Arabic architectural influence in Portugal

Islamic art met its development in Portugal during the Muslim presence in the country (712-1249).

The originality of architectural structures and decorative motifs gave rise to a very architecture itself typically Muslim. The horseshoe arch of Visigothic influence is the hallmark of Muslim civilization in Portugal. The ornamentation is one of the great features of Arabic architecture with a wealth of decorated surfaces that makes the structures remain partially hidden by filling all the spaces in a decor that would become known as the Horror for the Empty, with repeating geometrical, cosmological motifs, calligraphy and stylized motifs of plant origin.

After the Muslim conquest in the eighth century, the Sintra region would be occupied, having been erected primitive fortification crags (VIII-IX). Islamic cities were located in order to dominate major pathways of water, such as Al-Usbuna (Lisbon), Santarim (Santarém), Kulümriyya (Coimbra), Martula (Mértola) or Shilb (Silves). Those cities recycled spaces, structures and materials from the Roman period.

As flagships of Arab arquitectatural influence in Portugal are: the Castle of Silves (Algarve), the Moorish Castle in Sintra, Mértola’s Castle, the Church of Mértola, which is no more than the Christian reuse the old Muslim mosque.

Baroque Style

Having emerged in Portugal in a difficult period at the political, economic and social level, Filipino Domain, time when the nation had lost its independence, would last two centuries (XVII and XVIII).

In this troubled socio-political and economic times the nation is noted to influence the level of arts and architecture. Also, having the influence of the Inquisition, the style is reflected in the religious buildings. Churches have a tendency to same structure with simple façades and decoration contained except for the the main altar, been dubbed by Baroque Severo. As an example, the Church of S. Gonçalo in Amarante, the Lord of the Stone Church in Óbidos, the Lord of the Cross Church in Barcelos.

Meanwhile the 1755 earthquake happens with the destruction of several buildings. At this point the king orders the construction of both civilian and religious buildings, including changes in the Ribeira’s Palace in Lisbon. Staying at this point marked the decor in Gold Carving on the walls and tiles. It is the time of the full Baroque, with octagonal and hexagonal plants such as the Mafra’s Convent and Church of the Clergy in Oporto.

Gothic Style

The Gothic was the dominant architectural style in Portugal, during the last centuries of the middle ages, evolving later on into the Manueline Style.

Brought to Portugal by the Cisterian Order, has in the Monastery of Alcobaça, its first example of the style, with the clear and simple architectural forms favoured by the Cistercians. One other monument used as the matrix, was the Santa Maria do Olival Church in Tomar. Several other religious orders came to adopt the same architectural style, having built several churches and monasteries from north to south of Portugal. Some magnificent examples are the Saint Francis Church in Santarém, Oporto’s Saint Francis Convent, the Monastery of Saint Clara-the-Old in Coimbra or the Convent of Saint Domingos of Elvas.

The main characteristics of this architectural style were its vaults built higher and bigger, supported by pilasters or column beams. Several of the thicker walls were to be replaces by Rose Windows and Stained Glass , resulting in a strong lighting indoors.

Manueline Style

Created from the will of the King Manuel I (1491-1521) and out of the creative spirit being upheld, at the time, in Portugal. In an era where the Portuguese sailors, responsible for the discoveries, made themselves known to the world and gave the world the knowledge of far away civilizations.

Several artists from those far away lands came to Portugal, from this encounter of cultures the Manueline Style was born, which is considered to be a new interpretation of the Gothic Style.

The Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery, both in Lisbon, and the Tomar’s Convent of Christ with its dazzling Chapter Window, are the supreme example of the style.

The exuberance of shapes and its strong naturalistic-symbolic interpretation is part of its characteristics. In the Manueline Style the most frequent motives are the Armillary Sphere (a navigational instrument, personal symbol of the King Manuel I, and also a symbol of the cosmos), elements from the sea, such as shells, pearls and strings of seaweed. Also, botanical motifs such as laurel branches, oak leaves, acorns, poppy capsules, corncobs and thistles. Elements of common usage in ships were also added, like, spheres, anchors, anchor chains, ropes and cables. Mythical creatures were also part of the decorations, such as gargoyles and mermaids.



Portuguese Monastic sweets

Portugal has an extremely rich tradition in the making of monastic sweets. Such delicacies have the choice of ingredients like sugar, eggs (especially egg yolks) and almonds. They are also used other ingredients such as sweet squash (mainly in the Alentejo) and the wafer sheet (host) used in various sweets as the Celestial Santa Clara or the Gorges of Nun.

Only after the fifteenth century, with the release of sugar, monastic sweets reached their fame. Sugar allows the creation of different sugar syrups that were easily achieved in different stages of caramelization by the skilled hands of the nuns and monks.

Portugal has always had a great egg production and combined with the abundance of sugar coming from the colonies, due to the advent of the discoveries, the ideal conditions for the creation of such delicacies were created.

Examples of convent sweets by region and not to be missed:


Charutos de Ovos │ Meias Luas │ Papas Doces de Carolo │ Fidalguinhos │  Fataunços │ Pastéis de São Francisco │ Bolachas do Bom Jesus │ Suspiros de Braga │ Clarinhas de Fão │

Barrigas de Freira

Douro Litoral:

Sapatetas │ Perronilhas │ Lérias de Amarante │ Tabafe │ Pescoços de Freira │ Cavacas de Santa Clara │ Amarantinos │ Pão Podre │ Foguetes de Amarante


Morcelas │ Jerinús │ Madalenas do Convento │ Doce de Viúvas │ Bolo de Nozes de Bragança │ Sestas │ Pitos de Santa Lúzia │ Creme da Madre Joaquina │ Velharocos │ Toucinho do Céu │ Queijadas de Chilas

Beira Litoral:

Pastéis do Lorvão │ Nabada de Semida │ Morcelas de Arouca │ Arrufadas de Coimbra │ Nógado de Semide │ Lampreias de Ovos das Clarissas de Coimbra │ Melícias │ Trouxas de Ovos Moles │ Manjar Branco │ Pastéis de Tentúgal

Beira Alta e Beira Baixa:

Lâminas │ Grades │ Bolo de São Vicente │ Argolinhas do Loreto │ Taroucos de Salzedas │ Esquecidos │ Cavacas de Santa Clara │ Bicas │ Bolo Paraíso │ Bolo são Francisco │ Sardinhas Doces de Trancoso


Sonhos de Esperança │ Sopapo do Convento │ Palha de Abrantes │ Celestes de Santarém │

Fatias de Tomar │ Tigeladas de Abrantes │ Broas de Donas


Bom Bocado │ Pão-de-Ló do Mosteiro de Alcobaça │ Argolas │ Travesseiros │ Tibornas │ Bolos de Abóbora │ Delícias de Frei João │ Fitas de Páscoa │ Castanhas de Ovos │ Marmelada │ Branca de Odivelas │ Toucinho do Céu de Odivelas │ Pão-de-Ló de Alfeizarão │ Nozes de Cascais │ Pastéis de Belém │ Pastéis de Feijão


Bolo Podre Conventual │ Fatias Reais │ Bolo de Mel de Santa Helena │ Bolo de Chavão │ Coalhada do Convento │ Biscoitos do Cardeal │ Padinhas │ Almendrados │ Orelhas de Abade │ Sopa Dourada de Santa Clara │ Toucinho do Céu de Santa Clara de Portalegre │ Bom Bocado │ Encharcada │ Sericaia │ Pão de Rala │ Formigos │ Tiborna de Ovos │ Torrão Real de Ovos │ Bolo Fidalgo │ Queijo Dourado │ Lampreia de Amêndoa de Portalegre │ Presunto Doce


Biscoita │ Bolo de Alfarroba │ Bolo de Chila e Amêndoa │ Bolo de Amêndoas e Nozes │ Bolo de Figo e Amêndoa │ Doce Fino │ Folar│ Filhós Algarvias das Freiras de Tavira │ Morgado │ Queijo de Figo │ Queijinhos │ D. Rodrigos │ Massapão │ Pudim da Serra │ Torta de Alfarroba│ Torta de Amêndoa │Torta de Laranja


Bolo Preto │ Bolos de Mel da Madeira │ Bolinhos de Azeite │ Mexericos de Freira │ Rabanadas de Vinho da Madeira │ Frangolho │ Creme de Chocolate Madeirense


Bolo Micaelense de Nossa Senhora da Esperança │ Bolo do Diabo │ Hóstias de Amêndoa │ Malassadas │ Rendilhados │ Coquinhos │ Cornucópias │ Pudim Irmã Bensaúde.