PT22 VISIT TO PORTO – Lello Bookshop20 nov. 2022
The building that houses Porto’s most famous bookstore was built all the way back in 1906. The Lello brothers, who were running a bookstore at the time, hired the engineer Xavier Esteves to construct the « Livraria Lello », considered to be the man who introduced reinforced concrete into construction in Portugal.
The gothic exterior of the building is so detailed with its stone carvings, and religious-looking painting by José Bielman, that it looks more like a church from the outside than a bookstore. The interior houses unusual decorative elements in art-nouveau style design such as its red imposing and iconic staircase, the large stained glass skylight with the words « decus in labore » which was the motto of the Lello brothers, meaning « honour in work », and the bridge in the centre of the bookshop which was designed to curve and dip in the middle. Students also saw carved wood on the ceiling, which is actually a clever technique of painting plaster to make it look like wood.
The story goes that Lello Bookshop is actually the inspiration behind some of the famous Hogwarts scenery in Harry Potter : this story began when JK Rowling used to live in Porto as an English teacher, visiting the bookstore at the weekend. It’s easy to see how this story could be true, with the magical feeling of the bookstore, the bookshelves, and the « floating » staircases and bridges.
Students discovered a bookshop described in 1996 by the award-winning writer Enrique Vila-Matas as “the most beautiful bookshop in the world” in the newspaper “El País”, a place that was the inspiration for famous writers, used for some film scenes, and the scene for literary events. It has been classified as a monument of public interest and now thousands of visitors flock every day to admire it.