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Azulejos: Portuguese tiles with flair
Azulejos: Portuguese tiles with flair

Video: Azulejos: Portuguese tiles with flair

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Video: Beautiful Azulejos Tiles And More From Portugal 4K 2023, February
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The mostly square, painted and glazed azulejos have been decorating facades and interiors throughout Portugal for centuries. Her imaginative motifs range from small, ornamental patterns to extravagant historical scenes in the form of large murals. Learn everything about the brightly painted ceramic tiles and their unique style. Plus: How you can bring the decoration trend into your own four walls.

Table of contents Table of contents Azulejos: Portuguese tiles with a Mediterranean flair

  • Origin and history of the Azulejos
  • Azulejos in Portugal: impressive murals and more
  • Azulejos in Portuguese train stations and metro stations
  • Wall decorations for the home - that cost azulejos
  • Processing azulejos

Table of contents Table of contents Azulejos: Portuguese tiles with a Mediterranean flair

  • Origin and history of the Azulejos
  • Azulejos in Portugal: impressive murals and more
  • Azulejos in Portuguese train stations and metro stations
  • Wall decorations for the home - that cost azulejos
  • Processing azulejos
Fassade mit Azulejos in Porto
Fassade mit Azulejos in Porto

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Fassade der Kapelle „Almas“in Porto bestehend aus Azulejos
Fassade der Kapelle „Almas“in Porto bestehend aus Azulejos
Wände von Portos Kathedrale mit Azulejos
Wände von Portos Kathedrale mit Azulejos
Glockentürme der Saint Ildefonso Kirche mit Azulejos
Glockentürme der Saint Ildefonso Kirche mit Azulejos

6 View all Azulejos in Portugal

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Traditional historical facade in Porto decorated with blue, hand-painted, tin-glazed azulejos.

Photo: iStock / DaLiu

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The facade of the “Almas” chapel in Porto is a masterpiece consisting of 15, 947 azulejos.

Photo: iStock / photooiasson

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The walls of Porto's cathedral are adorned with traditional Portuguese blue and white azulejos.

Photo: iStock / DaLiu

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The two bell towers of the famous Saint Ildefonso church in Porto, adorned with azulejo tiles.

Photo: iStock / bennymarty

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Geometric azulejos in the old town of Lisbon.

Photo: iStock / visualspace

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Historical azulejos, around 1775, from Lisbon, showing the caravels on the Portuguese expeditions.

Photo: iStock / johncopland

Fassade mit Azulejos in Porto
Fassade mit Azulejos in Porto
Fassade der Kapelle „Almas“in Porto bestehend aus Azulejos
Fassade der Kapelle „Almas“in Porto bestehend aus Azulejos
Wände von Portos Kathedrale mit Azulejos
Wände von Portos Kathedrale mit Azulejos
Glockentürme der Saint Ildefonso Kirche mit Azulejos
Glockentürme der Saint Ildefonso Kirche mit Azulejos
Geometrische Azulejos in der Altstadt von Lissabon
Geometrische Azulejos in der Altstadt von Lissabon
Historische Azulejos zeigen Karavellen auf den portugiesischen Entdeckungsreisen
Historische Azulejos zeigen Karavellen auf den portugiesischen Entdeckungsreisen

Origin and history of the Azulejos

Originally from the Arab world, Azulejos has been known mainly from Spain and Portugal since the late Middle Ages. Here, the hand-painted tile paintings are real landmarks and are an integral part of the street scene. The term azulejos is now used in the Portuguese language as a generic term for all tiles.

Azulejos refers to a weatherproof mural often made of square, blue painted and glazed ceramic tiles on palaces, public buildings, house facades, churches or indoors. The name Azulejo is derived from the Arabic word "Al-zuleique", which means "small polished stone" and refers to a smooth and polished stone used by the Mohammedans in the Middle Ages. Since figurative representations are not permitted in Islamic art, these were initially only painted with simple floral or geometric ornaments.

In the 8th century, the Moors first brought the ornate tiles to the Iberian Peninsula, from where they reached Spain - and became an export hit. While the Andalusian Granada was the linchpin of the production of azulejos in the 12th and 13th centuries, Valencia became particularly famous for its azulejos in the 14th century.

The first azulejos came to Portugal through King Manuel I, who discovered them in 1498 in Andalusian palace rooms and immediately ordered 10, 000 tiles for his own apartments in Lisbon.

Motifs and production of azulejos over the course of time

Due to the Islamic tradition, geometric ornaments at that time determined the image of the azulejos. In addition, the technology for manufacturing left little scope. To separate the colors, greased cords or a mixture of manganese and linseed oil were applied between the colors, or the colors were prevented from running together by the plastic surfaces of the tiles.

Azulejos in Lissabon
Azulejos in Lissabon

Azulejos in Portugal, like here in Lisbon, can be discovered not only in the typical white-blue, but also with geometric patterns.

Photo: iStock / alisa24

The Portuguese, however, continued to develop the manufacture of the azulejos and, from around 1580, adopted the so-called majolica technique from Italy: a tin glaze, which was used to coat the clay tiles in the first step, prevented the colors from bleeding, so that the artists also resembled flat tiles painted on a canvas and melted with the shard in the fire. From there, more and more figurative pictures emerged with illustrations of flower, bird or ship motifs, the Portuguese sailors.

While simple religious themes prevailed under Spanish rule, the Azulejos experienced a new upswing after the Portuguese War of Restoration between 1640 and 1668. The Chinese porcelain painting of the Ming Dynasty and the Delft tile production also had a stylistic influence during this period. During this time, long azulejos murals were created in the predominant colors white, blue and yellow. In the centuries that followed, the décor of the Azulejos was more and more based on the current fashion trends.

Azulejos in Portugal: impressive murals and more

In 1700, the almost 23 meter long "Grande Panorama de Lisboa" in Lisbon was one of the most impressive works of art from Azulejos. The mural shows the Portuguese capital seen from the Tagus before the devastating earthquake of 1755 with more than 1, 000 blue-painted tiles. Today you can marvel at it at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon.

Azulejos „Grande Panorama de Lisboa“im Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lissabon
Azulejos „Grande Panorama de Lisboa“im Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lissabon

The astonishing mosaic "Grande Panorama de Lisboa" is now in the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon.

Photo: visitportugal.com

In the 18th century, entire church walls, palaces, fountains and benches were decorated with white and blue azulejos in the Baroque style. These often came from the workshops of important Flemish artists and resembled Delftware in their appearance.

The lavish interior decoration of the “Igreja de São Lourenço” church in Amlancil is a good example of the tile art of the Portuguese baroque. Their walls have been completely covered with tile pictures depicting scenes from the life of Saint Laurentius and are a representative example of the typical use of tile jewelry in Portuguese religious buildings.

Azulejos der Barockkirche Igreja de São Lourenço in Almancil
Azulejos der Barockkirche Igreja de São Lourenço in Almancil

Azulejos as far as the eye can see are inside the baroque church Igreja de São Lourenço in Almancil.

Photo: visitportugal.com

From the 19th century, screen printing made it possible to manufacture azulejos industrially, so that in the course of the increasingly strong liberalism from the middle of the 19th century, not only the facades of the wealthy but also increasingly public spaces such as tenements, factories and train stations as well the facades and interiors of middle-class houses were clad with azulejos. At that time the Azulejos enriched many cityscapes with their vivid colors and motifs and still shape them today.

Azulejos in Portuguese train stations and metro stations

Particularly noteworthy are the azulejos of the Lisbon metro stations, which have become veritable azulejos galleries. Well-known artists have been designing the individual stations here since 1959. In the Oriente subway station, for example, artists from all over the world were invited to design the tiles, including Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Yayoi Kusama and Raza. In the Anjos, Alvalade and Roma stations, symmetrical tile pictures fill the underground walls.

Unfortunately, nowadays there are far too few concepts for restoring the azulejos, so that some of these works of art are in danger of falling apart. However, historical buildings are to be systematically restored. Until 2011, the grandeur of the large, historic azulejos at São Bento station in Porto, consisting of 20, 000 tiles, was individually cleaned in elaborate detail and then restored. Deposits from air pollution with water and detergent were removed using toothbrushes.

Azulejos in der Vorhalle des Bahnhof São Bento in Porto vom Maler Jorge Colaço
Azulejos in der Vorhalle des Bahnhof São Bento in Porto vom Maler Jorge Colaço

The painter Jorge Colaço was responsible for the porch of the São Bento train station in Porto, which was designed with numerous azulejos.

Photo: iStock / SergeYatunin

Wall decorations for the home - that cost azulejos

The price range of the azulejos is quite high. Even today authentic historical azulejos are painstakingly handcrafted. In many factories, you can have your desired motif for home based on a template. Of course, these have their price. When it comes to choosing a motif, there is everything your heart desires, from house numbers to flowers and animals to saints - or even portraits of your own children. Bulk goods from the tile trade, on the other hand, are already available for a smaller budget. Cheap new goods can also be obtained from Mexico today, for example. A particularly inexpensive solution is to cover used tiles with patterned film or to paint them yourself.

Affiliate Link zu Azulejos Fliesenaufkleber auf Amazon
Affiliate Link zu Azulejos Fliesenaufkleber auf Amazon

With special tile stickers, available on Amazon, your old tiles look like geometric azulejos.

Processing azulejos

You can easily process the purchased azulejos yourself with a little skill. They can be laid just like other wall tiles. If you want, you can even occasionally attach Portuguese tiles between ordinary models to set highlights. Another way to pick up on the decoration trend: design table or cabinet surfaces with Azulejos.

Nina Bemmann

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