Part of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, the Municipality of Mafra occupies an area of 112,36 square miles, benefiting from its strategic position on the Atlantic coastline and its close proximity to the Capital. With a population of over 83,000 residents, the Municipality of Mafra is an attractive demographic pole, with a growing population.
Mafra continues to be a meeting point and pole of attraction in the national and international context: with connections to Estremadura and to Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais. In the hinge of the commercial routes of a rich and diversified region, the Municipality of Mafra gains a new dimension and centrality, allowing the development of a lively and dynamic business fabric, combining tradition and modernity.
The identity of the Mafra region cannot be dissociated from the pottery industry. Even today, the presence of this industry, due to its implantation and prominence, is one of the features that most distinguishes the municipality and asserts itself as one of the oldest pottery centers in the national panorama.
The origins of the pottery industry in the territory that constitutes the Municipality of Mafra are immemorial. Its evidence in archaeological findings dates from the Neolithic period, as well as in historical documents, which demonstrate that the potter’s craft was already recognized in its Carta de Foro (1189) and the Foral Novo (1513).
The construction of the Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Convent, Basilica, Jardim do Cerco and Tapada, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2019, one of the most exuberant works in the entire Baroque, would have brought thousands of workers and craftsmen to the town, coming from other parts of the country and abroad, among whom were potters. Following this construction, the establishment of the Mafra Sculpture School and the eminent work of Machado de Castro, which hypothetically may have influenced the particular representations of clay imagery produced by local artisans, should be mentioned.
In the last two centuries, the regional pottery has assumed enormous prominence, making present its reputed pottery beyond the municipal borders, establishing important commercial links with other regions. In the last century, this earthware already had a vast geographical distribution, sold from door to door or in markets and fairs in the center the country.
With the advent of modernity, in the second quarter of the 20th century, it was possible for this industry to ensure its survival to the present day, adjusting to the times and market trends, while maintaining its essence of a traditional industry, in many cases a family business.
Currently, the regional ceramic industry comprises two distinct and complementary strands, namely traditional pottery, still with handcrafted features and the production of clay figures, whose forerunner was Master José Franco, acclaimed one of the greatest popular clay artists of the 20th century.
Currently, a large part of the pottery production is decorative, reaching increasingly more distant markets, namely international markets, although it continues the production of utilitarian earthware, adapted to the new market trends.
Despite the new conjunctures brought by the globalization processes, the ceramics in Mafra has managed to assert its identity and, currently, still plays an important role in the municipality’s cultural heritage. However, the biggest challenge to this activity lies in the continuity of this industry, namely in the training of future generations.
Hélder Sousa Silva
Mayor of Mafra
The identity of the Mafra Region cannot be dissociated from the pottery industry. Its origins are immemorial and it has a wide implementation and prominence. It is one of the marks that most distinguishes the Municipality, and is linked to renowned artists like Manuel Mafra and José Franco.
The construction of the Royal Building of Mafra, one of the most impressive works of the Portuguese baroque, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has significantly influenced the pottery of Mafra. In the second quarter of the Twentieth Century, the statues of the Basilica were a source of inspiration to the renowned Master José Franco, the pioneer of the clay imagery from Mafra. His long and prolific career left an important legacy that goes beyond his works of figurative art.
Traditional pottery continues to play a prominent role in the Municipality, by revitalizing traditional shapes, which gain new functionalities. The pottery art in the Municipality of Mafra is the expression of an important legacy that must be preserved. For this purpose, it is important to train the future generations, to encourage artistic creation, to develop exchanges with other cities and towns on a national and international scale, and to ensure the economic sustainability of this craft.
Hélder Sousa Silva
Mayor of Mafra