Portuguese culture is closely related to Spanish culture, with which it shares many historical influences. These include the eras of Roman, Visigoth, and Islamic rule, evident in Portugal’s distinctive architectural and archaeological legacy. A golden age of literary and artistic expression occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries, inspired by the maritime exploits of Portuguese explorers.
Portugal has a long literary tradition, especially in lyrical poetry, which dates from the 12th century. Perhaps Portugal’s greatest poet was the adventurer Luís de Camões, best known for his epic The Lusiads (Os Lusíadas, 1572), a poem written in celebration of the Portuguese spirit. An important poet of the early 20th century was Fernando Pessoa, who created three distinct poetic voices, each different from his own. Lyrical poetry remains an important literary style in Portugal. In the 20th century, the long dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar suppressed creativity and freedom of expression. The revolution in 1974 ended censorship, leading to a new outpouring of literary expression, much of it containing political themes.
Two Portuguese novelists who received widespread literary acclaim in the post-Salazar period were José Saramago and António Lobo Antunes. In 1998 Saramago received the Nobel Prize in literature, becoming the first Portuguese writer to win the honor. Architectural ruins in Portugal, among other relics, date from prehistoric times. Stone megaliths and burial chambers called dolmens, built during the Stone Age between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, have been found across Portugal. The most impressive is the Anta Grande do Zambujeiro (Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro), near the southern city of Évora, the largest dolmen in Europe.
Many of Portugal’s most important architectural monuments—including roads and bridges, and towns with aqueducts, villas, and temples—were constructed during the period of Roman rule (2nd century bc to 5th century ad). The Temple of Diana in Évora, with its elaborately carved Corinthian columns, is one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the Iberian Peninsula. Other well-known Roman ruins include the town of Conimbriga, near Coimbra, and the bridge of Chaves in Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro in the northeast. Subsequent occupation by the Visigoths in the 5th century and by the Muslims in the 8th century can be seen in the styles of many of Portugal’s buildings and churches, especially in the Algarve region.
A distinctively Portuguese style of architecture evolved in the late 15th century, during the reign of King Manuel, who sponsored many artists. The highly decorative Manueline style emerged during Portugal’s age of maritime greatness and discovery. Cathedrals and churches were decorated with towering spires, columns resembling twisted ropes, and flamboyant carvings of anchors, coral, waves, and other seafaring themes. This style is exemplified by the ornate Monastery of Jeronimos in Lisbon and by the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória in Batalha.
Lisbon has a number of important libraries, including the Library of the Academy of Sciences, the Ajuda Library, the National Library, and the Military Historical Archives. The National Archives of Torre do Tombo, also in Lisbon, is noteworthy for its collection of historical documents dating from the 9th century. The provincial libraries in Porto, Évora, Braga, and Mafra contain many rare old books and large manuscript collections. Various specialized libraries are attached to the universities.
Museums of archaeology, art, and ethnography are found in the principal cities and towns of each district. The art museum in Coimbra is famous for its collection of 16th-century sculpture; the museum in Évora is known for Roman sculpture and 16th-century paintings. The National Museum of Ancient Art, in Lisbon, houses decorative art and paintings from the 12th to the 19th century. Also in Lisbon are the Chiado Museum (formerly the National Museum of Contemporary Art); the National Museum of Natural History; the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, with a collection of fine art dating from 2800 bc to the 20th century; the Ethnographical Museum; and the Archaeological Museum. Other cultural sites in the capital include the Belém Cultural Center, which houses the Design Museum, and the Lisbon Oceanarium, Europe’s largest aquarium. "Portugal" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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