Name of Object:



Coimbra, Portugal

Holding Museum:

Machado de Castro National Museum

 About Machado de Castro National Museum, Coimbra.

Date of Object:


Museum Inventory Number:

MNMC 12178

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Chestnut wood with alfarje work.


Length 595 cm, width 406 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Chancel of the Sé Velha cathedral of Coimbra.


Remnant of a Mudéjar ceiling, with alfarje work (an Iberian decorative style), made from chestnut wood. It is profusely decorated, with pointed and intersecting lacework, forming eight-pointed and sixteen-pointed stars. The complexity of the central motif, widely known on azulejos (glazed tiles), gives this composition a very dynamic appearance. The exuberance of this motif was enhanced by its polychromy, and some vestiges of its gilding are still visible.
The date of its production is known (1477) and it is also known that it was part of the campaign of work undertaken by the Count Bishop of Coimbra, João Galvão (1460–81), in his cathedral.

View Short Description

Ceiling fragment from the upper choir of the Old Cathedral in Coimbra from AH 882 / AD 1477. It is profusely decorated with broken and interlacing knots, forming eight- and sixteen-pointed stars. Its varied colouring, some traces of which have survived, enhance the exuberance of the piece.

How date and origin were established:

By written documentation (see Bibliography: Notas. Museu Machado de Castro and Vasconcelos, Sé-Velha de Coimbra).

How Object was obtained:

Taken down from the chancel of the Sé Velha cathedral in 1894, the ceiling was then moved to the Episcopal Palace, and put up in one of the rooms there. Given that the Museum now occupies this building, its incorporation into the museum is considered a transfer.

How provenance was established:

Documentary evidence – there is an account stating that the inscription of the date was visible on the frieze of the choir (see Bibliography: Notas. Museu Machado de Castro).

Selected bibliography:

Catálogo guia. Museu Machado de Castro. Seccões de Arte e Arqueologia, Coimbra, 1941, p.57, no 1.
Correia, V. and Gonçalves, A. N., Inventário Artístico de Portugal: Cidade de Coimbra, Lisbon, 1947, p.161.
Dias, P., “Geografia Mudéjar: Portugal”, in El Mudéjar Iberoamericano, del Islam al Nuevo Mundo, Barcelona, 1996, p.183.
Gonçalves, A., Enumeração das Obras Preparativas para a Instalação do Museu Machado de Castro, Coimbra, 1929, p.7.
Notas. Museu Machado de Castro, Coimbra, 1916, p.32.
Vasconcelos, A., Sé-Velha de Coimbra, Coimbra, 1930, pp.165–8.

Citation of this web page:

Ana Alcoforado "Ceiling" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;43;en

Prepared by: Ana Alcoforado
Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 60