Nothing special about a tile right? Wrong. Let Lisbon show you what I mean.
In the week I was there I became somewhat tile obsessed, stopping every few steps, literally, to take a photo because tiles are everywhere in the city and they are so oh-so-beautiful. I’m not talking about the run-of-the-mill big square variety mind you, the likes of which you tack onto the back of your taps and in your shower cubicle. No, those just think they are tiles. Let me be clear- these of which I type are smaller ancient tiles and mosaics that prettify pavements, streets, facades, frame doors, sills and windows, are pressed into murals depicting Fado singers, fables and life scenes, and generally transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
It’s said that the first pavement (calcades) mosaics were created by Lisboa prisoners in 1842- the history is a little unclear but suffice to say one Eusebius Furtado, a military commander, was commissioned to design the wavy mosaic pattern in Rossio Square… the trend caught on and voila, Lisbon got its tile game on, and still today, the city looks magnificent.
The Moors must also be credited for their introduction of the geometrical ceramic arts. Decorated tile work, known in Portuguese as azulejo, soon came to cover houses and churches across the country during their occupation of Portugal.
So aside from what you see at eye level and above, don’t forget to look down – at the artwork created centuries ago for your and my visual pleasure.