TOUCHSTONES: Travel – Azuelos in Portugal

Tile Work at Nossa Senhora da Assuncao.

Tile Work at Nossa Senhora da Assuncao.

This is my favorite pousada in Portugal – Pousada de Arraiolos, Nossa Senhora da Assuncao, part of a government run-program created to promote tourism by preserving and adapting buildings of historic and architectural significance into hotels. These properties let you sleep and dine in manor houses, convents, monasteries, and palaces where most of us would never even have the opportunity to set foot. The renovations often integrate very contemporary structures into much older buildings and are shining examples of the work of leading architects and designers.

Pousada de Arraiolos, Nossa Senhora da Assuncao is exquisite. Originally a monastery and convent, dating back to 1575, the exterior is quintessential Portuguese — smooth, white plaster over masonry with columns, buttresses and other architectural ornament expressed in the regional buff color stone.

I completely concur with the architect’s strategy for adapting the monastery into a hotel – the original is celebrated and left to stand in its own austere beauty, while new architectural elements are unobtrusive, yet clearly distinct for the original. One example is the large expanses of glass that enclose the arcaded walkway surrounding the cloister. The result is a conditioned space that allows guest to view the beautiful garden while having comfort in the heat of summer. Throughout the Pousada, the new architecture is transparent and minimal allowing both the old and the new to be fully appreciated.

The most memorable room at the Pousada is the church, possibly one of the most beautiful spaces that I have experienced. The walls are entirely clad in pale blue and white seventeenth century patterned tiles. The pattern is illustrative and almost atmospheric – delicate line work illustrates biblical passages, the lives of the saints, flowers and birds. It is as if you are surrounded by an exquisite piece of Portuguese pottery. This is a place that is uplifting, bright, fresh and joyous due in large part to the color and pattern of the tile work. When you are in this space you feel the spiritual calm that this church has carried for hundreds of years.

Pousada de Arraiolos, Nossa Senhora da Assuncao is located in the Alentejo region of Portugal near the town of Arraiolos. Visit the Pousadas de Portugal web site for more information. The architect for the renovations in 1995 is Jose Paulo dos Santos, Architect

Images of Pousada de Arraiolos in Portugal. Exterior Photo on Left is from www.pousadas.pt.

Images of Pousada de Arraiolos in Portugal. Exterior Photo on Left is from www.pousadas.pt.

Images of Pousada de Arraiolos in Portugal. Photos by Debra Warner.

Images of Pousada de Arraiolos in Portugal. Photos by Debra Warner.

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