Identity and Alterity in the Counter-Reformation Architecture in Portugal

Project Title

Identity and Alterity in the Counter-Reformation Architecture in Portugal

Research Line

Theory, History and Heritage of Architecture


This research project aims to clarify the relations between tradition and innovation in the theory and practice of architecture in Portugal in the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation (16th-17th centuries), in particular as regards its evolution from antecedent architectural forms to consequent ones.

State of the Art and objectives

This research project builds on the continuity of previous studies with the purpose of contributing to clarify the controversy that has arisen in the history of Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation in Portugal.

Indeed, Reynaldo dos Santos (1968/70) suggested that the Renaissance in Portugal is a foreign style: “It must be acknowledged that the architects never assimilated the true spirit of the Italian renaissance”, while Pais da Silva (1986) suggests a direct transition from Manuelino to Mannerism without a Renaissance transition. However, Moreira (1991) when studying this period, surveys approximately one hundred and fifty works in national territory that can be attributed to the Renaissance.

In this context, the essential contribution given by Kruger (2014 and 2015) was to show that it is possible to identify Renaissance in Portugal by use of computational models for the definition of generative formal systems in architecture in order to detect generative rules which were still based on Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria.


The question that now arises is to generalize the results obtained to the universe of religious architecture of the Counter-Reformation, both in Portugal and in the former overseas territories, especially what regards 16th-17th centuries, contrasting the relations of tradition and innovation, of identity and otherness, as well as of importing external models and adaptation to local practices.

Problematic and project development

For this, the collection of Christian temples in the territories of Portugal, Brazil and India (Goa and Kerala) in will be generated, through transformation of forms and also studied their evolutionary path, whether they deal with “Language Games” of architectural forms, or either with a “Language without Games” (Wittengstein, 1987).

In other words, how the religious heritage of classical roots has been transformed either by assimilating local characteristics or by transforming aspects of more universal dimension using a computer generated shape grammar.

Given the vastness of the repertoire to be analyzed, a selective sample of the buildings and buildings to be the subject of this study criteria for representativeness and feasibility for data collection, whether of graphic and imaginary nature, as well as written and built ones.

By widening the sample space with which we are going to work, we are certain, in a humanistic and modern basis, to continue consistently the studies of historiography of architecture in Portugal.

Evaluation and diffusion data

As final products, in addition to publications explaining the results, an itinerant exhibition, which will seek to show the theory and practice of Quattrocento and Cinquecento architecture in Portugal, particularly during the period of the Counter-Reformation, as well as an international Conference will also be held that focuses on the theme of this research project, that is about “Identity and Otherness in the Architecture of the Counter Reformation in Portugal”.

Evaluation follows from the results achieved in these matters: publications (6 papers with international referees + 1 book published by a University Press), an itinerant exhibition to take place at least in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and São Paulo and, finally one international conference to be held in Lisbon with the contribution of the editorial board of Albertiana.


Mário Krüger

Team (at LEAU)

Filipe Coutinho

Team (external to LEAU)

Bruno Figueiredo
University of Minho
José Pinto Duarte
University of Pensilvania


Funding (entities)


Results (achieved or expected)

See Evaluation and Diffusion Data

Project Beginning (expected date)

January 2018

Project Conclusion (expected date)

December 2020