Memorial to the victims of the Baquet Theatre fire of 1888 at the Cemitério de Agramonte of Porto, Portugal
Sometimes, a visit to an old historic cemetery can provide an insight into the history of the city in which it is located. It is the case of Agramonte Cemetery, located in the city of Porto, that also houses one of Portugal’s most important collections of sculptures.
Agramonte was created in a hurry in 1855, as an appropriate burial site was urgently needed for the victims of a sizeable cholera epidemic. Subsequently, in 1869, the cemetery was restructured and incorporated private cemeteries that were run by various Brotherhoods within the city. These fenced areas still exist, enclosing the sections operated by the Orders of Carmo, Trindade and Sao Francisco, and they take up a sizeable part of the 12 hectare cemetery.
Here there is also a huge memorial which recalls a tragic event. The monument includes iron pieces from a destroyed theatre, all twisted by the fire, and an iron wreath that symbolizes the death of the victims.
It was 20th March, 1888 when 120 people died in a devastating fire in the Baquet Theatre.
The theatre, located in the Santo António Street in Porto, was built by the Portuguese tailor António Pereira Baquet on February 21, 1858. It was premiered with a Carnival ball on February 13 of the following year and soon it became a very popular theater, known also for hosting famous shows that everyone wanted to see.
Howdver, on the night of March 20, 1888, during the benefit party of the actor Firmino Rosa, a blazing fire broke out behind the scenes of the theater. The fire quickly spread, consuming all the interior of the building and, after just two hours, the Baquet Theatre was completely destroyed and reduced to rubble.
Of course, for hundreds of visitors inside, they were moments of unimaginable fear and horror.
The rapid spreading of the fire, the intense smoke, the lack of illumination and the general panic resulted in the death of approximately 120 people.
The news of the fire spread almost immediately and appeared in the pages of local newspapers already the next morning. Despite the fire was an accident, the public blamed the lack of security of the building and the delayed arrival of firemen.
So, the political class tried to blame the safety inspector, Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, who was in charge of the facility’s inspection a year before the tragic event. However, it turned out that in his report, the inspector specifically highlighted the need to carry out some works to create better safety conditions in the theater. Since his recommendations had been ignored back then, he refused to take responsibility for the tragedy.