History of the Founding of Salvador de Bahia

mapa Histórico de Salvador da Bahia
Historical map of Salvador de Bahia

Salvador was born as a strong city, or at least that was what King João III of Portugal wanted, and while it was the capital or Head of Brazil, there was constant concern to defend it.

The prominence of the fortifications in the landscape of the city of Salvador certainly represents the imposition of the tactical and strategic need to position them in an elevated location, with privileged visibility for the surrounding areas.

The history of Salvador began with its foundation in 1549 to be the capital of Brazil (it remained so until 1763, when the seat of the Viceroyalty was transferred to Rio de Janeiro).

The city of Salvador served as the stage for the most remarkable events of the first three centuries of our colonial history.

Urbs Salvador, Montanus, Arnoldus - 1671
Map of the city of Salvador from 1671

The main Atlantic port for the ships of the “return of the sea”, on the spice route to the Orient, it initially prospered with the export of sugar produced in the mills of the Recôncavo Baiano (the geographical area around the Baia de Todos os Santos) and later with trade between the Colony and Portugal.

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Salvador’s history began in 1501, when the first expedition to reconnoiter the land discovered by Pedro Álvares Cabral came across a large and beautiful bay – named Baía de Todos os Santos by the navigator Américo Vespúcio because it was discovered on November 1st.

Also see the tourist attractions of Salvador’s historic center, Pelourinho

Videos about the Foundation and History of Salvador de Bahia

The great gulf then became a reference point for navigators, becoming one of the busiest ports on the American continent.

Some of Salvador’s historical records from the time relate facts that are relevant to the history of the City of Salvador da Bahia, such as the saga of the Portuguese castaway Diogo Álvares who, in 1509, was taken in by the Tupinambá tribe who lived on the coast of the lands that would later belong to Salvador.

Recens Elaborata Mappa Geographica Regni Brasiliae in America Meridionali, Maxime Celebris Accuratae Delineata, Seutter, Matthias - 1730
Recens Elaborata Mappa Geographica Regni Brasiliae in America Meridionali, Maxime Celebris Accuratae Delineata, Seutter, Matthias – 1730

Called Caramuru, Diogo Álvares married the daughter of the chief Taparica, the Indian Paraguaçu, baptized in 1528 in France with the name Catarina Alvares.

Caramuru played an important role in the construction of the city ordered by the King of Portugal João III, who appointed Captain Thomé de Souza to be the governor-general of Brazil.

The fleet, captained by the ship Conceição, carried more than a thousand people in six vessels: the ships Conceição, Salvador and Ajuda, two caravels and a bergantim. After a 56-day voyage, the squadron was greeted with celebrations by Caramuru and the Tupinambás.

Thomé de Souza remained in office until July 1553 and returned to Lisbon a month later, replaced by Governor-General Duarte da Costa.

With the arrival of African slaves at the end of the 16th century, the city prospered due to the economic influence of port activities and the production of sugar in the Recôncavo.

Salvador em 1625, durante a reconquista espanhola. Observe que a Cidade organizava-se como uma fortaleza. A grande igreja na parte centro-esquerda da ilustração é a dos jesuítas, com o colégio. A igreja mais ao centro é a Sé Primacial.
Salvador in 1625, during the Spanish reconquest. Note that the city was organized like a fortress. The large church in the center-left of the illustration is that of the Jesuits, with the college. The church in the center is the Sé Primacial.

In 1583, Salvador had two squares, three streets and around 1600 inhabitants.

The wealth of the capital attracted the attention of foreigners, who launched expeditions to conquer it. Lootings and bombardments of Salvador’s port by privateers were frequent at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century.

With the union of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns in 1580, the interests of foreign maritime trade were thwarted and, when the peace treaty between Spain and the Netherlands expired, the West India Company (formed by Jewish and European merchant capitals) attacked Salvador in May 1624, where it remained until April 1625, when its soldiers were expelled by the armada of 40 ships sent by Spain.

Esta ilustração foi publicada, em 1839, no livro Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle, de Roberto Fitz-Roy (vol. 2 - p. 62). Trata-se de uma litografia de Thomas Abiel Prior (1809-1886) com base no desenho do artista inglês Augustus Earle (1793-1838), que acompanhava a expedição do Beagle. Título original da ilustração: San Salvador, Bahia.
This illustration was published in 1839 in the book Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, by Roberto Fitz-Roy (vol. 2 – p. 62). It is a lithograph by Thomas Abiel Prior (1809-1886) based on a drawing by the English artist Augustus Earle (1793-1838), who accompanied the Beagle expedition. Original title of the illustration: San Salvador, Bahia.
It is possible, however, that Earle made his drawing around 1823, when he visited the Northeast.
This was the expedition that brought Charles Darwin to South America. Darwin loved Salvador, which he called magnificent and glorious. He wrote that it was here that he first saw a rainforest in all its sublime grandeur. The Beagle first docked in the city on February 28, 1832.
Passers-by can be seen on the old Ladeira da Conceição.

In 1638, another invasion attempt (this time led by Maurício de Nassau) was unsuccessful. Salvador remained the capital of Portuguese America until 1763, when the seat of the Viceroyalty was transferred to the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Maurício de Nassau
Maurício de Nassau

However, as the capital of the Province of Bahia, the city maintained its political and economic importance and, in 1808, welcomed the Portuguese royal family (fleeing Napoleon’s troops).

On that occasion, Prince Regent João VI opened the ports to friendly nations and founded the Medical-Surgical School of Bahia, in Terreiro de Jesus (Pelourinho), which was to become Brazil’s first medical school.

The libertarian conscience of the population of Salvador gave rise to various protest movements, most notably the Conjuration of the Tailors, in which a group of rebels, unhappy with Portuguese rule, tried to found the Bahian Republic.

In 1823, even after the proclamation of Brazilian independence, Bahia continued to be occupied by the Portuguese troops of Brigadier Madeira de Mello.

Esta ilustração de Salvador foi assinada pelo artista francês Joseph Alfred Martinet (1821-1875). Trata-se de uma litografia, feita na oficina de Henton & Hensburg (Rio de Janeiro), segundo desenho de A.L. Leurs, copiado de um daguerreótipo de Charles de Forest Fredricks, que esteve em Salvador em 1848. Martinet chegou ao Brasil em 1841.
This illustration of Salvador was signed by the French artist Joseph Alfred Martinet (1821-1875). It is a lithograph, made in the workshop of Henton & Hensburg (Rio de Janeiro), according to a drawing by A.L. Leurs, copied from a daguerreotype by Charles de Forest Fredricks, who was in Salvador in 1848. Martinet arrived in Brazil in 1841.
At that time there was no Ladeira da Montanha, which opened in 1878. On the right, you can see two slopes: Conceição, which connects the church to Largo do Theatro (now Praça Castro Alves) and the slope that goes up to what is now Praça Thomé de Sousa.
Look at the little armchairs going up Ladeira da Conceição, carried by slaves.
The masonry wall that protects the slope of Praça do Theatro began to be built in 1846. You can see in Hildebrandt’s 1844 panorama that it didn’t exist yet.
Note the wharf at the old Alfândega. This site was landfilled in 1858 for the construction of the new Alfândega, now the Mercado Modelo.

Even after the proclamation, patriotic militias entered the city via Estrada das Boiadas, now Rua Lima e Silva, in the Liberdade neighborhood.

The date became a civic reference for Bahians, celebrated annually with intense popular participation.

Ladeira de São Bento no início do século 20. No alto, o Mosteiro de São Bento
Ladeira de São Bento at the beginning of the 20th century. Above, the São Bento Monastery

History of the Founding of Salvador de Bahia

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