Baroque architecture in Portugal

Baroque architecture in Portugal lasted about two centuries (the late seventeenth century and eighteenth century). The reigns of D. João V and D. Joseph I of Portugal had increased imports of gold and diamonds, in a period called Royal Absolutism, which allowed the Portuguese Baroque to flourish.

Baroque architecture is the architectural style practiced during the Baroque period, which, preceded by Renaissance and Mannerism, begins from the seventeenth century, during the period of absolutism, and runs until the first half of the eighteenth century The Portuguese word “Baroque” defines a pearl of irregular shape (Perola imperfeita)

In Baroque architecture, the typical expression is the Churches, built in great quantity during the Contra Reforma movement. Rejecting the symmetry of rebirth, they emphasize the dynamism and the imposing, reinforced by the emotivity achieved through meanders, contorted elements and spirals, producing different visual effects, both in the façades and in the interior design.

As for the sacred architecture, it is composed of varied elements that intend to give the effect of intense emotion and greatness. The raised ceiling, elaborated with elements of sculpture, gives a dimension of the infinite; the windows allow the penetration of the light in order to highlight the main sculptures; the speakers convey an impression of power and movement

Considering that the Renaissance had the wealth and power of the Italian courts and was a mixture of secular and religious forces, the Baroque was, at least initially, directly linked to the Counter-Reformation, a movement within the Catholic Church to reform, in response to the Protestant Reformation. Baroque architecture and its embellishments were on the other hand more accessible to emotions and, on the other hand, a visible statement of the Church’s wealth and power. The new style manifested itself in particular in the context of the new religious orders, such as the Teatinos and the Jesuits who seek to improve popular piety.

Baroque Architecture
Baroque architecture in Portugal enjoys a very special situation and a different timeline from the rest of Europe. It is conditioned by several political, artistic and economic factors, that originate several phases, and different kinds of outside influences, resulting in a unique blend, often misunderstood by those looking for Italian art, but with specific forms and character. It starts in a complicated moment, with the financial effort of the kingdom channelled to the Portuguese Restoration War, after 60 years of Iberian Union. Another key factor is the existence of the Jesuitical architecture, also called “plane style” (Estilo Chão). The buildings are single-room basilicas, deep main chapel, lateral chapels (with small doors for communication), without interior and exterior decoration, very simple portal and windows. It is a very practical building, allowing it to be built throughout the empire with minor adjustments, and prepared to be decorated later or when economic resources are available. Actually the first Portuguese Baroque does not lack in building because “plain style” is easy to be transformed, by means of decoration (painting, tiling, etc.), turning empty areas in pompous baroque scenarios. The same could be applied to the exterior. Subsequently, it’s easy to adapt the building to the taste of the time and place. Practical and economical.

The Portuguese Baroque is considered, by many, an extension of Mannerism, whose principles were linked to the Council of Trent, that is, mostly religious. The churches generally have the same structure, that is, simple facades, contained decoration (except maybe the main altar), rectangular plant. These were the characteristics that marked the austere and rigid principles of the church and royal power. Some scholars call it the Baroque Severus. In this period, we find Portuguese architects, namely João Antunes or João Nunes Tinoco (church of Santa Engrácia, in Lisbon).

With the Renaissance, the plants appear in a circular form, prolonged by Mannerism. Thus, we find the church and cloister of the Serra do Pilar, from Diogo de Castilho (XVI / XVII century).

Church of S: Gonçalo, Amarante (1705);
Igreja da Senhor da Pedra, Óbidos, (1740-47);
Church of the Lord of the Cross, Barcelos.
In addition to these churches, there are numerous chapels all over the country. Due to the duration of the Mannerism in Portugal, there are areas that goes from the mannerism to the Rococo, reason why are many buildings of octagonal and hexagonal plant. It is a moment in which the so-called Full Baroque is already foreseen, in which we find, on the one hand, rectangular plants of Mannerist influence, on the other, the most decorated buildings. It is time of the earthquake of 1755, that destroyed numerous buildings.

It is at this time that the king begins to have buildings built not only religious but also civil, including changes in the Paço da Ribeira. Numerous orders of drawings and books were made by foreign artists. This architecture is then marked by a decoration essentially of gilded carving, in the walls and altarpieces and tiles, feeling, also, a certain structural sobriety.

This is how the beginning of Johannine religious architecture is defined. It is a style that develops, mainly, in the North with Nicolau Nasoni (1691-1773), that interconnected characteristics of the Italian baroque with what was produced in Portuguese territory. The following are examples in Porto:

Church of Bom Jesus de Matosinhos;
Church of the Misericordia;
Episcopal Palace;
Loggia da Sé;
Church and Clérigos Tower.
In the north of the country there are two centers:

Porto, with Spanish influences and exuberant decoration, associated with the ideas coming from Italy.
Braga (late-baroque), in which the decoration typical of the Romanesque and Manueline are associated with Baroque and Chinese ideas, marked by an exotic decoration. (Church of S. Vicente de Braga, Church of Santa Madalena.).
In the south we also find two centers:

Alto Alentejo, which presents a baroque more neoclassical, simple and regular. For example, the Church of Our Lady of Lapa in Vila Viçosa
Lisbon, with the Convent of Mafra, whose influences come from Germany.

The International Baroque
After the end of the restoration of independence war, and past the crisis of succession between D. Afonso VI and D. Pedro II, Portugal was ready for the international Baroque. It started gradually, changing the Mannerist model, trying to animate and modernise the new buildings, using the centred plant and some decoration, such as in the Church of Santa Engrácia in Lisbon, designed by João Nunes Tinoco and João Antunes. Santa Engrácia is an impressive building, made with curves and geometric forms, a centred plant, crowned by a large dome (completed only in the twentieth century), decorated with colourful marbles and imposing itself to the city.

In the reign of King King John V, the baroque underwent a time of splendour and wealth completely new in Portugal. Despite the destruction wreaked by the 1755 earthquake, the quality of the buildings which have survived to our days is still impressive. The Palácio da Ribeira, the Royal Chapel (both destroyed in the earthquake) and the Mafra National Palace, are the main works of the King. The Águas Livres Aqueduct brings water to Lisbon covering a distance of 11.18 miles, with emphasis on the section over the Alcântara valley because of the monumentality of the imposing arches. However, across the country, are still visible marks of the pomp of the time in major or small works. The gilded woodcarving took on national characteristics because of the significance and richness of the decorations. The painting, sculpture, decorative arts and tiling also experienced great development.

Mafra National Palace
Mafra National Palace is the most international Portuguese baroque building and, following the fashion among European monarchs, reflects the absolutist architecture, like Versailles in France. It’s a royal palace, a cathedral and a monastery all in the same structure, built after a promise made by the king related to his succession. Designed by Ludovice, a German architect established in Portugal, the work begins in 1717 and ends in 1730. It is a huge building. It has two turrets on the facade, after the destroyed turret in the Palace of Ribeira, with the basilica at the centre and two bell towers dominated by an imposing dome. Behind, although it cannot be seen from the street, is the monastery. The set is visible from the sea, working as a territorial milestone, and used as a summer residence for the court. It is known that the king wanted to build a church even greater than the Vatican, but after knowing that it took more than a century, he changed his mind. In the whole complex noteworthy are also the library, the five organs of the basilica and the two carillons.

Northern Portugal
In the north of Portugal there are numerous baroque buildings. With more inhabitants and better economic resources, the north, particularly the areas of Porto and Braga, witnessed an architectural renewal, visible in the large list of churches, convents and palaces built by the aristocracy. The city of Porto (classified heritage of humanity by UNESCO) is the city of the Baroque. It is the working area of Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect living in Portugal, drawing original buildings with scenographic emplacement as the church and tower of Clérigos, the logia of the Cathedral in Porto, the church of Misericórdia, the Palace of São João Novo, the Palace of Freixo, the Episcopal Palace and many others.

Source From Wikipedia