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Boa Vista Bridge, Recife

Considered the most traditional and original bridge in Recife, it today links Nova St, in the Santo Antônio neighbourhood, to Imperatriz St in Boa Vista.

Boa Vista Bridge, Recife

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Last update: 24/03/2020

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Considered the most traditional and original bridge in Recife, it today links Nova St, in the Santo Antônio neighbourhood, to Imperatriz St in Boa Vista.

It originated in the time of the Dutch. In 1640, Prince Maurice of Nassau ordered the construction of a bridge by which residents could cross the Capibaribe River, from the continent to Santo Antônio Island, and from there to Recife, coming and going continually without burden.

The Dutch-built Boa Vista Bridge was called this because it ran from in front of Boa Vista Palace, where today the Carmo convent is situated, to the place where the Casa de Detenção (Jailhouse), today’s Casa da Cultura, was later constructed, linking the neighbourhoods of Boa Vista and Santo Antônio.

It was built in seven weeks from sturdy wood, and was lined with parapets, so that the path of the river would not be stopped when the waters rose, especially on full moons. According to a document from 1699, it measured 3,000 palms.

This first Boa Vista bridge stood for a century, and could have resisted for longer if the Provincial Governor of Pernambuco, Henrique Luís Pereira Freire (1737-1746), had not had it destroyed to build another in a different location in the mid-18th Century.

The new bridge, built on the same spot as the one that exists today, was also made of wood and measured 899 palms in length by 20 in width. It underwent several repairs, including being practically rebuilt by engineer Antônio Bernardino Pereira do Lago in 1815, when it received iron grades and a pavement of irregularly-sized pebbles brought from Fernando de Noronha Island, as well as decks on each side, where wooden benches were placed..

The Boa Vista bridge’s benches became famous throughout the city. According to Pereira da Costa, during the day they were occupied by the homeless and in the evening were bickered over by gossipers as they sent the living to their graves and resuscitated the dead. Also appearing was a periodical entitled A Ponte da Boa Vista (The Boa Vista Bridge), whose first edition was released on 11 June 1835, bringing below the title an allusion to the appreciated and highly-praised benches. According to Luis do Nascimento, A Ponte da Boa Vista published seven more editions in 1835, and another six in 1836, all announced in the newspaper Diario de Pernambuco.

In August 1874, by order of the then-Provincial Governor, Henrique Pereira de Lucena, the future Baron of Lucena, reconstruction work began for the current Boa Vista bridge, this time designed by engineer Francisco Pereira Passos, to which he gave a more modern and less provincial appearance.

Gone were the famous benches. With an entirely metallic structure of wrought iron made in England, the new bridge was opened on 7 September 1876. It measured 145.10m in length by 13.224m in width, with two lateral walkways of 2m in width for pedestrians and a central lane for vehicles and animals measuring 7.70m. With the appearance of a railway bridge, it is very similar to the Pont Neuf in Paris, built in 1578 during the reign of Henry III.

On its four entrance pillars are various inscriptions that record historical dates and facts that are relevant to Pernambuco and Brazil, such as the Dutch invasion (1630); the battles of Tabocas, Casa Forte (1645) and Guararapes (1648-1649); the Pernambuco Restoration (1654); the Mascate War (1710); The 1817 Revolt; The Confederation of the Equator (1824); the abdication of Pedro I and the beginning of the reign of Pedro II (1831).

During the 1940s and 1950s, the bridge was an important location in the city’s social life. On its sidewalks paraded the latest versions of dresses, hats and makeup. Also appearing were the instant portrait photographs, which offered their services and did other business. At the time, cameras were still a novelty.

Partially destroyed by the flooding of the Capibaribe in 1965 and 1966, Boa Vista Bridge was restored in 1967, during the term of the then-mayor Augusto Lucena. The restoration, however, took away some of its character. The National Institute of Historical and Artistic Patrimony (IPHAN) prohibited the work, however its walkways had already been widened, its pillars united by a concrete encasement to the water-level, and the entire lower support-structure had been concreted.

Recife, 24 May 2005.
(Updated on 10 october 2007)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.

sources consulted

COSTA, Francisco Augusto Pereira da. Anais pernambucanos, 1635-1665. Recife: Arquivo Público Estadual, 1952. v.3, p.147-150.

______. A ponte da Boa Vista. Almanach de Pernambuco, Recife, ano 6, p.8-83, 1904.

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife: estátuas e bustos, igrejas e prédios, lápides, placas e inscrições históricas do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977. 382p.

GONÇALVES, Fernando Antônio. O Capibaribe e as pontes: dos ontens bravios aos futuros já chegados. Recife: Comunigraf; Prefeitura da Cidade do Recife, 1997 86p. (Retratos do Recife).

NASCIMENTO, Luiz do. História da imprensa de Pernambuco, 1821-1854. Recife: UFPE, 1969. v.4-Periódicos do Recife, 1821-1850, p.135-137.

PARAHYM, Orlando. Algumas pontes do Recife. Separata da Revista do Departamento de Cultura, Recife, n.8, p. 135-149, dez. 1973.

SILVA, Virgínia Barbosa da. Algumas pontes do Recife. Recife: UFPE. Departamento de Ciência da Informação, 1999. Trabalho da disciplina Informação em Biblioteconomia, apresentado à professora Gilda Verri.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Boa Vista Bridge, Recife. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009