A short history of Azulejos

A short history of Azulejos

Did you think “Azulejos” is a place, maybe a village in Portugal? Actually, azulejos are traditional Portuguese ceramic tiles that cover the inner and outer walls of the buildings that are so specific of this Iberian country. A short history of Azulejos will explain their origin, their art and the best places to find them.

Today, azulejos are everywhere in Portugal, a true visible cultural constituent. The colorful tiles decorate the facades of old houses, churches, railway stations and even schools or restaurants. They are a symbol of Portuguese architecture. But actually their story began in the Orient, long before this art entered the Iberian Peninsula.

The use of these ceramic tiles began in Egypt and was perfected by the Arabs in the middle ages. The world came from the Arabic “az-zulayi” (polished stone) and was introduced by the Moors. In Portugal, azulejos were actually introduced from Spain around the 15th century, after the Christian “Reconquista”. King Manuel I was so impressed by the Moorish castle of Alhambra in Spain, that he decided to enjoy the same beautiful ceramics in his Sintra palace as well.

Azulejos depict hunting scenes, still life, as well as floral or geometrical motifs. But don’t think these beautiful tiles have a purely aesthetic purpose; they are also useful in controlling the heat inside the homes.

There are Portuguese factories that produce and export ceramic tiles to northern Europe and the rest of the world and contemporary artists create patterns used in azulejos that can be found in metro stations or as souvenirs that can be purchased.

Lisbon loves to celebrate the tradition of azulejos. The Tile Museum traces the history of these ceramics from their dawns to the present.

If you want to learn more, Lisbon taxi transfers can take you to the museum or around town, so you can admire the artwork with your own eyes.