The history of Azulejos

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Architecture ・MLA ・5 Sources

The records of tiles (Azulejos) started in the early 12th century. All constructions within Lisbon had conspicuous azulejo art that symbolizes the Portuguese way of life and traditions. The term azulejo referred to either all structures that were built through Portuguese architects or the premises under the control of the Portuguese empire. Portuguese like any different culture, marked their uniqueness by incorporating tiles in the structures to differentiate the functions such as ordinary houses, churches, shops, and monasteries amongst others (Figueiredo and Viega 209). The decoration always portrayed the integral events in the country collectively with unique signs like nameplates, ravishing sights, and residence numbers and served as streetlights. Everyone who entered Portugal would readily recognize from Seafood, Lisbon, and surfing and Port wine drawings on azulejos tiles (De Melo et al. 1255). It is imperative to notice that the culture of tiles has been accepted by the modern architecture to provide more colourful designs and durable structures. Figure 1 below is an illustration of a collection of Portuguese tiles in a museum in Lisbon. Therefore, the paper shall explore the way tiles have contributed to the visual culture of Lisbon and the reinterpretation of the usage of tiles across the international Dialogue forums and Azulejo in Lisbon.

To begin, we discover the contribution of tiles in Portuguese capital city of Lisbon. The evidence of Portuguese victory during the 15th-century war Age of Discovery stands at the monument of Discoveries in the town (De Melo et al. 1259). Historically, the symbol reminds the country of the relevance of the strategic positioning of Portugal from the Mediterranean Sea that has a significant influence on the voyages explorations, trade and navigators such as Henry. The tile decoration in Lisbon shows Portuguese invasions by enemies (Moors) from North Africa in 711 CE that took control of both Spain and Portugal for 300 years (Castel-Brancoet al. 114). The Moors influenced the Portuguese to introduce lateen sail to help in far-reaching Portugal navigation and exploration.

Furthermore, River Tagus in the Belem suburb has become the primary tourist attraction with the drawing of Tower of Belem to symbolize the river passed by ships during the discovery of new trade routes. The pictures on the Age of Discovery monument help to visualize the prominent heroes such as Vasco da Gama, Prince Henry and Magellan in the caravel ship. Alternatively, the Jeronimos Monastery represents the god of wealth during the period of the late Gothic (Figueiredo and Viega 210). The funding of the monument came from the “pepper taxes” levied from the trade of gold, spices and precious stones. Besides, the Monastery west wing accommodates the National Museum of Archaeology where the Portuguese conducts all their archaeological researchers.

Today, the artistic tradition and culture are still visible throughout Portugal and Lisbon through the porcelain tiles and ceramic decoration in the exterior facades and the interior designs of train stations, homes, public buildings, and churches (Figueiredo and Viega 211). However, the beautiful tiles are referred to as azulejos that mean az-zulayi (polished stones) in Arabic and Azul (blue) in the Portuguese language. Portugal promoted the culture of education through the decoration of geometrically designed Moorish tiles (De Melo et al. 1263). All over the period, Portugal produced decorative tiles that contain animal and human designs that were condemned by the Islamic religion. After that, the country developed the painting of canvas that represented the national art of Portugal. The tile art (azulejos) was inspired by the various cultures such as Flemish, Christian, Chinese Ming Dynasty, and the Classical Roman; figure 2 is an illustration an azulejo that is a product of a decorative hand painting. Therefore, the paintings of Lisbon indicate the cultural diversity of Portugal.

The azulejo is considered to be one of the most potent cultural expressions associated with Portugal. It is among the most original contributions involving Portuguese in-universe civilization. It has evolved. It has undergone a variety of phases in its evolution to the current form. Hatched under Egyptian inception, ceramic ornamentation was initiated in the Iberian Peninsula by Arabs. It occurred in the 13th century. Initially, they were mosaic lacerates with pliers. They had their basis on a more prominent piece involving single-colour shellac clay (Evans et al 92). Manufacturing of azulejo in Portugal commenced by making azulejo that had a variety of features that were prime in the culture and history of Portugal. Since that time, its utility has become widespread. It is currently challenging to come across any significant building that existed in that period like palaces, churches and manor houses that do not possess a façade that is covered in such azulejo tiles. In spite of maintenance of the fundamental principles, the azulejo techniques have evolved massively over time. It has permitted its application in the production of several components utilized in the most improved form of technologies.

Over the previous years, azulejo has significantly over pursed its rare utilitarian or its decoration purpose. It has arrived at the superior status associated with Arts by acting like a poet intercession in the making of architecture together with cities. In explicit terms, the word azulejo is considered to be the Portuguese word that means to designate a square kind of ceramic plate and in which a single side of the plate is painted and also glazed. Such form of art is massively utilized in nations like Spain, Italy, Iran, Holland and Morocco. However, someone can reveal that it makes an impression in Portugal where it is perceived as a particular significance in the world context involving artistic creation. It is because it is associated with a longer life Spain when it comes to its utility purposes. Secondly, it is because of its tiling technique (Evans et al 92). It acts as a factor that structures constructions and accomplishes architecture via extensive coating in the interior of the walls of the edifice or even in extrinsic facades. Moreover, it has an appropriate interpretation since time immemorial. The mannerism in which it has been interpreted over the years is impressive. It has been understood not only as an ornamentation form of craft but also as an additional support for style resumption.

In slow but sure mannerisms, the azulejo gained over the years an even bigger and better influence by transforming into a form of an identification element associated with the Portuguese way of life. It was sustained because of the amount of dialogue that took place between the European Arab and also Indian lifestyle. Also, it was because of the utility of a conventionally penurious material like the tile as a way of exquisite accomplishment involving intramural spaces in essential buildings together with urban areas.

The first identified azulejo in Portugal that were utilized as monuments in wall ornamentations were associated with originating from Spanish-Moorish tiles that were imported from Seville. It was around 1503.TThe advancement of ceramics together with the probability of carrying out direct painting onto the slab by making use of the majolica approach in Italy was an essential aspect. It developed its composition and utility with distinct factors representing both historical and decorative times. At that moment, there were a variety of orders that were placed in Northern European specifically Flanders. These orders came directly from Portugal, but it was the advent of Flemish craftsmen to Lisbon who foresaw the introduction of an appropriate and efficient Portuguese construction. It was during the second half involving the 16th century.

Once the stylish preference for great ceramic tiles in places like churches together with palaces emerged as a trend in Portugal, the employment of single large configuration bespoke to every area became very costly (Evans et al 92). It led to higher frequency regarding a selection of repetitive tiles. By the final times involving the 16th century and also at the stat of the 17th century, constitutions involving patterned together with plain colours of tiles were designed by creating patterned ornament meshes on the various walls. In spite of the affordability of azulejos, their tilling was considered as complicated and slow. Its monument progressed to be a costly process that led to its gradual end.

Patterned azulejos manufactured in vast quantities and also accessible in their application were usually utilized, initially in repetitive modules having 232 azulejos and later in massive modules that possesses 12,312 azulejos. This generated significant diagonal patters. In any of the identified utility purposes associated with both patterned and glazed tiles, the utility of bevels together with bars was substantial for proper integration involving architectural contours. The various innovations implemented opened doors to other related artists, introducing a golden period in the Portuguese azulejos’ history. It was known as ‘Master’s Cycle’. In the 18th century, there was a massive increase the production of azulejo tiles. It was because of massive ordered that originated from Brazil. In the 2nd half involving the 19th century, the minimal cost pattern kind of azulejo occupied many facades which were manufactured by industries in Lisbon and Devesas.

Utilizing semi-factorial and factorial techniques, enhancing a faster and also a more vigorous manufacturing, the facades possessing pattern kind of tiles together with frames encompassing doors and windows presently became typical characteristics in both colour and light differences in association with urban identity involving Portugal. Fundamentally advanced in cities in Oporto together with Lisbon, two significant trends were carefully defined; in the north space, the utility of pronounced decorations as a feature involving the volume along with contrast effects of light and also shadow. On the other hand, bright patterns associated with old memory were preserved for an almost gaudy visible practice on the frontages (Evans et al 92). From the identified period, various artists stand out because of their prominent features on the quality of their products and how they saw to the evolution of azulejo. The figures below shows an example of tiles used on wall frontages in Lisbon and other related tile utility functions in Portugal.

The use of tiles has been interpreted in several ways in the current world. Different tiles colour decorations mean different cultural beliefs and activities. For example, the (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) also called the national Tile Museum shows the primarily accepted convent and church setting that spans from the 16th century (Figueiredo and Viega 209). For instance, figure 5 depicts a typical tile used for fabricating the art showing the new-born Jesus. Historians have agreed that tile decoration provided along lasting image of historical facts that would be easily interpreted. For instance, the 76-foot-map of Lisbon shows a graphical representation of how the city looked like in early 1700 before the tragic All Saints day earthquake that occurred in 1755. The incident killed 15,000 individuals in Lisbon alone (De Melo et al. 1257).

In the modern architecture, the architects use the azulejos design while constructing the restaurant with Portugal delicious seafood. The interpretation provides the intercessory and feeling of Lisbon history and culture (Mimoso et al. 15). The live examples consist of the Restaurante Cervejaria Trindade, and Restaurante Casa do Alentejo that are featured in Portugal as the most beautiful places to visit (Castel-Branco et al. 114). In the Lisbon history, Casa does, Alentejo was a recreation palace for the Moorish community that was richly decorated in geometric tiles, whereas the Cervejaria Trindade used to be the monastery-dining hall in the restaurants. The modern society has also adopted the large tiles murals and vaulted ceilings to control the weather in different seasons.

The international Dialogue about Lisbon has the leadership of archaeological sites centrally. Many Arab nations have visited Lisbon and awarded the Portuguese Kings for being the first country in the Europe to use tiles in decorations of walls and statues successfully. It is apparent that many convents and churches nowadays use tiles similar to Azulejo in windows panes and doors. The International Delegation commends the city for embracing the azulejo interests following the award of Keil’s work in the World Exposition in 1998 (De Melo et al. 1264). In fact, the city authorities allowed the new metro line to join that expanded the city with surrounding nations. Consequently, artists from different continents were given the authority to add symbols in Keil’s work. Nuno Siqueira and Cecilia de Sousa drew the olives trees while Costa Pinheiro and Keil added, geometric map, navigator has and ships respectively to resemble the safety of Portugal. In Aveiro and Porto in Bento Station, the application of Nouveau design of buildings marks the history of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro. In an article by BBC, George Bush admired the artistry used in Almancil and Palacio da Villa (Figueiredo and Viega 210). Such cooperation between nations implied a positive acceptance of the art in Lisbon.


To conclude, the visualization of tiles and ceramic artistic works in Lisbon, Portugal symbolizes the love for nature and history. Over the centuries, Lisbon has marked the historical wars between the Arabs and European because of the contemporary tiles (azulejos) (Figueiredo and Viega 209). The Portuguese like any other culture marked their uniqueness by incorporating tiles in the buildings to differentiate the functions such as ordinary houses, churches, shops, and monasteries among others (De Melo et al. 1258). The decoration always portrayed the critical events in the country together with unique signs like nameplates, ravishing sights, and house numbers and served as streetlights (Castel-Branco et al. 115). It is apparent that the international community recognizes and accepts the architectural designs seen in Lisbon (Mimoso et al. 15). The global religion such as Catholic and Protestants use windowpanes that looks similar to azulejos. Nowadays, architectures prescribe tiles to commercial and residential buildings to imply silent acceptance of the Lisbon challenge.

Work Cited

Castel-Branco Pereira, João, Maria Manuela Malhoa Gomes, and Deolinda Maria de Sousa Tavares. "The treatment of ancient Portuguese tiles." Studies in conservation 37.sup1 (1992): 112-115.

De Melo, Aluísio Braz, Arlindo F. Goncalves, and Isabel M. Martins. "Construction and demolition waste generation and management in Lisbon (Portugal)." Resources, Conservation and Recycling 55.12 (2011): 1252-1264.

Evans, David. Portugal. Wimbledon [England: Cadogan Guides, 2004. Print.

Figueiredo, M. O., T. P. Silva, and J. P. Veiga. "A XANES study of the structural role of lead in glazes from decorated tiles, XVI to XVIII century manufacture." Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing 83.2 (2006): 209-211.

Mimoso, João Manuel, Silva, A. S., Abreu, M. M., Costa, D. R., Gonçalves, T. D., & Coentro, S. "Decay of historic azulejos in Portugal: an assessment of research needs." Proceedings of the Int Sem Conservation of Glazed Ceramic Tiles-research and practice, LNEC, Lisbon April (2009): 15-16

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