25 de Abril Bridge, LISBON

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Portugal has a wealth of prehistoric archaeological finds. The Upper Alentejo was a focal point for the megalithic culture which extended throughout several areas of the Iberian Peninsula. A number of dolmens and menhirs are still standing in various locations throughout the country, in addition to a large cromlech near Évora, the Cromeleque dos Almendres (photo).

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The Romans
 Remains from the civilisation created by Romans, the master builders, include bridges, theatres, spas and villas, which are dotted throughout the country. The temple dedicated to the cult of the Emperor in Évora is one example of a well-preserved Roman temple. It has Corinthian columns supported by a base that stands several metres high. The most interesting group can be found at Conímbriga (photo), where many structures have survived, including a building that may have served as an inn, an aqueduct and two thermal baths. The House of the Fountains is particularly interesting, with its water feature (there are over 400 jets of water), lined by brick columns and surrounded by exceptionally well-preserved tiles. The mosaics depict mythological or hunting scenes or geometric designs.

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The Visigoths
Some churches still display the remains of the work of these Christian peoples who inhabited the Peninsula between the period of the Roman Empire and the Arab Invasions.

Islamic architecture
Certain machines designed to draw water from wells, such as the waterwheel or picota (shaduf), can still be seen in the Portuguese countryside, particularly in the south. Echoes of Islamic art and architecture remained in Portuguese art for many centuries. The Manueline style incorporated certain Islamic-style designs and 19th. century Romanticism revealed a taste for the Neo-Arab (in addition to other revivals).

Romanesque architecture
From the 12th. century onwards, Portugal was an independent nation and its architecture became Romanesque. Churches, chapels and cathedrals were usually built from solid granite in the north of Portugal, giving them an austere, and often military, appearance. Decorative features were concentrated around doorways, rose windows and archivolts, where the stone was carved with great skill.

Gothic architecture
 Churches became much more majestic, with ribbed vaults to support the roof. Ogival structures predominated, in an attempt to reach the heavens. The Batalha Monastery (photo) is a masterpiece dating from this era, in addition to the medieval castles with their imposing and skilfully constructed keeps.

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The Manueline period
Works dating from the Manueline period represent the most original expression of Portuguese architecture. Churches and other buildings began to acquire more elaborate decorative features within a space that was more static (and more Renaissance in style) but still revealed many features that were typical of the late Gothic period. The Castle and Convent of the Templars in Tomar and the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower (photo) in Lisbon are masterpieces of this uniquely Portuguese style of architecture.

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The Renaissance
 The influence of Italian and Roman art was particularly strong in Portugal up to (and including) the Baroque period. Religious and civic buildings and cloisters featuring a strictly classical style and geometric balance began to appear. Facades, with their interplay of windows, pilasters and pediments, displayed an impressive formal unity. The University of Évora (photo) is a good example of this style.

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The Baroque era of the 18th. century is the second most glorious period in Portuguese art. During this time a spectacular number of religious and civic buildings were constructed. The interiors of churches were filled with carved gilt work and both the interiors and exteriors of buildings were lavishly decorated with Baroque sculptures. The iconic king of this age was João V and Mafra (photo) was his greatest work.

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 With the Romantic movement of the 19th. century came revivalism and eclecticism. A taste for Medieval, Arab and Manueline styles emerged in an excess of fantasy. Sintra is the Romantic site par excellence in Portugal, home to Quinta da Regaleira, a scenic and esoteric construction built on the slopes of a hill with its many tunnels, labyrinths and entrances decorated with mythological motifs, and also to the Pena National Palace (photo), built by a King Consort on the top of a mountain to match his poet’s dreams, displaying many architectural designs and caprices.

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Iron architecture
In the 19th. century, parallel to Romanticism, the industrialisation of the country began and iron lattice structures started to appear. The Santa Justa elevator in the Lisbon baixa area and the D. Luís bridge (photo) in Porto date from this period, the latter being one of the most beautiful iron bridges in Europe.

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20th. century
 The beginning of the 20th. century was marked by the expansion of Lisbon. Trends such as Art Nouveau and Arte Deco (developed by Cassiano Branco) were introduced into the urban vocabulary of the city. Later, Modernism entered in force with architects such as Pardal Monteiro, who designed many buildings for the capital. At the same time, architects such as Raul Lino attempted to blend traditional designs with rational and modern ideas. The Monument to the Discoveries in Belém (photo), created by Cotinelli Telmo for the 1940 Exhibition of the Portuguese World, features in pure, modernist style the figures of navigators boarding a ship. It has become one more symbol of the city of Lisbon.

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Present day
Nowadays the most famous architect in Portugal is Álvaro Siza Vieira from Porto, who uses characteristic smooth or curved white surfaces. The Pavilhão de Portugal, in the eastern zone of Lisbon and the University of Aveiro are two daring works by this architect. In addition, the eastern area of Lisbon served as a laboratory for cutting-edge experiments in architecture and urban planning at the end of the 20th. century and as a case study for international architecture.

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