Portuguese Gothic architecture

Portuguese Gothic architecture is the architectural style prevalent in Portugal in the Late Middle Ages. As in other parts of Europe, Gothic style slowly replaced Romanesque architecture in the period between the late 12th and the 13th century. Between the late 15th and early 16th century, Gothic was replaced by Renaissance architecture through an intermediate style called Manueline.

Churches and monasteries

Monastery of Alcobaça and orders mendicantes
Gothic architecture was brought to Portugal by the Cistercian Order. The first fully Gothic building in Portugal is the church of the Monastery of Alcobaça, a magnificent example of the clear and simple architectural forms favoured by the Cistercians. The church was built between 1178 and 1252 in three phases, and seems inspired by the Abbey of Clairvaux, in the Champagne. Its three aisles are very tall and slender, giving an exceptional impression of height. The whole church is covered by rib vaulting and the main chapel has an ambulatory and a series of radiant chapels. The vault of the ambulatory is externally supported by flying buttresses, typical features of Gothic architecture and a novelty at the time in Portugal.

After the foundation of Alcobaça, the Gothic style was chiefly disseminated by mendicant orders (mainly Franciscan, Augustinians and Dominicans). Along the 13th and 14th centuries, several convents were founded in urban centres, important examples of which can be found in Oporto (São Francisco Church), Coimbra (Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha), Guimarães (São Francisco, São Domingos), Santarém (São Francisco, Santa Clara), Elvas (São Domingos), Lisbon (ruins of Carmo Convent) and many other places. Mendicant Gothic churches usually had a three-aisled nave covered with wooden roof and an apse with three chapels covered with rib vaulting. These churches also lacked towers and were mostly devoid of architectural decoration, in tone with mendicant ideals. Mendicant Gothic was also adopted in several parish churches built all over the country, for instance in Sintra (Santa Maria), Mafra, Lourinhã and Loulé.

Sés and parochial churches
The clear and simple style of the Church of Olival de Tomar and the conventual Gothic churches also served as a model for many parish churches erected in several Portuguese settlements from the 13th to the 16th century, in the middle of the Manueline. remaining parochial Gothic churches can be found in Sintra (Church of Santa Maria), Mafra (St. Andrew’s Church), Lourinhã (Church of Santa Maria do Castelo), Loulé and many others.

Several Portuguese cathedrals, originating from the Romanesque period, were modernized with elements in Gothic style in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The vault of the nave of the Oporto Cathedral, for example, is supported by flying buttresses, one of the first examples of its use in Portugal (between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries). An important transition building is the Sé de Évora, built throughout the 13th and early 14th centuries. Although its architectural plan is inspired by the Lisbon Romanesque cathedral, the architectural forms and decorative elements (vaults, arches, windows) are already Gothic. The apseof the Cathedral of Lisbon was completely remodeled in Gothic style in the middle of the fourteenth century by order of King Alfonso IV to serve as a family pantheon. In this reform, the church has a new chapel supported by flying buttresses and ambulatory lit by a clerestory (high row of windows) with radiating chapels lit by large Gothic large windows, all covered with vaults would cross warheads. The thirteenth – century head of the Lisbon Cathedral is considered to be the most important Gothic monument between the Monastery of Alcobaça (12th-13th centuries) andMonastery of Batalha (14th-15th centuries). Several of the Portuguese Sees won cloisters Gothic, as still existing in the cathedrals of Lisbon, Evora and Porto, all erected in the fourteenth century.

Many Gothic churches have retained the fortified appearance of Romanesque churches, including the use of battlements on the walls and towers. Examples are the Cathedral of Évora, the Monastery of Leça do Balio (14th century) and the Mother Church of Viana do Castelo (15th century).

Monastery of Batalha
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the construction of the Monastery of Batalha, promoted by D. João I, renewed Portuguese Gothic. Initially the works were entrusted to the master Afonso Domingues, who began the construction of the church and cloister with a project inspired by both the traditional mendicant architecture and the apse of the Lisbon Cathedral and the choir of the Franciscan church of Santarém. After 1402 the works were entrusted to Master Huguet, who introduced the vocabulary of flamboyant Gothic to preexisting work Afonso Domingues. Huguet is of unknown origin, but his work at Batalha appears stylistic affiliation with monuments of the ancientKingdom of Aragon. The monastery church is fully decorated with cogulhos, reliefs, elaborate battlements (parapets) and large windows fine tracery Gothic introduced by Huguet. The main portal, of the same master, is unique in the country in its style. It has a series of archivolts decorated with statues, while the eardrum displays a relief of Christ and the Evangelists. The Chapel of the Founder and the chapter househave intricate cross-vaults of warheads that were a novelty in the Portuguese milieu. Batalha influenced the four-hundred workshops of many works, such as the Cathedral of Guarda, the Cathedral of Silves, the Monastery of Conceição de Beja and the Convent of Graça de Santarém, among many others.

Mudejar influence
Another Gothic variant was the so-called Mudéjar-Gothic, which developed in Portugal towards the end of the 15th century, specially in the Alentejo region. The name Mudéjar refers to the influence of Islamic art in the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, specially in the Middle Ages. In the Alentejo and elsewhere, Mudéjar influence in several buildings is evident in the profile of windows and portals, often with horseshoe arches and a mullion, circular turrets with conical pinnacles, Islamic merlons etc., as well as tile (azulejo) decoration. Examples include the portico of St Francis Church of Évora, the courtyard of the Sintra Royal Palace and several churches and palaces in Évora, Elvas, Arraiolos, Beja, etc. Múdejar eventually intermingled with the Manueline style in the early 16th century.

Castles and palaces
During the Gothic era, several castles had to be either built or reinforced, especially along the border with the Kingdom of Castille. Compared to previous castles, Gothic castles in Portugal tended to have more towers, often of circular or semi-circular plan (to increase resistance to projectiles), keep towers tended to be polygonal, and castle gates were often defended by a pair of flanking towers. A second, lower wall curtain (barbicans) were often built along the perimeter of the main walls to prevent war machines from approaching the castle. Features like machicolations and improved arrowslits became also widespread.

Starting in the 14th century, keep towers became larger and more sophisticated, with rib vaulting roofs and facilities like fireplaces. Keep towers with improved residential characteristics can be found in the castles of Beja, Estremoz and Bragança, while some later castles (15th century) became real palaces, like those in Penedono, Ourém and Porto de Mós. The most significant case is the Castle of Leiria, turned into a royal palace by King John I. Some rooms of the palace are decorated with splendid Gothic loggias, from which the surrounding landscape could be appreciated by the King and Queen.

Source from Wikipedia