Lisbon’s Colorful Tiles – Azulejos
Lisbon’s colorful tiles on walls and facades of buildings and houses are bound to grab your attention even if you are there for a short time. These colorful tiles are not just in churches and palaces, even residents have these ‘blue and white’ and other colorful tiles for construction and decoration. And they were in use till early 20th century. After a brief lull Lisbon’s colorful tiles are back in use. When Lisbon was awarded Expo ‘98, the city authorities worked out plans to highlight this feature of Lisbon city. Today you will find newer wall designs with colorful tiles that have come up in subways and cafes.
During my walking tour of Alfama region of Lisbon I came across so many facades adorned with colorful Portuguese tiles. I clicked so may of them that I have now ended up making a post on it.
Two Types of Colorful Tiles
These colorful tiles are called Azulejos. These have been in use in Portugal since 15th century. They stand out in the world cultural heritage for their special depth of design and color. Initially they were used to keep the houses cooler. But soon the practical purpose got replaced with aesthetic value. Each of the tiles then was hand painted. The oldest designs were mostly in 2 colors – blue and white. They often depict some story or scene. The blue and white ones are obviously much sober and soothing to eyes.
Then there are geometric patterns on tiles. When placed one after another, the façade acquires a grand appearance. It seemed as if owners spent a lot on this for appearance alone. There is so much similarity with those found in mosques and palaces.
Caution with Lisbon’s Colorful Tiles
Theft and vandalism of these antique colorful tiles is common. Local watch groups have documented these losses and many of them have been traced to flea markets. Before you make a purchase of Lisbon’s colorful tiles as souvenirs to take back home be sure of its authenticity.
These pictures are from Lisbon, mostly from Alfama region. Various designs can be seen in other cities of Portugal too. I found similar examples during tour of Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Seeing the amazing varieties of designs with Lisbon’s colorful tiles I felt inspired. May be some day I will design a room with some colorful tiles!