Azulejos and Calçadas - the mosaics of Portugal
Wherever you go in Portugal you are surrounded by beautiful mosaics and tiles. Many of the buildings in cities such as Porto and Lisbon are covered in distinctive azulejo tiles. The sidewalks, city streets and largos are paved in calçada Portuguesa (Portuguese pavement). Together, these tiles help give Portugal its distinctive ambiance.
|São Bento train station in Porto|
Capela de Santa Catarina, Porto
The simple geometric shapes of King Manuel’s era were eventually replaced by more ornate decoration. In the 17th century, large tiles used just blue and white, influenced by Ming Dynasty porcelain from China that was popular during the time. After the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of Lisbon, the plainer Pombaline styles that replaced the ornate Manueline architecture, also incorporated the use of azulejos to add interest to otherwise industrial-looking buildings. Today, azulejos depict Portuguese history, legends, religion, and culture, and add color and interest to buildings, neighborhoods and cities. In addition to their use on buildings, azulejos are used on street signs, and in decorating public spaces like walls, park benches and fountains.
|The Monument to the Calceteiro in Lisbon:|
paying homage to those who create the calçada.
|Rossio Square, Lisbon|
While beautiful, the uneven calçadas can be tricky underfoot, and require constant maintenance and repair. They also become very slippery when wet. On a rainy day, the sidewalks can be treacherous! The calçadas, however, remain an important feature of Portuguese cities and the people here have fought to keep them from being replaced with more practical alternatives.