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The history of the Portuguese tiles traditional art.

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Tiles art in a railway station at Porto, Portugal
Tiles in a railway station, Porto, Portugal

Tiles are one of the most distinctive marks of what Portuguese culture is. Many Portuguese buildings and public spaces are ornamented and complemented with the figures represented in these blue-toned spaces. In many of them, the history and memory of thousands of Lusitanians are condensed, both those who give life to these representations and those who are honored and honored in various villages.

Old Church decorated with colorful tiles, Portugal
Church decorated with colorful tiles, Portugal

Although prominent and resurgent in Portuguese culture, tiles have Arabic origins. The Portuguese word azulejo, similar to the Arabic azzellj designates a small, usually square, piece of ceramic with one glazed face. Traditionally formatted in 15 × 15cm, it is the result of enamel baking, which coats and makes this square piece waterproof and resplendent. Faced with divisions and humid contexts, it has been applied regularly, relying on resistance and little expense. Being able to unfold in smooth, relief, monochromatic or polychromatic, the tiles were mainly used in the coating of architectural works, applying both inside and outside, and exposing various episodes and allegorical, religious and historical scenes. , being dependent on the context of its use. Its alignment as an ornament has come to present itself not only as a complement to the various artistic tendencies, but also as an artistic and identity aestheticization of the space they embody, represent, and witness.

Tile facades in Portugal
Common tile facades, Portugal

Interestingly, as early as Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the use of tile is evident, having known geographical and expressive expansion from the Islamic presence and manifestation in the Mediterranean region, spreading throughout the Iberian Peninsula. It is in the East that the production of coatings for Chinese porcelain itself is established, and its art, in proportion to the dynamics of Islamic enlargement, reached the very regions where it was felt. Thus, Muslim artisans settled in various parts of the peninsula, and tended to plant the seeds of Mudejar architecture on Spanish soil, and of tile art in Portugal. All this right in the middle of this millennium. In this, it also imported the Portuguese ceramic tradition, which gave up importing from Spain to make its own tile, and that propagated that same ingenuity to the colonies it held then. The feeling of enchantment was immediate, and it was envisioned an eternalization of these mosaics in what would be an inheritance for the Iberian artisans.

historical scene reproduced in old tiles
historical scene reproduced in old tiles

Stay at Casa do Lago to locally learn about the art of tiles in Portugal.

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