The grand Portuguese tradition of azulejo, hand-painted, glazed ceramic tilework depicting scenes, dates back hundreds of years. Artwork made with these ornamental tiles can be found everywhere from churches and palaces to schools and train stations. These tiles have even become a part of the history of Pan-American World Airway (1927-1991) advertising.
In Portugal, tile art has been regularly used in advertising since the 1850s, mainly in the facades of shops and factories. In the 20th century, big billboards on the side of the road or in higher grounds became more common and azulejo was an obvious choice, since it needed almost no maintenance and the locally manufactured material was readily available. Azulejo billboards often featured bold colors, big letters, and simple compositions, to make them easy to read from a distance.
The Pan Am billboard is located in Reguengo do Fetal, Batalha, on a slope of the mountain by the EN356 road that connects Batalha to Fátima. It was created in the 1960s, Pan Am’s golden era, and it was made by the historic Fábrica Aleluia azulejo company. (The same company also made another Pan Am billboard located near Aveiro.)
The billboard is composed of around 4,000 azulejos that sit in a frame of 92 square meters. The background is Pan Am’s distinctive shade of blue, the company’s lettering is on the center in its traditional font. There is one logo on either side of the lettering, and a tagline at the bottom that reads, “TORNA A SUA VIAGEM MARAVILHOSA” (“Makes your journey wonderful”).
Today, this billboard is considered by the Pan American World Airway Foundation to be an historical memory of the former company. It is currently in the process of being classified as an object of national interest, as it is one of the most relevant examples of tiles being used in advertising.
Know Before You Go
The billboard is clearly seen on the 365 National Road going from either direction on the road. There's a small side road to the right of the billboard, where you can drive up, past a couple of houses on the right side and park your car, there is a dirt road that leads you directly to the billboard.