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The First Hispano-Moresque Tiles Produced in Lisbon Region

The first reported archaeological evidences of Hispano-Moresque wall tiles produced in Portugal are from the Santo António da Charneca kiln, located in the south shore of Tagus River, near the city of Barreiro.

The first tiles produced in Portugal were in fact floor tiles, in the Cistercian abbey of Alcobaça. There are other examples of floor tiles used in the 13th and 14th centuries in royal palaces or cathedrals. The first reported archaeological evidences of Hispano-Moresque wall tiles produced in Portugal are from the Santo António da Charneca kiln, located in the south shore of Tagus River, near the city of Barreiro.

That kiln’s pottery production was dated late 15th or early 16th centuries, and several Hispano-Moresque wall tiles were found among the numerous archaeological findings in a pit located close to the kiln containing rejected pottery. Today, we can see part of those pottery findings, including tiles, in the “Espaço Memória”, an archaeological deposit belonging to the Barreiro municipality. Also in the Alhos Vedros church, located near Santo António da Charneca, three “quadras” (2 x 2 patterns) of Hispano-Moresque tiles can be seen in the left side of a wall of a chapel covered with Seville tiles. They were produced at Santo António da Charneca and probably placed there to replace tiles destroyed in the 1531 earthquake.

Tiles from Alhos Vedros Church, São João Baptista chapel ©  LFVF
Tiles from São João Baptista chapel, Alhos Vedros Church. © LFVF.

There is plenty of documents showing that most Hispano-Moresque tiles from the end of the 15th and early 16th centuries were in most cases imported from Seville, and produced in the Triana kilns. Considering that Hispano-Moresque tiles were produced in the south of Lisbon, the immediate question one bears in mind is: were them also produced in Lisbon in the first half of the 16th century? Up to now, no archaeometric studies have fully clarified this issue, although several studies in our group at the Instituto Superior Técnico (Surface Photochemistry Group) point to an affirmative answer, for a very limited number of known tiles.

Samples from Santo António da Charneca’s kiln were studied with the use of non-destructive spectroscopies, namely: micro-Raman as our main tool, for the analyses of colored glazes and ceramic bodies; Ground State Diffuse Reflectance Absorption (GSDR) for color studies; Fourier-Transform Infrared (FT-IR) for mineral and pigment identification; Laser Induced Luminescence (LIL) for the emission of some minerals and glazes; Proton Induced X-Ray (PIXE) or X-Ray Fluorescence Emission (XRF) for elemental composition studies; and also X-Ray Diffraction technique (XRD) for the mineral identification of the pastes or raw materials. The crossed analyses of the results obtained with all these techniques provides in many cases important information on the provenance and on the technologies.

Aresta tile from Santo António da Charneca pit.© LFVF
Aresta tile from Santo António da Charneca pit. © LFVF.

The results from SAC tiles were compared with those obtained for coeval tiles produced in Seville, originated from Portuguese archaeological sites, since it is well know that the King Manuel I of Portugal imported in 1498 significant quantities of those tiles to decorate several palaces.  

 The obtained results for Santo António da Charneca tiles enabled us to establish spectroscopic differences when comparing with the Seville tiles, either for the ceramic bodies or glazed pigments.  The raw materials used for Santo António da Charneca tiles were of Pliocene origin, while those produced at Triana were of Miocene origin. The Pliocene clays used as raw materials in the Santo António da Charneca kiln are a clear fingerprint of the Portuguese origin of these Hispano-Moresque tiles.

ESSENTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY

L.F. Vieira FERREIRA, D.S. CONCEIÇÃO, D.P. FERREIRA, L.F. SANTOS, T. M. CASIMIRO, I. Ferreira MACHADO. “Portuguese 16th century tiles from Santo António da Charneca’s kiln: a spectroscopic characterization of pigments, glazes and pastes” in Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, 45 (2014) 838-847.

L.F. Vieira FERREIRA, A. GONZALEZ, M.F.C. PEREIRA, L.F. SANTOS, T.M. CASIMIRO, D.P. FERREIRA, D.S. CONCEIÇÃO, I. Ferreira MACHADO. “Spectroscopy of 16th century Portuguese tin-glazed earthenware produced in the region of Lisbon”, Ceramics International, volume 41 Part A (2015) 13433–13446. 

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