The History of Architecture in Portugal in Brief

Citânea de BriteirosEven before Portugal was born, there were important constructions in this territory.

One good example of this is Citânea de Briteiros, in Guimarães, of the Iron Age. The houses were round, made in granite, without mortar. They were organized in small communities in the top of the mountains surrounded by defensive structures.

It was with the romans arrival (2nd century B.C) that the Portuguese architecture developed significantly. The romans constructed important infrastructures and structures like roads, aqueducts and bridges. There are several examples that remain nowadays of the roman period in Portugal, like Conímbriga, the Roman temple in Évora and the Roman Theater and Terms in Lisbon (Olissipo), the remains of a public fountain, public baths, and a theater in Braga (Bracara Augusta).

When the Germanic People invaded Portugal, the roman domination ended. One of the few examples of this period is the Saint Frutuoso Chapel, near Braga that integrated a Visigoth monastery constructed in the 7th century.

In the eight century the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by Moors that brought a new life to the architect. The typical color of the Muslim buildings was white because they whitewashed the exteriors.

#1 – Romanesque Style (1100-1230)

In 1143 the independency of Portugal is recognized.

Under the command of the Count Henry several monks and noble implanted gradually the Romanesque style.

There are two types of Romanesque in Portugal. One of French influence, which you can see in the Coimbra Cathedral and the Lisbon Cathedral, and the other derives of the Cluny Abbey style.

However the Portuguese Romanesque churches were a little different from the original style due to their thick walls and little openings, looking more like big fortresses.

#2 – Gothic Style (1230 – 1520)

The Gothic Style arrived to Portugal later than the rest of Europe. An example of Gothic style is Batalha Monastery, in Batalha and the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra.

From approximately 1490 to 1520, with the prosperity generated by the spices, appears the Manueline Style. This style is a mixture of late gothic style with renaissance elements and other elements. It was characterize for its luxuriant decoration with many details, and marine, ropes, animals and vegetal motifs.

A great example of Manueline Style is Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon.


#3 – Renaissance and Mannerism (1520 – 1650)

The austere renaissance style didn`t prosper in Portugal, but evolved slowly to Mannerism.

A great example of this style is the São Roque Church, in Lisbon witch its construction was initiated by Afonso Álvares.


#4 – Architecture Chã (1580 – 1640)

This plain architecture, very different than the Manueline style, appears mainly to the economic limitations of this epoch. This style  were simpler, more restrained with smooth surfaces and few decoration. There were a few architects that had stand out Like Baltasar Alvares, João Torriano, Francisco de Mora and Pedro Nunes Tinoco.

You can see examples of this architecture in Sé Nova of Coimbra, Grilos church in Oporto, Monastery of Tibães and the Monastery of São Bento and the convent of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Évora.

#5 – Baroque Style (1640 – 1755)

In the beginning, because of the Restauration of the Independency the Baroque style didn’t have much adhesion, because of misery and economic decadency.

mafra-palace-portugalHowever, in 1967, it was discovered gold hand gemstones, and diamantes in Brazil. Therefore, Portugal was a prosperous kingdom again and the king hired architects from other countries. It were designed many megalomaniac monuments but some of them were never finished.

One great example of a baroque monument in Portugal is Mafra National Palace designed by the architect Johann Friedrich Ludwig.

The Baroque style evolved to Rococo and a great example of it is Clérigos Church in Oporto made by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni

#6 – Pombaline Style (1755 – 1860)

After the earthquake and the seaquake in 1755 caused great destruction in Lisbon, the prime minister and the Marquis of Pombal organized the reconstruction of the capital.

This style came out of necessity. Was an intelligent and well planned style, and it had the first earthquake-proof system, and the first mass production method.

The Pombaline building is a structure up to 4 floors, with arches to the stores at the ground store, balconys on the first floor and the top covered by a ceiling. It is a style of great simplicity, and very functional.

Neoclassicism and Romanticism (1780 – 1900)

In the beginning of nineteen century Portugal suffers influences from several countries that culminate in neoclassicism. A neoclassic building in Portugal is generally simple, very functional as a reflexion of the pombaline style.

A few decades later, the romanticism appears as a reaction. Rossio Station and Pena Palace are two examples of this style.

Modern Portugal home#7 – Modern Architecture (20 century)

Artdéco and art nouveau had few expression in Portugal.

Later during the dictatorship of Estado Novo were applied a more restrained architecture, but mainly functional.

Nevertheless, there were a few architects that stand out like Pardal Monteiro, Keil do Amaral, Cassiano Branco and Raul Lino.

With the end of the dictatorship, the horizons of Portugal are opened internationally, and the architecture enriched its heritage, both quantity and quality. There are some Portuguese architects recognized in the entire world like Siza Vieira (winner of the 1992 Pritzker prize), Souto de Moura (winner of the 2011 Pritzker prize), Fernando Távora and Gonçalo Byrne, among others.

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