Coimbra is the capital of the Region and District of Coimbra.
City of narrow streets, courtyards, stairs and medieval arches, Coimbra has a vast and rich heritage. It was the birthplace of six kings of Portugal from the First Dynasty, and hosts one of the oldest universities in Europe and the first of our country, founded in 1290, by the initiative of King Denis.
City of hat makers, woven fabric sellers, tailors, boilermakers, rope makers, potters, among others, it was one of the oldest and most important centers of pottery production in the country. Although there are records attesting its existence in 1145, only in the 16th century can we find an organized production network. It was this proliferating pottery community in the city, stimulated by the fact that Coimbra was an important center for paper trading routes, taking advantage of the link that the Mondego River provided between the interior and the coast, that promoted the development of faience production in Coimbra.
The ceramics industry was already established and organized in Coimbra during the transition to the 17th century, as evidenced by the 1623 potters and bowl sellers’ regiment. This is the first known document to regulate the craft, determining the conditions for exercising it and for the manufacture itself, defining phases, clay pits to be explored and paste composition. The existence of this document makes it even more likely that at the end of the 16th century faience was being manufactured in Coimbra.
The first half of the 18th century was the zenith of ceramic production in Coimbra. The reason for this was due to the relation between low-cost production and longevity of the pieces, with faience in common use (robust pieces and simpler shapes) being the most appreciated, although this is not synonymous of a lack of technical excellence, but purely a commercial option. Various types of earthenware were created here, from the cheapest to the noblest faience, characterized by a high technical quality and made from the best clays and muds, with these pieces being destined for export.
José Manuel Silva
Mayor of Coimbra
Chosen by D. Afonso Henriques as the first capital of the Kingdom of Portugal, the city of Coimbra is one of the oldest centers of ceramics in the country, with roots in the 12th century. This fact is not surprising if we consider that at the time of the first king of Portugal, Coimbra was the epicenter of a new-born country, where people and goods of various origins converged.
The existence of organized ceramic production in Coimbra is attested at least since the 16th century, becoming more well-known in the 18th century, with names such as Manuel da Costa Brioso and even the illustrious professor of the University Domingos Vandelli standing out, the latter having dedicated himself to the production of faience of superior quality that would become known as “vandel” or “of Vandelles” ceramics.
The toponymy itself reveals how important this craft was for the city, with Largo das Olarias or Rua da Louça reminding us of times when there were around 60 shops selling ceramics of Coimbra! Cobalt blue, ochre, yellow and green are the most characteristic colours of our ceramics, adorning fish mugs, plates, platters, pitchers, pots, and jars.
The inclusion of Coimbra in the Associação Portuguesa das Cidades e Vilas Cerâmicas will therefore be a key factor in the dissemination and preservation of this almost millenary cultural manifestation that urgently needs to be valued and protected.
José Manuel Silva
Mayor of Coimbra