Often known as Azulejos, the Portuguese Tile is elaborately painted and arrived in Portugal in the 15th century. Back then parts of the Iberian Peninsula were being ruled by the Moorish. Many believe that the word Azulejos comes from the Portuguese word “azul” (which translates to “blue”), but Azulejos actually comes from the Arabic word az-zulayj, which means “polished stone.”
Portuguese tiles became less popular in the 20th century, those of a certain social standing indicated that tiles were for the “poor people.” Thankfully this was disregarded as time went on and in the 1950’s designers tasked with coming up with a simple way of decorating new metro stations turned to the Portuguese Tile.
Head to Lisbon and you can see these Metro stations, proudly displaying colorful tilework. You will also find Portuguese Tiles showcased in museums. In Portugal, tiles are not just used for decoration, they are actually incorporated into the building to add character and personality. Portuguese tiles have contributed color and feature to Portuguese architecture for the past five centuries, you will find the tiles showcased in grand and ancient homes and equally in contemporary office and apartment blocks. Portuguese tiles are evident in church murals and they are used to make the dull highways much more interesting! There are tiles in corners of dark castles and jumping out from well-trodden pavements. You will find Portuguese tiles all over the place!
Portuguese tiles are often set in certain arrangement, sometimes they comprise of pictures – you might find illustrations of damsels or colorful interpretations of fruit. Portuguese tiles are often also decorated with vivid geometric patterns. The popularity of the Portuguese tile spread from Europe to the islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Azulejos have been found in lands many miles away, such as Brazil (which was previously Portuguese territory).