Name of Object:

Ablutions font


Lisbon, Portugal

Holding Museum:

National Museum of Archaeology

 About National Museum of Archaeology, Lisbon.

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th century / AD 12th century

Museum Inventory Number:

E. 6456

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Sculpted marble.


Height 18 cm, diameter 53.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Cacela (?) (Faro).


Ablutions font with a circular bowl, formed with eight lobes in the style of a flower. It has a unique decoration on the outside of the rim, a band in relief bearing an epigraph. Water has worn this away, obliterating the letters on the outer curves, with just a few remaining on the corners where the lobes meet. On one of them it is possible to read the beginning of the Basmala (first verse of the Qur'an) and everything leads us to suppose that this was completed with a quotation from the Qur'an, as was common on facilities of this kind related to ritual ablutions at the entrances to mosques. Another specimen of similar characteristics and probably from the same period is known in the Lisbon area.

View Short Description

Almohad ablutions font decorated on the outside of the rim with a band inscribed in relief with the beginning of the basmala, which suggests that it also included a Qur’anic inscription. This piece was probably related to the ablutions ritual practised when entering a mosque.

How date and origin were established:

The style of lettering dates it to the Almohad period.

How Object was obtained:

It was probably taken to the National Museum of Archaeology by Dr José Leite de Vasconcelos.

How provenance was established:

Dr José Leite de Vasconcelos left notes in the National Museum of Archaeology to the effect that it belonged to the collection of Estácio da Veiga and that it probably came from Cacela.

Selected bibliography:

Borges, A. G. M., “Pia de Abluções”, in Portugal Islâmico, Lisbon, 1999, p.265.
Labarta, A. and Barceló, C., “Inscripciones Árabes Portuguesas: Situación Actual”, Al-Qantara, 8, 1987, p.404.
Nykl, A. R., “Arabic Inscriptions in Portugal”, Ars Islamica, 11–12, 1946, p.173.
Nykl, A. R., “Inscrições Árabes no Museu Etnológico do Dr. José Leite de Vasconcelos”, Ethnos, 2, Lisbon, 1942, pp.27–8.
Vasconcelos, J. L., Etnografia Portuguesa: Tentame de Sistematização, Vol. 4, Lisbon, 1982.

Citation of this web page:

Artur Goulart de Melo Borges "Ablutions font" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;35;en

Prepared by: Artur Goulart de Melo Borges
Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 46