Lisbon elevator

The world’s most original and attractive elevator tower is a filigree-style metal construction looming over downtown Lisbon.

Inaugurated in 1902, the Elevador de Santa Justa is a unique form of public transportation which conveys its passengers in two solid wooden cabins over a thirty metre (ninety-eight foot) height difference between the city’s Baixa district and Carmo Square. On the 6th of July 1899, Lisbon City Council granted engineer Raul Mesnier du Ponsard a licence to build and operate a lift at Rua de Santa Justa for a period of ninety-nine years.

A Portuguese of French ancestry, Ponsard also built the funicular railways in Nazaré on Portugal’s rugged west coast and at Bom Jesus do Monte near Braga in the north of the country.

Linked to Carmo Square by means of a footbridge, the Santa Justa Elevator was inaugurated on the 10th of July 1902 and the public transport company Carris started running it on a lease basis from the 20th of November 1905 and then permanently from 1939 onwards.

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The Santa Justa or Carmo lift, as it was called initially, is without doubt Raul Mesnier du Ponsard’s career masterpiece. Its design allows for a high level of resistance to variations of temperature, strong winds and medium-strength earthquakes.

The dual lift was first powered by a steam engine at the upper floor of the tower before electricity took over on the 6th of November 1907.

The Elevador de Santa Justa (indicated on the Google map below) defies the passage of time. More than a century after its inauguration, the lift continues operating from daylight to almost midnight every day of the year. Its daily ups and downs give visitors a chance to marvel at the striking views of the imposing Castle of São Jorge directly opposite.

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