Discover the history of the Portuguese Azulejos.
When you travel to Portugal, you may well see public buildings, churches, monuments and even buildings or houses covered with tiles. These tiles have become, over time, one of the emblems of Portugal under the name of Azulejos.
2600 BC, the first earthenware tiles in Mesopotamia.
The first known glazed tiles (2600 BC) were found in Egypt and Mesopotamia. They then disappeared for a long time before the manufacturing technique was found in the 9th century in Iraq and spread throughout the Arab world from Constantinople to Spain.
From the 15th century, it is all Europe, from Spain to Holland through Italy and France that uses these tiles for the decoration of the most beautiful buildings.
16th century, the first azulejos in Portugal.
At the beginning of the 16th century, King Manuel I imported the first Azulejos from Spain to cover the walls of the Palace he had rebuilt in Sintra. These are the first azulejos of which one finds the trace in Portugal, but they were manufactured in Spain.
A little later, at the end of the 17th century, on their side, the Dutch reproduce the Chinese earthenware and move towards tiles with blue and white dominants.
The Portuguese then ordered the Azulejos to the Dutch for their palaces and churches. In Lisbon, in the Madre de Deus Convent (Igreja do Convento da Madre de Deus), there is a magnificent painting of Azulejos which was painted in Holland by Jan van Oort and installed in 1698.
Igreja do Convento da Madre de Deus Lisboa - unknown
18th century, the Portuguese are the masters of the Azulejos
Viuva Lamego Factory - Largo do intendente
The most beautiful Portuguese tiles
The church of Valega
This church is located in Ovar, near Aveiro. It was built in 1746, but its construction lasted more than a century. Today it is known as the "Portuguese Sistine Chapel". Its azulejos representing passages of the bible are considered as true masterpieces of the Baroque Art.
Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria, Valéga - Credit : Wikimédia
The hall of coats of arms of the National Palace of Sintra
Residence of the Moorish governor during the Arab domination in the 10th century, the National Palace of Sintra was then inhabited by the Portuguese Kings for nearly eight centuries.
The Church of Saint Lawrence of Almancil in Faro
In Faro, the Church of Saint Lawrence of Almancil in Faro, built in the 17th century, is dedicated to Saint Lawrence. It is a baroque style church whose interior is entirely covered with tiles depicting important moments in the life of the saint.
Church of Saint Lawrence of Almancil
These unique azulejos were made in Lisbon around 1730 and then applied to the walls and the 6 arches of this church making it unique in the world.
The São Bento train station in Porto
The São Bento station, in downtown Porto, is recent and was put into service in 1896. It was named after the old convent of "São Bento de Avé Maria", which was destroyed to make way for the construction of the station.
Hall of the lost steps of the station of são Bento - Credit unknown
The walls of the "room of the lost steps" are covered with azulejos, representing historical scenes of Portugal and scenes of the Portuguese popular life.
The Chapel of Souls in Porto
The Capela das Almas is located in the heart of Porto. Erected at the end of the 18th century, its external walls were only covered with Azulejos in 1929.
Capela das Almas de Santa Catarina
These tiles, painted by Eduardo Leite, were made by the ceramic factory Veuve Lamego, in Lisbon. With 15947 tiles covering 360m2, they tell the story of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine.
You can find in our online store faithful reproductions of these figurative tiles. They are made by craftsmen usually responsible for the restoration of old azulejos.
The National Museum of Azulejos in Lisbon.
If you are interested in the history of the Azulejos, then a visit to the National Museum of Azulejos is a must.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon
This museum traces the history of Portuguese tiles from the 16th century to the present day. The permanent exhibition will allow you to admire many tiles dating from different periods and thus understand the different manufacturing techniques and their evolution.
The azulejos, an art still alive in Portugal.
Today, tiles are still used, both decoratively and in a contemporary form, throughout Portugal. Lisbon's subway stations are covered with them, and even newer and more modern buildings such as the Casa da Música in Porto use them for their decorative function.
Thanks to the faithful reproductions, it is possible to enjoy the decorative interest of the Azulejos at home. By mounting them in azulejo murals for example
or simply by placing them cleverly on the wall.
What about tomorrow?
The contemporary artists, the craftsmen, continue to work the azulejos and are invited in the street-art, in the design, the jewels the kitchens.
Contemporary Azulejos By Charis Tsevis
Azulejos kitchenware - Luisa Paixão collection