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Manueline Architecture

Manueline interior of the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon. The window of the Convent of Christ in Tomar is the best known example of Manueline style Golegã Main Church
Manueline Window of the Chapter House of the nave of the Convent church in Tomar Armillary sphere (Monastery of Batalha) Portal of the Jerónimos Monastery
Torre de Belém with the typical Manueline style
Golegã Main Church
St. John Baptist Church portal in Tomar Manueline Window of a private house in Linhares da Beira.

Manueline exterior of the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon.

The Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic is the sumptuous, composite Portuguese style of architectural ornamentation of the first decades of the 16th century, incorporating maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral.

This innovative style synthesizes aspects of Late Gothic architecture with influences of Spanish Plateresque style, downtown Italian, and Flemish elements. It marks the transition from Late Gothic to Renaissance. The construction of churches and monasteries in Manueline was largely financed by proceeds of the lucrative spice trade with Africa and India.

This original style was named by Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen, Viscount of Porto Seguro, in 1842 in his description of the Jerónimos Monastery in his book Noticia historica e descriptiva do Mosteiro de Belem, com um glossario de varios termos respectivos principalmente a architectura gothica.

He named the style after King Manuel I, whose reign (1495 to 1521) coincided with its development. This style was much influenced by the astonishing successes of the voyages of discovery of Portuguese navigators, from the coastal areas of Africa to the discovery of Brazil and the ocean routes to the Far East, drawing heavily on the style and decorations of East Indian temples.

Even if the period of this style didn't last long (from 1490 to 1520), it played an important part in the Portuguese history of art. The influence of the style, however, outlived the king. Celebrating the newly maritime power, it manifested itself in architecture (churches, monasteries, palaces, castles) and extended into other arts such as sculpture, painting, works of art made of precious metals, faience and furniture.

Some important Manueline artists :
architecture : Diogo Boitac, Mateus Fernandes, Diogo de Arruda, Francisco de Arruda, João de Castilho, Diogo de Castilho, Diogo of Torralva, Jerome of Rouen
sculpture : Diogo Pires
painting : Vasco Fernandes, Gaspar Vaz, Jorge Afonso, Cristóvão de Figueiredo, Garcia Fernandes, Gregório Lopes

This decorative style is characterized by virtuoso complex ornamentation in portals, windows, columns and arcades. In its end period it tended to become excessively exuberant as in Tomar.

Several elements appear regularly in these intricately carved stoneworks :
elements used on ships : the armillary sphere (a navigational instrument and the personal emblem of Manuel I and also symbol of the cosmos), spheres, anchors, anchor chains, ropes and cables.
elements from the sea, such as shells, pearls and strings of seaweed.
botanical motifs such as laurel branches, oak leaves, acorns, poppy capsules, corncobs, thistles.
symbols of Christianity : such as the cross of the Order of Christ (former Templar knights), the military order that played a prominent role and helped finance the first voyages of discovery. The cross of this order decorated the sails of the Portuguese ships.
elements from newly discovered lands (such as the tracery in the Claustro Real in the Monastery of Batalha, suggesting Islamic filigree work, influenced by buildings in India)
columns carved like twisted strands of rope (this is not an original concept, as twisted columns can be found in the 13th-century cloister of Basilica of St. John Lateran, in Rome)
semicircular arches (instead of Gothic pointed arches) of doors and windows, sometimes consisting of three or more convex curves
multiple pillars
eight-sided capitals
lack of symmetry
conical pinnacles
bevelled crenellations
ornate portals with niches or canopies.

When King Manuel I died in 1521, he had funded 62 construction projects. However, much original Manueline architecture in Portugal was lost or damaged beyond restoration in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and subsequent tsunami. In Lisbon, the Ribeira Palace, residence of King Manuel I, and the Hospital Real de Todos os Santos (All-Saints Hospital) were destroyed, along with several churches. The city, however, still has outstanding examples of the style in the Jerónimos Monastery (mainly designed by Diogo Boitac and João de Castilho) and in the small fortress of the Belém Tower (designed by Francisco de Arruda). Both are located close to each other in the Belém neighbourhood. The portal of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha, in downtown Lisbon, has also survived destruction.

Outside Lisbon, the church and chapter house of the Convent of the Order of Christ at Tomar (designed by Diogo de Arruda) is a major Manueline monument. In particular, the large window of the chapter house, with its fantastic sculptured organic and twisted rope forms, is one of the most extraordinary achievements of the Manueline style.

Other major Manueline monuments include the arcade screens of the Royal Cloister (designed by Diogo Boitac) and the Unfinished Chapels (designed by Mateus Fernandes) at the Monastery of Batalha and the Royal Palace of Sintra.

Other remarkable Manueline buildings include the church of the Monastery of Jesus of Setúbal (one of the earliest Manueline churches) (also designed by Diogo Boitac), the Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra, the main churches in Golegã, Vila do Conde, Moura, Caminha, Olivenza and portions of the cathedrals of Braga (main chapel), Viseu (rib vaulting of the nave) and Guarda (main portal, pillars, vaulting).

Civil buildings in manueline style exist in
Évora : Évora Royal Palace (1525, by Pedro de Trillo, Diogo de Arruda and Francisco de Arruda) and the Castle of Évoramonte (1531)
Viana do Castelo, Guimarães and some other towns.

The style was extended to the decorative arts and spread throughout the Portuguese Empire, to the islands of the Azores, Madeira, enclaves in North Africa, Brasil, Goa in India and even Macau, China. Its influence is apparent in Southern Spain, the Canary Islands, North Africa and the Spanish colonies of Peru and Mexico.

Turner, J. - Grove Dictionary of Art - MacMillan Publishers Ltd., 1996; ISBN 0-19-517068-7
The Rough Guide to Portugal - March 2005, 11th edition- ISBN 1-84353-438-X
Smith, Robert C. - The Art Of Portugal 1500-1800; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1968 ISBN 0-297-76096-3 Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Manueline