Buildings and Gardens of Portugal: From Rome Through to the Romantics


Portugal is a long country with a varied terrain, and a cultural history at times dominated by Spain with influences from Italy, the Low Countries and English trade and military support. As Lusitania to the Romans and an adjunct of Islamic Spain and North Africa, Portugal was created by reconquest from the Christian north by a dynasty that established its independence until adopted through inheritance by Philip 11 of Hapsburg Spain. Reestablished under the Braganzas in the mid 17th. century, Portugal enjoyed the silver from Brazil, the wealth of the spice trade, and the development of the Douro wine trade with England, despite the devastations of earthquake, the Peninsular and civil wars through much of the 18th. and 19th. centuries.

The architectural and artistic legacy of these developments was often enormously spectacular and colourful and at other periods quite plain and domestic in scale. This is apparent in church, palace and civic buildings, their tiled and painted decoration, formally tiled and landscaped gardens and parks, and their adaptation to an Atlantic seaboard but a Mediterranean climate at home and abroad from Madeira to Macao.

Programme details

Courses starts: 22 Jan 2024

Week 1: Relics of Rome and Islam in the Iberian peninsular.  

Week 2: Visigothic buildings in the north-east and the Christian reconquest of Portugal.

Week 3: Romanesque and early Gothic architecture and art in the new Portugese kingdom.

Week 4: The later medieval Gothic buildings of the Avis dynasty and their religious orders.

Week 5: The Order of Christ and its era of discoveries and the establishment of Madeira.  

Week 6: Manueline Gothic and Renaissance exuberance and its art, perhaps Lisbon's finest era.

Week 7: Baroque palaces and gardens throughout Portugal before and after the Braganza's restoration of the kingdom. 

Week 8: Port wine and its impact on northern Portugal with its architectural projects by foreign and indigenous master craftsmen.   

Week 9: Pombal and the reconstruction of Lisbon after the earthquake, defences against the wars in pain and building in the 18th. century. 

Week 10: Civic, noble and royal revival in the 19th. century reflected in Romantic styles and commemoration of the past at home and abroad in the 20th.


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr David Boswell

David Boswell has spent 30 tears teaching at the Open University and for OUDCE on villa gardens'  history and design, the architectural history of Italy, Malta, Portugal, Central Europe, France and English parish churches with research in  Sicily, Malta, Zambia and Britain.    

Course aims

To provide a wide introduction to the buildings and gardens of Portugal throughout its history and regions.

Course Objectives:

  • To encourage students to visit the different parts of Portugal with an informed eye.
  • To appreciate the variety of forms taken by Portugese buildings at different periods and regions.
  • To gain an understanding of local forms of design within the context of southern European and Iberian culture and construction of its churches, palaces, quinta (villas) and gardens.

Teaching methods

Each class will take the form of an illustrated lecture encouraging comments and discussion, and encouraged to inspect relevant books and illustrated literature about halfway through the course and make use of the library and preparing assignment outlines. Building plans and other illustrations with dates and captions will be provided in handouts periodically throughout the course.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have a clear picture of the regions of Portugal and the characteristics of their buildings;
  • have an understanding of the distinct forms and styles of architecture and garden design that demonstrate the particularities of Portugal within their general European pattern;
  • have a knowledge of particular buildings and gardens in Portugal and their distinct forms of arts and crafts.

Assessment methods

Students will be encouraged to prepare a written assignment on a topic of their choice submitted after discussion and advice from the tutor. Anyone with special knowledge may submit a specific project following an outline in advance of submission. Students will be encouraged to make the of library sources. Students should submit an outline of their topic for consideration and advice before their final submission at the end of term.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

This is an introductory course in which students will be encouraged to take up the opportunity for some library study ad to bring in other illustrated literature etc. to share with each other.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)