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Architecture of Portugal

Portuguese Architecture - Moorish fortress
Moorish fortress

Much of Portugal's historic architecture is in the Gothic style, although the Portuguese dragged this style out for years so it's quite diverse. Additionally, due to outside influences from the Moors and later as Portugal rose to a world power, there is incredible diversity in Portuguese architecture.

However, older than these styles, there are some Roman ruins that remain in Portugal, although few are in good condition. The Roman city of Aquae Flaviae has some of the best remaining examples (in Chaves).

Portuguese Architecture - Pena Palace
Pena Palace

The next major influence was from the Moors, who arrived from North Africa via Spain. The Moors have few surviving constructions in Portugal today, but there are a couple remaining examples, primarily in the form of forts as most mosques were restructured into churches and are hardly recognizable as former mosques today. One of the better preserved castles from this time is Silves Castle (700-1200s).

There are numerous Romanesque buildings in Portugal today; some of the best examples of this style are in the country's two largest cities: Porto and Lisbon. The Cathedral of Lisbon (or Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major; 1147-1200s) and Porto's Cathedral are excellent examples in this style. The Convent of the Order of Christ (begun in the 1100) in Tomar is fairly unique as it was built by the local Knights Templar and has a slightly altered style.

Portuguese Architecture - Nossa Senhora da Conceicao
Nossa Senhora da Conceicao

The Gothic style in Portugal is primarily found in churches today. The Alcobaca Monastery (1153-1200s) best displays the Portuguese variety on this larger style. Few other early Gothic examples are worth noting though, as the style in Portugal truly emerged later. The extraordinarily unusual Monastery of Batalha (1385) is a late Gothic structure unlike any other building. The gothic period continued until the early 1500s and this time period includes one of the purest examples of Portuguese architecture in the Monastery of the Hieronymites (begun in 1502).

As Portugal reached its peak of power in the 1500 and 1600s, their architectural achievements during this time somewhat represent this, but there wasn't as much building as expected during a prosperous time. The Renaissance and Baroque styles, popular in much of Europe at the time, weren't well liked by the Portuguese so little from these styles were built. Most of the structures that were built in these styles are in Tomar, which was home to the seat of the Order of Christ, which oversaw most of Portugal's overseas territories. In Tomar, the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (1532-1540), the Cloister of John III, and the town square are all in either the Renaissance or Baroque style.

Portuguese Architecture - Church in Lisbon
Church in Lisbon

During this same time, Evora was home to the Portuguese kings so developed a unique style of whitewashed buildings and homes, which directly led to the growth of this style in Brazil and in other Portuguese colonies.

In the 1800s the neo-Classical style rose in popularity, particularly in Lisbon after the city was struck with an earthquake and had to be re-built. The Ajuda National Palace in the capital is a prime example from this time period. Also in the 1800s the similarly styled Romantic period flourished and the town of Sintra is a great example of this style.

Although Lisbon was almost wholly rebuilt since the 1700s, it still has a number of excellent architectural examples throughout history as does Porto. However, perhaps the best place to see the full scope of Portuguese architecture is in Tomar, which has ruins from the Romans and has added buildings over history until the modern day, making it a great destination for an architectural buff.

This page was last updated: May, 2014