The Erudite Discourse

The tile panels of the poetics class reproduce the main lines of the Jesuit educational program.

To define the scope of poetic theory, the classroom tile panels of the Jesuit college of Évora, painted around 1746, seek to describe the various genres of literary expression and the entire erudite universe of humanist studies that could serve the literati.

The fundamental message of the discourse of the images is that literary, poetic, dramatic or musical pieces must bring an incentive the morals of readers and listeners, which is the same of saying that poetics must follow a persuasive model and unite the useful to the pleasant: Quae Commiscuito Utile Dulci.

Apollo and the Muses. Colégio do Espírito Santo de Évora. Teresa Verão
Apollo and the Muses. Colégio do Espírito Santo de Évora. © Teresa Verão.

Using the Latin language and the authority of classical authors, the definitions expressed in the panels, like emblems, seek to create immediate associations between the figure and the words to form a remarkable concept, naturally concise.

As suggested by the study of Olivier Millet, it is possible to compare the main ideas of the pedagogical manual written by professor Joseph Jouvancy and the iconographic program elaborated for the classroom of poetics.

According to a movement of renewal of Aristotelian rhetoric in the seventeenth century, the dramatic genres, dance, and the whole set of expressions that use the conjugation of an image with the words are part of Poetics.

In addition to the knowledge of Greek and Latin, Jesuit teachers should know history, rhetoric, poetics, geography, chronology and emblem, all part of the universe of Belles-lettres. In the words of the Jesuit teacher:

The erudition of a scrupulous master must not be limited to being skilled in the languages we have mentioned [Greek and Latin]. It is necessary to rise higher and know various sciences that are taught to youth, such as rhetoric, poetics, history, chronology, geography, philology or polymathic, which is not so much a well-defined science but a set of various sciences of which a scholar must have, as they say, at least a notion.

Eruditio. Colégio do Espírito Santo de Évora. Teresa Verão
Eruditio. Colégio do Espírito Santo de Évora. © Teresa Verão.

Erudition, the doctrine taught with various forms of knowledge, as defined by the dictionary of Bento Pereira, was represented by a female figure who has in hand an open book with the inscription Eruta Pricis [unearthed from the ancient], a reference to the verses of the Fastos of Ovid: “sacra recognosces annalibus eruta priscis et quo sit merito quaeque notata dies“.

On the tile panel, the library opens onto a landscape background that displays carefully unearthed and cleaned ancient tombs, in correlation with the term erudero, which Prosodia dictionary defines as the “cleanse the rubble of the ruins” and “the sacred things, unearthed from ancient history”. Thus, in the tile panel, erudition is defined, in a more specific way, as the knowledge of the texts of sacred history.


JOUVANCY, Joseph. De la manière d’apprendre et d’enseigner: “De ratione discendi et docendi”: conformément au décret de la XIVe congrégation générale. Ouvrage destiné aux maîtres de la Société de Jésus. Translation by H. Ferté, 1892.

MANGUCCI, António Celso. História da azulejaria portuguesa, iconografia e retórica. Tese de doutoramento, Universidade de Évora, 2020.

MILLET, Olivier. “Parole et image dans la représentation allégorique des «arts» à la fin de l’âge baroque. Notes sur quelques azulejos de l’Université d’Evora” in De la Péninsule Ibérique à l’Amérique Latine. Mélanges en l’honneur by Jean Subirats. Edited by Marie Roig Miranda, 1992, pp. 151-167.

PEREIRA, Bento. Prosodia in vocabularium bilingual, Latinum et Lusitanum digesta, 1697.

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