Manueline architecture is characterized by large arches and twisted frames that frame cornices, facades, and vaults. In Portuguese history, this style represents the period’s richness, glory, and history. An architecture ornamentation style indigenous to Portugal in the early 16th century known as Manuelino, was vibrant and lavish. At the end of the 15th century, Lisbon became the first city to exhibit a unique art form. Portuguese palaces, the monastery of Jerónimos, and the Torre de Belém were constructed using an architectural style influenced by Moorish elements during the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance era. During the reign of King Manuel I, numerous monuments, windows, and doorways were built in a Naturalistic style, which contributed mainly to architectural structures rather than decorative elements.
As two 16th-century cloisters and their annexes no longer exist, the Monastery of Batalha is predominantly Gothic. First architect Afonso Domingos used a language within the Gothic style known as radiant in the church, sacristy, and the Royal Cloister, coinciding with the period’s classic architectural moment. Batalha and Portugal, which corresponds to King Manuel I’s reign, first adopted the so-called Manueline style at the end of the 15th century and during the first two decades of the 16th. The brilliant inventor of the architectural language this time became known as the architect Mateus Fernandes. Various elements of his work, seen in the windows, stalls, and doorways of the Royal Cloister and the Unfinished Chapels, reflect spirited imagery. Architecture is suddenly treated as if it was a monumental sculpture.
Nonetheless, the works of Mateus Fernandes are still noted for their rigorous geometric faithfulness to the traditional basic flaming style of Batalha. There are numerous intersections and planes revealed in the arches, and facets are bent to intersect in multiple places. In Batalha, for the first time in Portugal, flaming Gothic architecture made a sudden appearance with the arrival of Huguet, who would replace Afonso Domingues. A typical feature of the flaming Gothic style at Batalha is not just the counter-curved arch but also a more complex approach to structural elements like the vault nervures and columns grouped as pillars. Transversally, the nervures have changed from a kind of square with ballooning corners in the radiant to a triangular form in the flaming. There is no change in the cylindrical shaft of the columns, but the extremities have been faceted instead of round. The plants, flowers, and fruits formerly used to decorate the capitals and end parts of the vaults suddenly take on an energetic movement rather than building up in layers or slices.
As in Spain with the ‘Plateresque’ style, the Manueline style is considered a monument to the final Gothic. However, Manueline architecture (and Plateresque) contain the seeds of modernity, as they reveal the limitations of stylistic analysis when it is automatically assumed that the end of a style signifies its decline and extinction. Thus it is for this reason that the work on the great doorway of Mateus Fernandes is so different from the work on the higher parts of the Unfinished Chapels.
Various forms related to the sea and voyages across oceans to other continents, combining aspects of Christianity with shells, ropes, or fantastic and strange aquatic shapes. This style also contains religious or heraldic symbolism, as seen in armillary spheres. While there is an ornamental flourish that sets it apart from the Gothic, it also avoids the Renaissance’s classicism in some ways. This style gives a new look to classic structures without altering them. In addition, Portuguese painting tends to convey emotion because of this. Additionally, the Manueline style (known as Manuelino in Portugal) is evident in the astrological visions on the famous window of the Convent of Christ in Tomar, a bastion of the Templars in times past, as well as on the doorway of Ponta Delgada Cathedral. While Manueline architecture is regarded as a period of great controversy by art historians, it is a vivid ornamental reflection of Portuguese architecture’s interactions with distant cultures.
Portuguese art developed during the period of this style (1490 to 1520), although it didn’t last long. Despite the king’s reign, the style remained influential. Architecture, sculpture, painting, precious metal works, faience, and furniture depicted the newly maritime power expressed in the architecture of churches, monasteries, palaces, and castles.Forms and naturalist-symbolic interpretations of original, erudite, or traditional themes are hallmarks of Manuelino. The window is one of the architectural elements in which this style can best be observed, both in religious and secular buildings. The Custody of Bethlehem is one example of goldsmithery, which incorporates these motifs into buildings, pillories, tombs, and even art pieces.Portuguese architecture during this time corresponded with the architectural trend known at the time as modum Yspaniae (in Hispanic style) which was translated into “to the modern” – an expression used for late Gothic architecture. In contrast, the Tudesque or German style in new Nordic architecture was prevalent at the time, as opposed to architecture in the old or Roman style. As a decorative style, it spread throughout the Portuguese Empire, to the islands of the Azores, Madeira, North African enclaves, Brazil, Goa in Portuguese India, and even Macau, China. It is evident in southern Spain, the Canary Islands, North Africa, and Peru and Mexico, which were former Spanish colonies.
- Behance. “Batalha Monastery – See the Light (April 2015).” Behance, www.behance.net/gallery/141458449/Batalha-Monastery-See-The-Light-(april-2015). Accessed 21 July 2022.
- “Manueline | Architectural Style.” Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com/art/Manueline.
- MWH. “The Making of Manueline.” Portugal Travel Guide, 1 Oct. 2021, portugaltravelguide.com/architecture-portugal/. Accessed 21 July 2022.
- “Styles – Monastery of Batalha.” Www.mosteirobatalha.gov.pt, www.mosteirobatalha.gov.pt/en/index.php?s=white&pid=181&identificador=.
- T: +351 210 312 700, et al. “Manueline Style Architecture.” Turismo de Lisboa, www.visitlisboa.com/en/p/manueline-style-architecture. Accessed 21 July 2022.
- Hisour.com. 2022. Manueline – HiSoUR – Hi So You Are. [online] Available at: <https://www.hisour.com/manueline-29349/> [Accessed 31 July 2022].