Portugal is best known for explorers, bacalhau, Pastel da Natas, sardines, wine cork, and decorative tiles not necessarily in that order. You know they’re important because there’s a museum dedicated to almost all of them. One, in particular, caught Mary’s fancy, the tile museum, the Museu Nacional do Azulejo.
Now, I do like decorative tiles and we have two significant tile art pieces on the exterior of our San Diego home. That said, I wasn’t thrilled about spending valuable travel adventure time viewing tiles in a museum that I’ve seen every day throughout Portugal and Spain. I resisted, and she persisted. As usual, her persistence was most persuasive.
I’m glad she talked me into our excursion down this Portuguese tile memory lane. Museu Nacional do Azulejo is considered one of Portugal’s most important national museums. The collection reflects the history of the country, from examples created by the Romans and Moors to contemporary tile and ceramic works by some of the country’s finest artists. The collection’s home is in the former Madre de Deus Convent, founded in 1509 by Queen Dona Leonor.
One of the most fascinating works is a massive linear tile mural of Lisbon created before the catastrophic earthquake of 1755. It’s amazing to see what a thriving, bustling city it was. The few structures that survived were easily recognizable from our tours around the city.
If you’re not hot on tile, the building’s Madre de Deus church is worth the museum’s small admission. It’s a beautiful baroque jewel, splendidly gilded and tiled.