EA Tours Blog
Museum Monday: National Azulejo Museum.
Olá educational travelers!
Recently, I briefly shared here on The Tour Director the stunning National Azulejo Museum located in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon. In case you missed that post, you can find it here. The diverse areas and districts of Lisbon offer an intimate look into Portuguese life even through azulejo. Today, I’d like to reveal a little more about what azulejo exactly is, the history of the museum, and what you can expect to see while on your educational visit.
Shall we get started?
Though the museum is somewhat out of the way, it makes up for it by showcasing the beautiful art of azulejo and its development over the centuries. The National Azulejo Museum is one of Portugal’s most important museums as it’s the only of its kind in the world. Students and teachers will find that the trek out to this delightful museum is well worth it.
So what is azulejo?
Azulejo is a type of Spanish and Portuguese painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework that can be traced back to the Moors of the 14th century. Azulejo was first imported to Portugal from its neighbor Spain and quickly gained popularity in the 16th century. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the scenes on the azulejo became more elaborate. By the time the 19th century rolled around, the art of azulejo drastically declined but made a comeback in the early 20th century and the artistry continues to exist today.
Azulejo can be seen around every corner in Portugal. Not only are they used to decorate the exterior of houses, they can be found inside churches, palaces, and businesses. They come in a wide array of colors and geometric patterns making them a great souvenir because there’s something for everyone.
As for the museum, it first opened its doors in 1965 as a division of the National Museum of Ancient Art. It wasn’t until 1980 did the museum become independent as it is today. On the museum’s website, students and teachers will learn that the museum is dedicated to the “preservation, presentation, and study of its collections and the building in which it’s located regarding its safeguarding and enjoyment by present and future generations.” The National Azulejo Museum covers five centuries on the history and production of these decorative ceramic tiles and their importance to Portugal. Another great aspect of the museum is that the collections are housed in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus convent; which are stunning in themselves.
The tiles are displayed chronologically so that visitors can see how the art form developed and changed throughout the years. Starting with the 15th century, these are the earliest and oldest tiles in the museum and showcase Moorish themes. These tiles include a variety of topics from romantic and mythological to religious. Also popular during this century were hunting scenes or settings that incorporated decorative elements such as flowers and vases. As visitors make their way through the museum, they’ll see the evolution of azulejo and the techniques that go into crafting these marvelous tiles culminating with the magnificent panels from the 16th to 18th centuries. These panels of azulejo are much larger than their predecessors with an astonishing attention to detail.
The most famous of these panels and the highlight of the museum is that of the “Great View of Lisbon.” This blue and white azulejo is composed of some 1300 tiles and is 75 feet long. Made in 1738, prior to the Great Earthquake of 1755, the panel features the cityscape of Lisbon and is reputedly the country’s largest tile piece.
I urge teachers to add the National Azulejo Museum to their student tour so they and their students can see why this collection plays such an important cultural role in Portugal’s history. Not only is the collection of significant value because of its uniqueness but the building in which it’s housed is equally valuable as it was founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor.
Educational student tours to Portugal are high on the list for many, and with an incredible amount of attractions and sights to discover the possibilities are endless. So while you may not expect much, I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the National Azulejo’s Museums extensive display.
Until next time,