and mathematics classes, as well as the teaching of French and English, proposing furthermore that the Board would ensure the necessary resources and facilities. As a result of this request, a royal Charter of 9th February 1803 instated the Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs of the City of Porto, thus substituting the Nautical and Sketching and Drawing Classes, maintaining its location at the College of Orphaned Boys.
The engineer Carlos Luís Ferreira da Cruz Amarante was in charge of the project for new facilities. The academy was funded for a few years by the Porto City Council, the General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture and a tax known as the "real on wine" or "literary tariff" (a tax which comprised the annual payment of one real for each pint of wine sold from July to November in the city, and in all places where the General Company had exclusive rights to the selling of table wine). In 1803, the General Company put forward a proposal to build vaulted shops on the ground floor whose rental proceeds would go to the College of Orphaned Boys. Apparently, those shops and "depots for earthenware" still existed when construction of the Polytechnic Academy began.

During the Siege of Porto, an ambulatory hospital was set up in the Academy’s building, to provide support to the liberal troops. Once the civil war was over, substantial repairs were required. It was at this time that the academies were temporarily moved to the residence of the second Viscount of Balsemão, located in the Praça de Carlos Alberto, a stately mansion where Porto’s City Council Services are today housed.

Passos Manuel was to introduce profound curricular changes in the school, which was ultimately absorbed by the Polytechnic Academy in 1837.
On 4th November 1803, João Baptista Fetal da Silva Lisboa, fellow at the recently-founded Academy, delivered the "inaugural lecture" ("oração de sapiência") at the official opening of the academic year in the new establishment. The Academy had three fellows for mathematics, one for trade, one for drawing, one for rational and moral philosophy, and two for French and English, and the support of a "navigations master" who taught subjects related with naval exercises. The school offered preparatory and industrial instruction courses, following a model similar to that of a polytechnic institute.

With the advent of the liberal regime, several changes took place, both in terms of the powers of the Company’s Administrative Board and those of the Academy’s director, a post that had been created on 27th August 1817. The latter was responsible for "the supervision and general management of the studies and the regular governance of the Academy, as well as the maintenance of order and compliance among the employees and the observance of its statutes". In 1834, the rules governing all state-run teaching establishments were also applied to the administration of the Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs, a situation which was maintained until 1837, when, by order of the Passos Manuel government, the Academy was substantially restructured, to ultimately become the Polytechnic Academy of Porto.

Polytechnic Academy of Porto (Academia Politécnica do Porto) (1837 - 1911)

The Decree of 13th January 1837 established the Polytechnic Academy of Porto, bringing with it profound reforms to the education as provided by the Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs of the City of Porto. The new school would provide "high-level" industrial training, that is, train civil engineers of all categories (mining, bridges, roads and paving) and builders, naval officers, pilots, traders, farmers, factory managers and artists. The inauguration of the new establishment took place on 5th March 1837 and the painter João Baptista Ribeiro was appointed its director.
The Academy’s first teachers were fellows from the University of Coimbra, a situation which was only to change in the middle of the century, when former students from the Polytechnic Academy became fellows themselves. However, the predominance of the University of Coimbra was always felt.
The course offered at the Polytechnic Academy comprised eleven subjects, grouped into three sections – Mathematics, Philosophy, and Trade. Its curricular organisation suffered several modifications over the years, a result of reforms to the study plans. Among these, special mention should be made of the reform brought on by the Bill of Law of 21st July 1885 and by the Decree of 10th September that same year, which introduced profound changes to the general curricular structure and instated new higher degrees which attending the Academy gave access to. The new study plans were centred on two "special courses", that of civil engineering (public, mining and industrial works) and that of Trade, which were associated with "preparatory courses" required to attend the Naval School, the Medical-Surgical schools and the Pharmacy schools.

Equally significant was the reform introduced by Decree on 8th October 1897, which suppressed the 17th subject (Trade), creating in its stead another of industrial technology, aimed at bestowing the school with a more pronounced dimension as a technical higher institute. This perspective was not in any case new, since as far back as 1882, the Academic Council had approved a project to unite the Academy and the Industrial Institute of Porto, with a view to creating a technical higher education establishment called Polytechnic Institute of Porto.

The law which instituted the Academy in 1837 also provided for the existence of several associated departments, apart from those brought in with the Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs. This was the case of the Astronomical Observatory (Observatório Astronómico), as well as the Natural History Department, the Machinery Department, the Chemistry Laboratory, the Metallurgical Workshop, and the Botanical Garden. They were all intended to support classes, in an organisational model that was very similar to that of the University of Coimbra’s. However, the resources required to implement and operate all these departments were limited, which hindered their full development. At first, only one laboratory was set up and the others were to appear slowly, often under difficult circumstances.

With the founding of the University of Porto in 1911, the Polytechnic Academy was abolished and partially integrated in the new Faculty of Sciences, with its departments of Mathematical Sciences, Physical-Chemical Sciences and Historical-Natural Sciences. The subjects which at the Academy corresponded to the courses of Engineering were declared associated to this Faculty and would give rise to the Technical Faculty in 1915, which would in turn later become the Faculty of Engineering.

Royal School of Surgery (Régia Escola de Cirurgia) (1825 - 1836)

Royal Schools of Surgery were founded in 1825, one in Porto and another in Lisbon. In the regulations approved by Charter on 25th June of that year, the institution of these schools was thus justified: "Since it is indispensible and of the utmost necessity that Surgeons acquire precise knowledge so as to correctly and honourably occupy the posts of Surgeons in the Army and the Armada, with the public good always in mind; as well as assist the People, whether in places where there are no Doctors, or where they are not sufficient in number to relieve all the afflictions of their duty".
The Porto School ran normally for ten years, only interrupted by the Siege of Porto. In 1836, a restructuring of medical teaching, aimed at improving "not only the benefits of public education, but also the utility of the hospitals in both cities", resulted in a reform of the Porto and Lisbon surgical schools, "intended particularly to train such an essential and important class of Physicians", which in turn led to the creation of the Medical-Surgical School of Porto and an identical establishment in Lisbon.

Medical-Surgical School of Porto (Escola Médico-Cirúrgica do Porto) (1836 - 1911)

The Decree of 29th December 1836 confirmed the transformation of the old surgical schools of Lisbon and Porto into Medical-Surgical schools, which followed very similar paths, suffering successive reforms as advances were made in Medicine and Surgery. The schools’ curricular structure comprised nine subjects (partially "inherited" from the former schools), distributed over a 5-year degree.
The regulations governing the Medical-Surgical School of Porto were approved by Decree on 23rd April 1840, which covered all of the establishment’s organic bodies: School Board, Director, Secretary, Treasurer; specific divisions (anatomical room, dissection room, surgical instruments room, medical and pharmaceutical materials room, pharmaceutical laboratory, botanical garden, library); the medical-surgical course and associated courses (pharmaceutical course and midwifery course).
The Medical-Surgical School of Porto was first housed at the Hospital da Misericódia (Mercy Hospital, which later became the St. Antonio Hospital), as had been the case of the Royal School of Surgery. It was at this hospital that medical-surgical classes took place. Given the limitations of the facilities, whether for classes or to adequately set up an anatomical theatre and the extensive library, the need for a new building became a pressing concern. The problem seemed to have been resolved when the building of the former Carmelite convent was bequeathed to the school, a measure instated by Decree on 20th October 1852. However, the concession proved null, since the Municipal Guard had in the meantime occupied the building. So as to make up for this loss, the School benefited from the construction of new facilities in a plot next to the convent.

Following the instauration of the Republic, the Medical-Surgical School was awarded Faculty status by Decree on 22nd February 1911, a situation which was altered barely a month later, since the diploma creating the University of Porto included three faculties, one of which the recently-founded Faculty of Medicine.

School of Pharmacy (Escola de Farmácia) (1836 - 1911)

Studies in Pharmacy appeared at the same time as the Medical-Surgical Schools of Lisbon and Porto. The Decree of 29th December 1836 determined that "each Medical-Surgical School was to have an associated School of Pharmacy".
Pharmaceutical training underwent a noteworthy reform with the Bill of Law of 19th July 1902, by which it was "to be considered for all intents and purposes higher education", although still taught at the Pharmacy schools associated to the Faculty of Medicine of Coimbra and the Medical-Surgical Schools of Lisbon and Porto. A short time later, extensive regulations, approved by Decree on 27th November that same year, provided the necessary legal and functional framework for Pharmacy schools, thus including them in the regime governing higher education schools.

The Porto Academy of Fine Arts (Academia Portuense de Belas Artes) (1836 - 1911) / Porto Fine Arts School (Escola de Belas Artes do Porto) (1881 - 1950) / Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts (Escola Superior de Belas Artes do Porto) (1950 - 1992)

The The Porto Academy of Fine Arts was created by Decree, penned by Passos Manuel, on 22nd November 1836. At its origin, and held as its guiding principle, was the intention to promote and disseminate the study of fine arts and their application to industry. In accordance with its Statutes, the Academy was comprised of honorary and emeritus academics and by teachers, and its administration was ensured by a Director appointed by the government. Another school, the Academic School, complemented the training provided by the Academy, by offering courses in Historical Drawing, Historical Painting, Sculpture, Civil and Naval Architecture, and Historical Engraving.
In 1839, the Porto Museum of Painting and Engraving, also called "D. Pedro Athenaeum (Ateneu D. Pedro)" or, simply, "Porto Museum (Museu Portuense)", was associated to the Porto Academy of Fine Arts. The establishment of this museum in 1833 was sponsored by the Regent D. Pedro, although its foundation proper was only officialised by Decree three years later, on 12th September 1836. Its primary purpose was to conserve works of arts that had been sequestered during the Siege of Porto, as well as those that had been abandoned in the Convents.
The Academy and, later on, the Porto Museum, were housed in the former Convento de Santo António da Cidade (Convent of St. Antonio of the City), although a number of classes were held at the Polytechnic Academy until the 1870s.

The first attempt to reform the Porto Academy of Fine Arts took place in 1881, with the Decree of 22nd March, which intended to definitively separate the Academy and the School. This diploma awarded the Academy responsibilities in promoting art and archaeology, exhibitions, conservation and restoration of monuments, and safeguarding museological heritage, whereas the training provided by the Fine Arts School was restructured, and more courses were made available. As a result of this reform, the School began to offer general courses, such as in Design, Civil Architecture, Historical Painting, Landscape Painting, Statuary Sculpture, Incised Carving, Woodcarving, as well as courses in Fine Arts applied to industrial arts.

The instauration of the Republic brought on great changes. The Academies of Fine Arts were closed down, and Art and Archaeology Boards were created in their stead. The Porto Museum, which had in the meantime been renamed Museu Soares dos Reis (Soares dos Reis Museum), was placed under the responsibility of the Board of the "3rd Circumscription". Despite these restructurings, the School of Fine Arts remained open, although now with status as an autonomous body. Its internal organisation generally followed that of the Academic School, dating back to 1881. Teaching was ministered in ten subjects, divided into several modules, and Special Courses (Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture).
Artistic training was again reformulated in 1931, by Decree nº. 19.760 of 20th May. Special Courses of preparatory level were created for each of the three arts, which, once completed, was to be followed by a Higher Education Course.

In 1950, Law nº. 2.043 of 10th July comprised the basis for the restructuring of training in the schools of Fine Arts of Lisbon and Porto. However, the School of Porto operated practically unaltered until 14th November 1957, date on which the diploma approving the Regulations of the Higher Institutes of Fine Arts was passed. The organisation of the courses of Architecture, Painting, and Sculpture were there profoundly restructured, becoming higher education courses. The Architecture Course, lasting 6 years, comprised three cycles and included a number of subjects lectured at the Faculty of Sciences during the first two years. The Painting and Sculpture Courses, lasting five years, also comprised three cycles, where the first two corresponded to general courses, and the third to complementary courses.

The changes operated in the Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts (Escola Superior de Belas Artes do Porto – ESBAP) following the revolution of 25th April 1974 had profound repercussions on its educational and scientific structure. As from the 1974-75 academic year, the Painting and Sculpture courses lectured by the 2nd Section of the ESBAP were reformulated, acquiring the names of "Plastic Arts (Sculpture)" and "Plastic Arts (Painting)". The same Section had also recently begun a Course in Communication Design (Graphic Art). This reform was later acknowledged by the Decree-Law nº. 80/83 of 9th February.
The Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto had in the interim been created by diploma on 21st December 1979, which implied, among other consequences, that the Architecture Course was definitively disentailed from the Higher Institute of Fine Arts and its 1st Section was dismembered. However, the ESBAP still ran the Course for a few more years, since the Faculty of Architecture’s new curricular structure was only to be approved in October 1984.

Nevertheless, the end to the Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts was imminent. The integration of this establishment in the University of Porto was approved by the University Senate on 12th December 1991, a decision which resulted in the creation of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto in the following year (Dispatch nº. 307/ME/92, of 30th October).

(Texts adapted from: FERNANDES, Maria Eugénia Matos; RIBEIRO, Fernanda - A Universidade do Porto: Estudo orgânico-funcional (modelo de análise para fundamentar o conhecimento do Sistema de Informação Arquivo). Porto, Reitoria da Universidade do Porto, 2001).

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