Instead of Money, This Portuguese ‘Bank’ Safeguards 27,000 Handpainted Tiles
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to travel to Portugal, you know that the Portuguese are serious about safeguarding their heritage. Hand-painted tiles play a big part in their cultural history (in addition to cork, Fernando Pessoa, fado, bacalhau, etc.) Recently, in an effort to preserve their beloved and beautiful azulejos, the city of Porto has opened a bank.
The Banco de Materiais, or Bank of Materials, is home to tens of thousands of azulejos—the painted, glazed ceramic tiles that cover the exteriors of buildings across Portugal. In varying shades of blue, maroon, and honey gold, they often depict ornate floral patterns or simple geometric repetition. Sometimes, entire mosaics of intricately painted tiles display scenes from Portuguese history.
The city has been collecting lost and damaged azulejos for more than 25 years. Some were saved from the walls of decaying buildings before they were torn down. Others were stolen from façades but recovered by law enforcement. Over 27,000 of them ended up at the Bank.
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