The term azulejo describes a thin piece of ceramic tile, generally square with one side is glazed, the result of firing an enamel based material making it impermeable and shiny. This face can be monochromatic or polychromatic, smooth or embossed. The tiles are generally used in large numbers as a covering on interior or exterior surfaces of buildings, or as a separate decorative panel on a surface.
The subjects range from accounts of historical events, mythological scenes, religious iconography and a wide range of decorative elements (geometric, verdant, etc.) applied to walls, floors and ceilings of palaces, gardens, religious buildings (churches, monasteries), housing and public buildings.
With all their different characteristics, these material became an integral part of buildings and were commented on in other countries. It has been a way of national artistic expression in Portugal for more than five centuries. As such the azulejo transcends into something more than a mere decorative element with little intrinsic value. This traditional material is used for its low cost, and its ability to aesthetically transform buildings in a practical way. But above all it illustrates the scope of the Portuguese imagination, their preference for realistic description and their interest in cultural exchange. Because of its large scale and theatrical descriptiveness the azulejo is today considered to be one of the most original products of Portuguese culture, which portrays itself as a comprehensively illustrated book with great richness of colour reflecting, not only the history, but also the mentality and tastes of each era.
Azulejos, an important element of urban architecture
Facades tiled with azulejos are an important element of urban architecture in the Algarve. These tiles not only have a decorative function, but they are also of practical importance, because they protect the walls against the humid maritime climate.
Our gallery shows some attractive examples from various cities in the Algarve
Azulejos for interior decoration and wall paintings
For hundreds of years azulejos have also been used for interior decoration and to create wall paintings. Initially the motives were primarily religious and historic, and the colours were mostly blue and white. In the course of time more irreverent and vulgar motives and a wider range of colours were used.
We are pleased to show you selected examples of special charm and beauty
A real treasure trove in Faro
There is no better place than this shop in the historical old town of Faro to admire antique azulejos. Here you will find traditionally decorated tiles, sorted by the century they were created as well as wall paintings of various sizes. The owner will be more than pleased to give you authoritative information on the subject.
São Lourenço dos Matos
One of the finest art treasures in southern Portugal
Built in the first half of the 18th century, the charming Chapel of São Lourenço dos Matos provides the very best example of Algarve baroque decorative tile work, in itself sufficient to justify a visit to the town of Almancil, in the municipality of Loulé. Considered to be one of the finest art treasures in southern Portugal, this church has a single longitudinal nave, with side chapels and a quadrangular chancel surmounted by a dome covered in figurative tiles, the whole combining to create a fine example of religious architecture. The tiles, in tones of blue and white, covering the walls of the nave and the vaulted ceiling, create a striking visual impression as they remind visitors of the story of St. Lawrence, the patron saint of the church.