Alicatado tiled floor

Unknown15th century -

National Palace of Sintra

National Palace of Sintra
Sintra, Portugal

The Palatine Chapel at the National Palace of Sintra, used for Christian worship, is heavily marked by Mudejar influences in the decoration of its carved wooden ceiling, and also in its alicatado tiled floor.
Until the second half of the 15th century, the alicatado tile (deriving from the Arabic al-liqât, which means pliers or nippers) was obtained through the piecing together of monochrome enamel tacelos (small ceramic fragments of various shapes and colours that had been glazed and cut beforehand). Creating this puzzle of geometrical knotwork motifs was a delicate, painstaking and expensive task.


  • Title: Alicatado tiled floor
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 15th century -
  • Location: Lisbon (?), Portugal
  • Rights Information: National Palace of Sintra
  • Photo: Carlos Monteiro, 2010.
  • Original Title (portuguese): Pavimento cerâmico alicatado
  • Material(s) / Technique(s): Glazed clay / Alicatado with polychrome enamels
  • Image Rights: © Direção-Geral do Património Cultural / Arquivo de Documentação Fotográfica
  • Hispano-Moresque Tiles: The interior walls of the National Palace of Sintra are lined with Europe’s largest set of Mudejar tiles still in place today, most of which originate from Seville, although one should not exclude the (as yet still unconfirmed) possibility that many of the tiles were produced locally with the use of imported labour. Mudejar tiles were brought to Portugal with the arrival of Arab culture in the Iberian Peninsula, incorporating new ceramic techniques and decorative styles. This influence continued even after the Christian reconquest of the territory in the 12th century, later giving rise, in the 15th and 16th centuries, to the appearance of various types of tiles and the use of different techniques that reflected the evolution of decorative styles – alicatado, corda-seca, aresta, esgrafitado (sgraffito) and relevado (relief work). Visitors to the palace can therefore enjoy a unique experience, since they are afforded an overall view of this heritage in Portugal – a specific form of decorative coverings for walls and floors, involving the use of exclusive patterns, such as the motif of the armillary sphere or relief tiles.
  • Type: Ceramics, Tiles

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