Azulejos, tin-glazed ceramic tiles, were introduced to present-day Spain and Portugal by the invading Moors as early as the 13th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, their use in Portuguese art and architecture became common. Earlier geometric patterns were replaced with elaborate decorative scenes and ornate elements. Azulejos were used to tell stories, especially in churches (where large blank walls in earlier Gothic buildings were covered with elaborate panels), palaces, schools, and other public building. Today Azulejos are still used in Portuguese architecture on both the interior and exterior of building. Efforts are being made to protect historic Azulejos. Beginning in 2013, Lisbon made it illegal to demolish buildings with tile covered facades. Lisbon’s Banco do Azulejo stores over 30,000 tiles from demolished or renovated buildings. Aviero, Porto and Ovar have similar programs. Since August 2017, a national law prevents the demolition or renovation of buildings that would mean the removal of tiles.
Walls of the 14th century cloister of Porto’s cathedral were covered with tiles in the 18th century. While many scenes are religious, they also include scenes from the Metamorphoses, an epic poem by the Roman writer Ovid.
Exotic subjects or elements often depicted in scenes from Portugal’s global empire. This 18th century panel is in the National Palace of Queluz.
A house in Aveiro, Portugal.
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