Portuguese Pavement, March 2018

I love the calçadas Portuguesa, or Portuguese pavement that is so common throughout the country.  The tradition goes back to Roman times when the Romans used stone laid in patterns to pave roads, plazas and even floors.  The Roman mosaic style of pavement can be seen in Conimbriga and on the ancient road turned walking trail located at Alqueidão da Serra.

The years of Moorish occupation had an influence on the pavement as well.  Many of the calçadas Portuguesa feature geometric patterns and designs that show the Arabic influence.

Several earthquakes in the 16th century and then again with the 1755 earthquake that destroyed much of Lisbon, were great drivers for the use of Portuguese pavement.  Many of the streets were paved this way after the 1755 earthquake.  General Eusébio Furtado used Portuguese pavement to transform the grounds of São Jorge Castle into walking places using the mosaic pavement.  He was also responsible for “Mar Largo” at Praça do Rossio, as well as Camões Square, Principe Square and Town Hall Square, all in Lisbon.

Rossio Square
Mar Largo, or Open Sea at Praça do Rossio, Lisbon

The stone is predominantly limestone quarried from the Aire and Candeeiros mountains of Portugal.  Black, white, grey and occasionally red stones are commonly used.  While geometric patterns are most common there are examples of the stones being used to display floral patterns, symbols and even portraits.  Most of what we saw was geometric patterns.

Praca Sousa Oliveira
Praca Sousa Oliveira, Nazaré

Much like Portugal’s azelejos, the stonework has become a part of the cultural identity. Unfortunately, the future of the art form is at risk.  It takes years to learn to cut and lay the stones and there are less expensive forms of pavement available.  I hope that the cultural value of the Portuguese pavement outweighs the economic cost and the tradition continues.

Coimbra Sidewalk
Rua Ferreira Borges in Coimbra

Author: Don Baker

My wife says I make stuff up. While that's probably true I'm going to stick to stuff that's mostly true.

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