If you’ve ever been to Portugal, you probably know “Azulejo” very well. These are colourful tiles that are used to decorate buildings, palaces, churches, schools, etc. They are usually of different forms and tints. So it was a big surprise for us to discover that in actual fact, the primary purpose of Azulejo, was a practical and not a decorative one.
The word Azulejo comes from the Arabic language and basically means – polished stones. These stones that have been used to cover buildings, so they would regulate the temperatures inside during the summer and winter months. The Azulejo was inspired by Byzantine and Roman mosaics, with the Persian influences, represented by curves and floral motives. The Azulejo were popular mostly in Italy (Liguria), Spain and Portugal. Later, they “spread” to Spanish and Portuguese colonies. The golden age of producing Azulejo was in the 18th century when mass production began in order to meet the demand of a Portuguese colony – Brazil.
In our modern day today, Portugal is especially known for its tin-glazed ceramic tileworks. They cover not only historical buildings, but also modern houses, restaurants and bars etc. In the centre of Lisbon, you will find many manufacturers who still create Azulejo. And, aside from the floral and figurative patterns, you can still see many Azulejo compositions that depict Portuguese history or just idyllic scenes from life.
We once saw a beautiful mosaic during our hike from Lisbon to Cascais. Chafariz de Paço de Arcos – “The old Fountain of Paço de Arcos” was exactly our favourite styled Azulejo. It featured blue and white paintings composed perfectly with the blue sky over sunny Lisbon.