Although tiles have been in use in Portugal since the 15th century, it was not until the 1830s that ordinary people began to decorate the outside of their homes with them. Up to this point tiles were largely the preserve of the wealthy and the church. Mass production eventually allowed ordinary Portuguese to embrace azulejos and they have been using them on their homes ever since.

Many authors have praised the elaborate azulejos comissioned for churches like Misericórdia in Vianna do Castelo and palaces like Queluz. But it is the humble house tile that most impresses me. The tiles were chosen, not by bishops or kings, but by ordinary people who wanted to make their homes more beautiful. In some of these tiles one can read the art form's pedegree in the moorish carpet patterns. Whereas others chart the influence on Portugal of art movements, such as Art Nouveau and Art Decco, from other parts of Europe.

Azulejos de Lisboa mainpage