Derived from the Arabic word “Zellige”, meaning “polished stone”, the word “Azulejo” shows the unmistakable Arabic origins of Portuguese Tiles; interlocking curvilinear, geometric or florar motifs that imitate the original Roman mosaics are at the base of the “Azulejo” art.
Portuguese Tiles reflect Portugal’s multicultural past
In the 13th century, the Spanish city of Seville became the centre of tile production in the Iberian Peninsula, remaining so until the 15th century when, after an official visit to the City on 1503, King Manuel I brought tiles into Portugal as he decorated the Sintra National Palace (where the cuenca tiles depicting his famous armillary sphere can be found), and tile production was widely adopted throughout the country.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, tiles were produced in three major factories – Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro – and used all around to decorate buildings’ facades, railway stations, stores, markets and houses, with famous artists such as Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro and Jorge Colaço rising to fame.
That’s why when you’re in Lisbon, you should always look up and around, as Portuguese Tiles started to be integrated into modern aesthetic and in architectural and urban projects, with famous artists such as Jorge Barradas, Querubim Lapa, Eduardo Nery and Maria Keil leading the way with their signature styles.
One of the world’s great decorative art traditions still in as much in fashion today as it was centuries ago, adorning a wide range of Portuguese buildings, from homes to palaces and churches, the “Azulejos” reflect Portugal’s multicultural past, from the Moorish influences in its inception, to the baroque period and the more modern works in Lisbon’s subway stations. Such a rich tradition can be viewed in full at Lisbon’s world-renowned Tile Museum or by roaming around its streets – some of our favourite places to go to are Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, in Chiado, Fábrica Viúva Lamego in Largo do Intendente, Palácio dos Marqueses da Fronteira, Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora and Palácio Nacional de Sintra, just outside of Lisbon.
For top-quality tiles, from the 15th century Moorish style to 20th century Art Deco, head to Solar, a small shop in Príncipe Real that specializes in the trade.
In fact, the “Azulejos” carried such important artistic value that some of the very best were selected to be included in our own hotel; the aforementioned Jorge Barradas and Querubim Lapa were both involved in its decoration, artists whose artworks you can still see today across the hotel.