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Les différents types d'Azulejos

Portuguese tiles, Discover all kind of azulejos

Azulejos are painted tiles that have great importance in Portuguese culture and architecture: they have been used for centuries to decorate buildings, churches, palaces and houses. Today they are a key element of the Portuguese cultural heritage.

The origins of Azulejo can be found in the tradition of Arabic motifs, in the Italian tile craft or the Greek art of mosaic.

Beautiful tile paintings can also be found in other countries outside Europe: in the former Portuguese or Spanish colonies in America, Africa and Asia. Finally, masterpieces of tile painting can be found in the Netherlands, Italy and, of course, the Middle East.

But the Portuguese artists mastered this art and integrated it into the daily life of Portugal. This is why the azulejo is today a kind of trademark of Portugal.

In Portugal, there are several types of azulejos, each with its own style and meaning and sometimes its own way of making.


Historical Tiles

These azulejos are usually large pieces, with intricate and colorful designs, depicting historical or mythological scenes.

They were often used to decorate churches and royal palaces, and became a symbol of the opulence and wealth of the Portuguese nobility.

They are often monochrome, blue with countless shades that only experienced painters and ceramists know how to bring out.

Church of Saint Lawrence of Almancil - Credit unknown

They can also be very colorful, like the beautiful panels that cover the outside walls of the church of St. Lawrence of Almancil (Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria de Válega) which is located near Ovar south of Porto.

Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria, Valéga - Crédit : Wikimédia


In Portugal, there are still craftsmen, sometimes grouped in small workshops, who are in charge of the restoration of old tiles and who agree to reproduce them identically.

The tiles are molded by hand and then painted by reproducing the ancient gestures studied during the restoration of historical azulejos. The mastery of the firing process allows to reveal all the shades of blue.

Baroque Angel Tile - Luisa Paixão Collection


Spanish-Arab tiles

Mudejar tiles, influenced by the forms and techniques developed by the Arabs, found in Portuguese buildings, are certainly examples commissioned by Portugal to Hispanic workshops, the largest manufacturing center for this type of tile being Seville.

Spanish-Arab tiles - Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha

The manufacturing method is inspired by the "cloisonné" technique of medieval enamels.

Watertight zones protected by separators are created to prevent the colors from mixing.

Manufacture of Hispanic-Arabic Azulejos - Credit Luisa Paixão


This particular technique, still applied by a few rare craftsmen allows to propose original objects such as coasters, coasters, paperweights or even pretty small boxes.

Spanish-Arab tiles - Credit Luisa Paixão


Figurative Tiles

Also called Azulejos "de figura avulsa" These azulejos depict animals, plants or scenes from daily life. 

They were often used to decorate homes and public buildings and were very popular during the Renaissance.

These are Dutch-inspired tiles that appeared at the end of the 17th century, when patterned tiles went out of fashion. 

The designs range from castles, flowers and birds to people, boats and animals.

Azulejo panel - Luisa Paixão Collection


Geometric tiles

These azulejos are characterized by geometric patterns, such as squares, triangles and circles, which create a repetitive and hypnotic pattern. They were used to decorate public buildings, such as train stations and museums, and were popular during the 1930s.

Padrão Tiles

These azulejos are intended to be assembled by 4 (2x2) and up to 144 copies (12x12) Their juxtaposition by group of 4 makes appear successively new patterns.

The patterns generally combine plants and geometric shapes, with a predominance of blue and yellow on white (at the beginning of the century) and polychrome total of blue, yellow, manganese and green (mid-century).

Padrão tiles x4 - Luisa Paixão collection


Tiles inspired by nature

These azulejos depict flowers and plants, often in a naturalistic style. They were used to decorate gardens, fountains and public buildings, and are still very popular today.

Modern Tiles

These tiles were created in recent decades and are characterized by abstract patterns, bright colors and geometric shapes. They are often used to decorate public buildings and modern living spaces.

Charis Tsevis is a Greek visual designer who lives and works in Pafos, Cyprus. He produced a study on azulejos and modern mosaics in homage to Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro by mixing modern digital techniques and ancestral mosaic techniques.

Illustrations of mosaics based on traditional Portuguese painting (Azulejo). A tribute to Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro by Charis Tsevis


Tiles are an essential part of Portuguese culture and architecture. Each type of tile has its own meaning and style, reflecting the historical and cultural influences of the region.

Today, tiles are still used to decorate public buildings, churches and houses, and are considered an important part of the Portuguese cultural heritage.


Thanks for the kind mention, Luisa.
And many thanks for the insightful article about Azulejos.
Greetings from Cyprus.

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