History of Portuguese pavement "Calçada Portuguesa"

26 April 2022
History of Portuguese pavement "Calçada Portuguesa"


The ultimate symbol of Portuguese culture and appreciated worldwide, the art of the Portuguese sidewalk is one of Lisbon's biggest attractions. The black and white city tapestry embellishes the city with distinctive patterns that depict above all the epic of the discoveries. 

The cobbled pavements appeared in the fifteenth century but it was during the first half of the nineteenth century that the physiognomy of Lisbon knew the beginning of a transformation so profound that the city would not be the same again. It was also from this time that authentic masterpieces were produced in the pedestrian areas of the overseas territories of Portuguese influence, such as Macau, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique, India or Timor.

In a definitive way, the whiteness of the limestone laced in black with basaltic stone or with limestone of the same color ennobled the urban public space, in an ideal of modernization of the cities.

The broken stone with the appropriate dimensions was obtained thanks to the work of the calceteiros who, in these mosaic stones, created abstract compositions, of geometric or even figurative graphics. The limit: the imagination of these artists.

There are in this artistic manifestation hidden secrets that surprise at every step. Foliage, boats, faces, animals, mythological beings and fruits are some of the motifs used in a disguised way by the calceteiros, among the imposed patterns that are repeated, to sign their work.

From the first artisans to contemporary plastic artists, stand out in national territory works in sidewalk-mosaic Eduardo Nery, Fernanda Fragateiro, Fernando Conduto, João Abel Manta, Maria Keil, Pedro Calapez, Pedro Proença, Porfírio Pardal Monteiro, Rigo, Xana and even Vhils, who found in this tradition a way to honor the fado singer Amália Rodrigues.

The first decorative carpet created, which displayed a vibrant zigzag in the Castle of São Jorge, went down the hill to settle in Rossio where even today can be seen the Mar Largo, an alternating sequence of white and black waves that honored the Portuguese discoveries.

 In the following years , the noblest areas of the city were also paved with magnificent decorative motifs. From Avenida da Liberdade to Cais do Sodré, from Largo do Carmo to Chiado, from Praça de Camões to Príncipe Real, from Praça do Município to Praça do Comércio, from Estrela to the riverside area of Belém, the city has been covered with fantasistic carpets and some of the first examples maintain the original patterns and can still be observed today.

 At the end of the century, Expo 98 would create the ideal conditions for a new generation of artists to rethink the Portuguese sidewalk with new plasticities. In the eastern part of the city, there are some of the most extraordinary works where creativity and tradition come together in images of monsters and marine motifs.

 It is this versatility of the Portuguese artistic sidewalk that, reinventing itself, continues to be a source of inspiration for so many other fields of artistic creativity that go beyond the ground we tread.

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