Deeply embedded in Portugal’s history and culture, azulejos date as far back as the thirteenth century. The word azulejo stems from the Arabic, meaning ‘small polished stone’. Originally, they were fairly simple structures cut into geometric shapes in neutral tones, and the tiles were used to cover up the large areas of blank wall that were common inside buildings during the Gothic period.
Traditionally azulejos were decorated in a simple colour palate dominated by blues and whites, but in the twentieth century azulejos became more ornate and were used in advertising hoardings and murals.
The LIDL supermarket near Oliveira do Bairro was built on a brownfield site occupied by factories and wasteland. In the entrance to the supermarket is a derelict building that was once either a small shop or an office building. Now it lies derelict and abandoned. I was always convinced that whenever we glanced in that there was a mural inside one of the rooms, but I was never really certain.
The other day I had an opportunity to explore the building again. Imagine my surprise to find not simply a painted mural but a beautiful undersea vista made of azulejos. It must have been created during the 1970s or 80s, and the whole artwork was made of hand-painted tiles.