The Terracotta Tiles of Santa Catarina

The ‘Santa Catarina’ tiles are terracotta and are still handmade in the traditional way by two people. The first tilemaker puts the clay in the frame and creates the tile; the second person then removes the frame and neatens the edges before moving the tile to the drying the trolley. You can see them both working on their respective tasks below, with the drying trolleys behind.

Working as a team

The picture was taken at one of the few remaining tile factories in the east Algarve.

Prior to our recent and fascinating visit to Terracota do Algarve we had presumed that the local tiles called ‘Santa Catarina’ were so named because they were produced by one of the tile factories around Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo using local clay. However the local clay and factory locations are only half the story.

‘Santa Catarina’ tiles are so named because of their unique white finish. It is created by the second tile maker immediately after they have removed the frame. He adds it by dipping his hands into a white clay mix before running his fingers down the tile, creating white stripes on the surface. You can see him doing just that below.

Adding the 'Santa Catarina' finish

And if you want to see it closer up, here are a few seconds from a video made by Terracota do Algarve which shows what happens in more detail.

Apparently the tile factories introduced this technique so their tiles would have the same high status as tiles made in the far west which were made of white clay. Tiles made of white clay were apparently once more highly regarded than terracotta tiles. However Ângelo who showed us round shared he wasn’t too sure how accurate this story was.

Roof tiles

It could easily be one of those myths, such as the one about the Santa Catarina roof tiles once being made on a man’s thigh. Ângelo has placed a roof tile on his thigh and in doing so realised that if thighs were once the mould, then the person had very unusual sized thighs!

Obviously these were not the only photographs I took this morning, but I am going to keep the others for another day as if I go into any more details on tile making in this post I am afraid might lose you! Don’t fret though my follow up post will be out soon as I am keen to share the complete process with you as well as some lovely photographs of the full range of tiles we saw this morning. Here’s one now to tempt you back to my follow up posts!

Terracota do Algarve

PS Please note this was a one-off tour that I was able to arrange. If you are interested in going on a tile factory tour then I recommend you contact one of the specialist tour companies, here are details of one. If you are after tiles for your home then do contact Terracota do Algarve they do export!

Posted by

It's a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, reading, blogging, and best of all spending time with family, friends & the cat!

32 thoughts on “The Terracotta Tiles of Santa Catarina

    1. So do we 🙂 they seem to have a good export business so hopefully they will. Going to do what I can though to also help promote – few more posts lined up this month 🙂


    1. We were delighted to discover it, just hope they can find some younger people who are as enamoured and so it can be passed on to the next generation.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.