Manueline style: a primer.
On a journey to Portugal, you’ll notice an architectural style that doesn’t quite fit those you’ve witnessed elsewhere. What you’re seeing is Manueline style, a 16th-century Portuguese architecture that melds late-Gothic elements with maritime themes and 15th-century Spanish Plateresque as well as Mudéjar, Italian, and Flemish flourishes.
The style, most popular from 1490 to 1520, was named for King Manuel I, who ruled Portugal during this era. That coincided with the Age of Discoveries, when the crown sent explorers out beyond Portugal’s shores. Manueline churches and monasteries were largely financed by proceeds from Portugal’s lucrative spice trade with Africa and India.
Beyond architecture, Manueline influenced the development of Portugal’s other arts. Celebrating the kingdom’s new maritime power, it became a part of church, monastery, palace, and castle design and then extended into sculpture, painting, metallurgy, faience, and furnishings.
As you travel, be on the lookout for the elements of Manueline style, among them maritime navigational instruments; objects found in the ocean (shells, seaweed, etc); botanical motifs; symbols of Christianity, especially Knights Templar Crosses; references to newly discovered lands (for example, Islamic filigree and Indian temple styles); columns carved like twists of rope; semicircular arches (instead of Gothic pointed arches); and an overall lack of symmetry.
While you’re in Lisbon, don’t miss two outstanding examples of Manueline style—the newly cleaned Jerónimos Monastery, and diminutive but iconic Belém Tower.
Outside the city, others await: Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra; the royal palace in Évora; the Monastery of Jesus in Setúbal; the Monastery of Batalha; and portions of the cathedral in Braga.
For information about a visit to Portugal, contact Mariana Tosic at email@example.com or call 888-490-8008.
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