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São José Market

It is the oldest pre-fabricated iron building in Brazil, exported from Europe to Recife at the end of the 19th century.

São José Market

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Last update: 27/03/2020

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

It is the oldest pre-fabricated iron building in Brazil, exported from Europe to Recife at the end of the 19th century.

It was designed by the engineer of the Recife Municipal Chamber, J. Louis Lieuthier, in 1871, who was inspired by the Grenelle Market in Paris, and it was built by the French engineer Louis Léger Vauthier, who was also responsible for the construction of Santa Isabel Theatre.

The São José Market was inaugurated on 7 September 1875 and was given this name because it was located in the São José (St Joseph) neighbourhood. It was built on the same site as the former Largo da Ribeira do Peixe, where various merchandise was sold for consumption by the city of Recife.

It has undergone some reforms since its creation, such as those of 1906, whose improvements lasted 12 months, and of 1941, when cement latticework were installed in place of the wooden and glass windows. Both modified its original features but left its iron structure intact.

In November 1989, part of the Market was destroyed by a fire that damaged its structure. The reconstruction work was only started four years later, in 1993, and its re-inauguration took place on 12 March 1994.

In older times, magicians, acrobats and ventriloquists performed there, the sounds of tambourines, drums, cavaquinhos (small guitars) and accordions could be heard, and there were many popular events which nowadays are mostly absent from the place. The Market was once Recife’s main centre for singers, ‘emboladores’ (street poets) and cordel literature.

From an architectural point of view, it is a national monument that not only makes up a part of the cultural patrimony of Brazil but also that of humanity, as it is considered to be a rare example of traditional 19th-century ironwork architecture.

Today, with its 46 pavilions, 561 covered stalls and 80 compartments in its outside area, as well as 24 others for fish, 12 for crustaceans and 80 for meat and fruit, the São José Market is a place where the best of regional handicrafts, traditional food, cordel pamphlets, medicinal herbs and objects of Afro-Brazilian cults can be found, being also an important supply centre for the São José neighbourhood and a tourist attraction for the city of Recife.
Recife, 18 July 2003.
(Updated on 31 August 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.

sources consulted

HÉLIO, Mário. Pesquisador quer vida nova para o Mercado de São José. Jornal do Commercio, Recife, 7 set. 1995. Caderno C, p.1.

SANTOS, José Batista dos. Pernambuco histórico, turístico, folclórico. [Recife: s. n.], 1989. p.283-284.

SILVA, Geraldo Gomes da. O Mercado de São José e sua arquitetura. Arquivos, Recife, n.2, p. 137-188, dez. 1977

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. São José Market. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009