Windows to the (Old) World
It was a beautiful scene. To the East was a five-sail boat in the harbor, under a silhouette of the Golden Gate bridge. The Western view was of tightly packed streets, built on gentle but sloping hills that rose up to a high and distorted degree. But more than this, it was a reminder of how small the world is and how quickly technology travels.
The beautiful view of San Francisco was anything but—anything but San Francisco, that is. It was actually Lisbon, Portugal.
Ever since I’d read A Hero’s Life, Richard Ben Carter’s biography of Joe DiMaggio years ago, I’ve known that great portions of San Francisco were settled by Portuguese immigrants. In addition to great baseball players, the legions of stone cutters, bricklayers and fishermen evidently built a city that mimicked their homeland in a wide variety of ways—down to having a bridge built by the same company as the company that built the Golden Gate. It was living example of how much and how quickly architecture and technology move from Europe to the U.S. This practice still continues today, especially around energy considerations and window design.
And, for me, the windows were the story in Lisbon. Whether old or new, brightly colored or dark, multi-storied or tiny, each seemed a work of art that combined exquisitely with function. They were as individual as the people of Lisbon, and a real kick to photograph.
The Cathedral of Saint Jerome also brought history alive to me, as the massive edifice housed two highly honored crypts. The first was of Saint Jerome, after whom the cathedral was named. The second was a crypt containing the remains, topped with a full-sized likeness of the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama. De Gama is credited for exploring much of Africa and South America by sea during the late 1400s and early 1500s. He died in 1526. Seeing the crypt moved history from the pages
of a worn textbook into 3-dimensional living entity, and that feeling of history inflated to real life will be what I most remember of Lisbon.