Name of Object:

Ceiling (two fragments)


Coimbra, Portugal

Holding Museum:

Machado de Castro National Museum

About Machado de Castro National Museum, Coimbra.

Date of Object:

15th century

Museum Inventory Number:

MNMC 12176 (1) / 12177 (2)

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Oak wood with alfarje work.


(1) length 120 cm, width 110 cm, depth 5 cm; (2) length 120 cm, width 83 cm, depth 5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Episcopal Palace (today the Machado de Castro National Museum), Coimbra.


Two fragments of a flat ceiling, a work of Mudéjar carpentry in chestnut wood with alfarje work (an Iberian decorative style). The decoration is geometric in nature, with intersecting elements forming a lattice, with similar motifs to those used to decorate azulejos (glazed tiles) from the same period. The background of the fragments is smooth, with polychromy, notably vermilion red and shades of gold.
These fragments were made for one of the rooms of the Episcopal Palace. The quality of the workmanship suggests 'lacework' by the same master or, at least, great similarity to the ceilings made for the Sé Velha cathedral of Coimbra during the campaign of work undertaken by João Galvão. This Bishop, who was in charge of the diocese of Coimbra between 1460 and 1481, was the first to use the title Bispo-Conde or Count Bishop, granted in 1472 by Dom Afonso V (r. 1438–81), for the union of the county of Arganil with the bishopric of Coimbra.

View Short Description

These two wooden fragments of alfarje ceilings from the Episcopal Palace of Coimbra are kept in the town’s museum. The decoration is geometric with elements combining to form interlacing patterns, similar to those produced on tiles from the same period.

How date and origin were established:

Documentary evidence (see Bibliography: Catálogo guia. Museu Machado de Castro) and stylistic and historical evidence (from its description).

How Object was obtained:

It was incorporated into the Museum's collections when transferred from the Episcopal Palace in 1911.

How provenance was established:

From written documentation (see Bibliography: Catálogo guia. Museu Machado de Castro).

Selected bibliography:

Catálogo guia. Museu Machado de Castro. Seccões Arte e Arqueologia, Coimbra, 1941, p.56, no. 26.
Dias, P., Arquitectura de Coimbra na transição do gótico para a renascença. 1490–1540, Coimbra, 1982, p.210.
Dias, P., “Arquitectura Mudéjar Portuguesa: Tentativa de Sistematização”, Mare Liberum, 8, Lisbon, 1994, p.56.
Dias, P., “Geografia Mudéjar: Portugal”, in El Mudéjar Iberoamericano, del Islam al Nuevo Mundo, Barcelona, 1996, p.183.

Citation of this web page:

Ana Alcoforado "Ceiling (two fragments)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;42;en

Prepared by: Ana AlcoforadoAna Alcoforado

SURNAME: Alcoforado
NAME: Ana Maria

AFFILIATION: Machado de Castro National Museum, Coimbra

TITLE: Museum Director

A History graduate, Ana Maria Alcoforado is Director of the Machado de Castro National Museum in Coimbra and Curator of the Sculpture collection since 1989. Her research and publications focus on Portuguese sculpture.

Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 59


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Mudéjar period

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