1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coimbra

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COIMBRA, the capital of an administrative district formerly included in the province of Beira, Portugal; on the north bank of the river Mondego, 115 m. N.N.E. of Lisbon, on the Lisbon-Oporto railway. Pop. (1900) 18,144. Coimbra is built for the most part on rising ground, and presents from the other side of the river a picturesque and imposing appearance; though in reality its houses have individually but little pretension, and its streets are, almost without exception, narrow and mean. It derives its present importance from being the seat of the only university in the kingdom—an institution which was originally established at Lisbon in 1291, was transferred to Coimbra in 1306, was again removed to Lisbon, and was finally fixed at Coimbra in 1527. There are five faculties—theology, law, medicine, mathematics and philosophy—with more than 1300 students. The library contains about 150,000 volumes, and the museums and laboratories are on an extensive scale. In connexion with the medical faculty there are regular hospitals; the mathematical faculty maintains an observatory from which an excellent view can be obtained of the whole valley of the Mondego; and outside the town there is a botanic garden (especially rich in the flora of Brazil), which also serves as a public promenade. Among the other educational establishments are a military college, a royal college of arts, a scientific and literary institute, and an episcopal seminary.

The city is the seat of a bishop, suffragan to the archbishop of Braga; its new cathedral, founded in 1580, is of little interest; but the old is a fine specimen of 12th-century Romanesque, and retains portions of the mosque which it replaced. The principal churches are Santa Cruz, of the 16th century, and San Salvador, founded in 1169. On the north bank of the Mondego stand the ruins of the once splendid monastery of Santa Clara, established in 1286; and on the south bank is the celebrated Quinta das lagrimas, or Villa of Tears, where Inez de Castro (q.v.) is believed to have been murdered in 1355. The town is supplied with water by means of an aqueduct of 20 arches. The Mondego is only navigable in flood, and the port of Figueira da Foz is 20 m. W. by S., so that the trade of Coimbra is mainly local; but there are important lamprey fisheries and manufactures of pottery, leather and hats.

A Latin inscription of the 4th century identifies Coimbra with the ancient Aeminium; while Condeixa (3623), 8 m. S.S.W., represents the ancient Conimbriga or Conembrica,. In the 9th century, however, when the bishopric of Conimbriga was removed hither, its old title was transferred to the new see, and hence arose the modern name Coimbra. The city was for a long time a Moorish stronghold, but in 1064 it was captured by Ferdinand I. of Castile and the Cid. Until 1260 it was the capital of the country, and no fewer than six kings—Sancho I. and II., Alphonso II. and III., Pedro and Ferdinand—were born within its walls. It was also the birthplace of the poet Francisco Sá de Miranda (1495–1558), and, according to one tradition, of the more famous Luiz de Camoens (1524–1580), who was a student at the university between 1537 and 1542. In 1755 Coimbra suffered considerably from the earthquake. In 1810 it was sacked by the French under Marshal Masséna. In 1834 Dom Miguel made the city his headquarters; and in 1846 it was the scene of a Miguelist insurrection.

The administrative district of Coimbra coincides with the south-western part of Beira; pop. (1900) 332,168; area 1508 sq. m.