Name of Object:

Processional cross


Lisbon, Portugal

Holding Museum:

National Museum of Ancient Art

About National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon.

Date of Object:

14th century

Museum Inventory Number:

MNAA 64 Met

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Incised and gilded copper.


Height 63 cm, width 37 cm, weight 1814.2 gr

Period / Dynasty:





A cross with fleur-de-lys outlines, with the upright and two arms intersecting inside a square, a flattened spherical node, and fitted into a tubular pole. The decoration of the field of the cross is formed by a continuous band which runs round the edge of the entire piece and contains lozenges and triangles inside it, filled with geometric and floral motifs. In the corners of the square into which the centre of the cross is inscribed there are four eight-leaved shapes. The reverse is similarly outlined by a band, with the branches and upright filled with plant-inspired geometric interlacing. A large circumference is formed in the centre, decorated with rather complex geometric interlacing, forming multiple centres, which are the most typical Islamic element of the decoration of the cross. The decoration and the strong likelihood that the metal was extracted from a North African mine suggest that this is the work of a craftsman of the Islamic peninsular communities, Christianised or otherwise, but obviously working for the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula.
This type of cross had a twofold function: it served as a cross to be held aloft in processions and funerals, but was also able to be fixed to a base and used as part of the liturgical instruments on the altar.

View Short Description

This cross of unknown origin would have been produced in the AH 8th / AD 14th century. The interlacing patterns, typical of Islamic art, at the centre of one side of the cross are particularly noteworthy. This piece would have been made by a Muslim artist working for a Christian patron.

How date and origin were established:

For stylistic reasons relating to the shape of the cross.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased from a private individual in 1878 by the National Academy of Fine Arts, it was incorporated into the collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology, set up in 1884 as part of the Academy. The National Museum of Ancient Art took over this collection when it was created in 1911.

Selected bibliography:

Cordeiro, M. I. G. M., 'A Arte do Ferro em Portugal', National thesis for Museum Curators, unpublished typed text, Lisbon, 1962.
Inventário do Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga. Colecção de Metais. Cruzes Processionais – Séculos XII–XVI, Lisbon, 2003.
Portugal Islâmico: Os últimos Sinais do Mediterrâneo, exhibition catalogue, Lisbon, 1998, p.302.

Citation of this web page:

Joaquim Oliveira Caetano "Processional cross" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;17;en

Prepared by: Joaquim Oliveira CaetanoJoaquim Oliveira Caetano

Nasceu em 1962. Licenciado e mestre em História da Arte. Director do Museu de Évora e Assistente Convidado da Universidade de Évora. Trabalhou anteriormente no Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga e na
Biblioteca Nacional, em Lisboa. Publica regularmente sobre arte portuguesa na Idade Moderna desde 1983. Foi comissário de várias exposições sobre pintura e gravura dos séculos XV a XVIII.

Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 22


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