Name of Object:

Ornamental pilaster


Lisbon, Portugal

Holding Museum:

City Museum


Hegira 3rd–4th / AD 9th–10th century

Type of object:

Pilaster, stone

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Limestone; sculpture in bas-relief.


Height 54.5 cm, width 49 cm, depth 16 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyad of Córdoba, Caliphate period




Fragment of a pilaster, found together with another smaller frieze – also now in the City Museum, Lisbon – which repeats the design of the side fascias of the front panel of this pilaster. Given that the central element of the plaque indicates that the motifs would have been repeated vertically, there seems little doubt that the piece in question is all that remains of an elaborate pilaster.
The stone has three different vertical fields, separated by a simple corded design. The sides of the panel are filled with a frieze of finely cut fleur-de-lys rosettes. The inner fascia is decorated with four-lobed medallions, which are supported on almost imaginary lines, interrupted by the peripheral ornaments, but joined to one another in a repetitive quadrangular pattern, which gives the motif a quite dynamic design. The centre of the surviving medallion is distinguished by a circle with a radiating rosette, while the external area emerges filled with succulent bunches of fruit and small fleurs-de-lys, both arranged as a cross and enclosed in the curvatures of the medallion. The other medallions, only the edges of which can be seen, would have represented the imperial eagles of Sassanid tradition. In the upper part a fan-shaped tail can be seen and two claws rigidly supported on the corners of the medallion. The remaining lobe of the other ornament, in the lower part of the piece, shows the area of the creature's head, too damaged for us to tell whether or not it was bifid. The side spaces between the medallions are sculpted with very open palmettes, of oriental tradition, and which are also found on other sculptures in the city.

View Short Description

Current Owner:

Lisbon City Council

How date and origin were established:

The two stones found in the house on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros are similar to others from the Cathedral, the Castle, the Casa dos Bicos and from Chelas (Lisbon), which must be considered to be from the Mozarabic period. In this specific case, both the ornamental schema, and some of the decorative motifs are reminiscent of certain stuccoes at the Umayyad palace of Khirbat al-Mafjar (Jericho), datable from the first half of the 8th century. These sculptures have no parallel in any other peninsular art attributable to the Visigoth period.

How Object was obtained:

Presented to the Lisbon City Hall, after being removed from a building on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, where it was found together with another piece.

How provenance was established:

Several pieces were found in the Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, next to the line of the wall, where they may have been re-used after being taken from a destroyed Mozarabic church. Their extraordinary decorative richness and relative proximity to the Cathedral suggest that these pieces may have come from the Episcopal Basilica.

Selected bibliography:

Almeida, F. de, “Arte Visigótica em Portugal”, Arqueólogo Português, New series, IV, Lisbon, 1962, pp. 7–27.
Fernandes, P. A., Visigótico ou Moçárabe? O Núcleo de Alta Idade Média da Cidadede Lisboa no Museu Arqueológico do Carmo,(forthcoming).
Ferreira, O. V., “Acerca de uma Pedra Visigótica Ornamentada”, Revista do Sindicato Nacional dos Engenheiros Auxiliares, Agentes Técnicos de Engenharia e Condutores, 4, Lisbon, 1949, pp. 508–14.
Palol, P., Arte Hispánico de la época Visigoda, Barcelona, 1968.
Real, M. L., “Inovação e Resistência: Dados Recentes Sobre a Antiguidade Cristã no Ocidente Peninsular”, in IV Reunió d'Arqueologia Cristiana Hispànica, Barcelona, 1995, pp.17–68.

Citation of this web page:

Manuel Luís Real "Ornamental pilaster" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;pt;Mus01_C;26;en&id=architectural_elements

Prepared by: Manuel Luís RealManuel Luís Real

Manuel Luís Real é um estudioso da arte e arqueologia hispânicas da alta Idade Média. Licenciou-se em História em 1974, pela Universidade do Porto. É pós-graduado em Biblioteconomia e Arquivística, exercendo funções de director do Departamento de Arquivos da CMP. Apresentou tese sobre A Arte Românica de Coimbra e, desde então, tem-se dedicado a investigações sobre arquitectura e escultura medievais. Participou em várias campanhas arqueológicas em estações de origem pré-românica: Falperra, Costa, Lagares, Sabariz, etc. Ultimamente, tem-se dedicado ao estudo das comunidades moçárabes, nomeadamente às formas e ao contexto da sua produção artística. Coordena ainda o projecto de pesquisas sobre a Casa do Infante, sede do Arquivo Municipal do Porto, onde, na Idade Média, funcionaram a alfândega, a casa da moeda e a contadoria do Rei.

Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 35