Pottery pieces discovered inside monasteries’ domes

The Chapter Room Virtual Reconstruction we published some days earlier on this blog originated as a part of another study we were executing for Morbase regarding the Pottery pieces discovered, in the 70’s, inside  the domes of the mosteiro de Santo António de Lisboa, in Montemor-o-Novo (Portugal). Because we wanted to represent how these pottery pieces were placed inside the domes, we recreated the Virtual Chapter Room from that monastery as it existed in the 17th century (the only good description that is known). After that we made a section cut to show the interior of the domes stuffed with pottery pieces from the 16th century – see infographic image below.

This ancient technique was executed to lighten the weight of the filling of the dome. Also, between the pottery pieces, was laid a layer of clay and small pottery fragments. Nonetheless, there are also some examples of this technique were no clay was applied.

That is the case from the Igreja de Santa Maria, in Beja, where the pottery pieces were nested with masonry mortar. Still, the most common example of this technique is the one which uses clay between the pottery. Besides the mosteiro de Santo António de Lisboa, in Montemor-o-Novo, in this region it is also known the example of the cloister from the Convento de São Francisco, in Évora. Also in Spain three other examples are well known: the church from El Real monasterio de Santa María de Pedralbes, La Parroquia de San Blas de Salvatierra de la Barros and Barcelona’s cathedral.

While scrolling on facebook last week we came across another example of this technique in il Convento del Carmine, Siena (Italy), glorified in this amazing illustration below from an unknown author.

You can also check the documentary we produced, alongside Montemor-o-Novo’s City Council, for Morbase regarding this technique and these pottery pieces. This documentary has subtitles available in english and french that can be activated on the lower right corner of the Youtube player.

Also check our article about this topic (in portuguese): CARPETUDO, Carlos, LOPES, Gonçalo – CERÂMICA QUINHENTISTA DO MOSTEIRO DE STO. ANTÓNIO DE LISBOA, EM MONTEMOR-O-NOVO: UMA NOVA ABORDAGEM which is available online in Morbase.


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