Abutments -
support that reinforces the walls subject to large loads. They support arches, bridges and vaults.

Aceifas - military campaigns carried out by the Muslims against the Christians with the purpose of preventing the progression towards south.

Addorsed - architectural element (column, pilaster, pillar, small columns, etc.) leaning against a wall or other element of larger surface area or volume.

Al-Gharb Al-Andalus - name, meaning West of Andaluz, given by the Moors to the territory to the west and northwest of the Guadiana, which corresponded to Roman and Visigoth Lusitânia.

Almoravids - Berber dynasty that founded in mid 11th century (1070), an empire in the western area of the North of Africa, with centre in Marrakesh. Puritans and with a strict view of the principles of Islam, they spread the idea of the holy war. Called by some kings taifas (Seville, Granada and Badajoz), landed at Algeciras in 1086 and defeated Alfonso VI at the Battle of Sagrajas or Zalaca.

Apotropaic - drawings, images or objects, used mostly in popular art, which were believed to be capable of turning away evil, which in Romanesque art was mostly attributed to the representations of animals or demons.

Apparel – term applied in the identification of the disposition of the construction materials visible in an architectonic structure, whether in stone or ceramic. It differs according to the size of the blocks, the arrangement of arrays and finishing of the invisible face.

Apse – construction of semi-circular, squared or polygonal plant, vaulted or covered in wood, placed at the top of a church. It usually features the liturgy’s kernel, the main altar.

Apsiole – smaller chapel compared to the apse and adjacent to it, of semi-circular, squared or polygonal plant, opened to the nave or the transept.

Arcade - rhythmic sequence of arches for supporting coverings. Gallery or passage formed by a succession of arches.

Arch – building and supporting element composed of voussoirs that covers a span between two fixed points.

Archivolt – the projecting frames of an arch. Archivolt – the projecting frames of an arch; the plural designates a group of platformed arches that finish the top of a portal.

Ashlar - Apparelled stone block, squared and carved, used as a constructive element or wall coating.

Atrium - front yard that, in the Middle Ages, would be generally located in front of the portal of cathedrals and churches. It could also be a square enclosed by low walls where the ecclesiastical judges would make administrative decisions. The term may also refer to a simple portico or narthex.


Balconied Window  – span opened to the level of the pavement, of butting frames, usually featuring a balcony in the exterior.

Baldachin – construction in stone or other material, covered and supported by columns, destined to dignify a space and/or an image; Wooden or fabric frame adjacent to the wall, covering an altar, tomb, throne, etc.

Balustrade – group of balusters – small vertical elements, composted of pedestal, frustum (in cross curved  shape) and capital – disposed in a regular and spaced sequence, and topped by a handrail.

Banner – strip, frieze or horizontal frame.

Baptistery - space or chapel where the font is located.

Bar – a type of ornamentation with tiling panels, consisting of two series of juxtaposed glazed tiles framing a composition.

Baroque – artistic style or historic category corresponding, in a broader sense, to the time interval between- en 1580-1750, deriving from Italy (in Portugal this interval is defined by the period between the dawn of the Restoration and the Reign of D. José I). It is characterized by the use  of a classicizing aesthetics, in which the artistic object is worked according to a persuasive intention, resorting to surprise, movement, illusion, scenic effects and, at the same time, to monumentality.  The most visible traits of this style are the curved, agitated, dynamic shapes, as well as the synthesis between architecture and the remaining arts, making the decorative aspects work as part of the whole.

Barrel vault - semi-cylindrical shaped vault.

Base – inferior part of the column supporting the frustum.

Basin – fountain placed in the sacristy so that the priest can wash his hands before and after the celebration of the Eucharist. Fountain placed in an angle of the cloister next to the entrance of the refectory so that the members of the community can wash their hands before and after the meals.

Basing – base that supports a building, an architectonic element, a retable, a piece of furniture.

Batter - in architecture is the visible surface of a well cut stone wall or vault. In sculpture it signifies, in general terms, the garments or clothes of the characters portrayed. It also alludes to the robes worn by priests in religious ceremonies.

Battlements - element placed on the parapet, which crowns medieval towers, walls and churches, to protect the guards in the chemin de ronde.

Bevel (led) – oblique cut of an edge. In middle and bas-reliefs, the bevel or beveled sculpture creates sharper decorative motives because it is oblique to the piece.

Bishoprics - great administrative unit of religious matrix. Divided, in turn, in archdeacons, each more or less equivalent to a “Terra” [territory].

Blind-arcade – sequence of arches in a wall whose spans are not opened, destined to provide rhythm and articulate the wall surface.

Boarding – ceramic, wood,  stone or plaster coating applied in interior walls to a certain height.

Body – intermediate space of an altarpiece structure; of the church – space located between the transept area and the main entrance.

Border – decorative frame of a composition. In tiling, it concerns the delimitation of panels through single, double or composite tiers of tiling units.

Bulb-like, bulb-shaped – shaped like a bulb.

Buttress – building element adjacent to a wall in its exterior face, destined to reinforce the wall surface and/or sustain the weight of arches and vaults. 


Caliphate of Córdoba - system of political and religious government that, between 929 and 1008, unified and strengthened the entire Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule.

Capital – upper part of a column, pillar or pilaster formed by abacus and echinus.

Cenotaph – burial and commemorative monument destined to keep someone’s ashes.

Chairs – group of seats, disposed in one or more rows in the lateral walls of the chancel, central nave or chancel of a church.

Chancel - area of the church or chapel, where the high altar is located.

Chancellor - guardian of the royal seal who, from the end of the thirteenth century, became a real head of government,  with a growing number of employees under his orders, forming a permanent staff located in Lisbon and constituting an increasingly larger institution for the preparation of all kinds of royal documents (chancellery).

Chemin de Ronde - narrow path inside the walls of a fortified structure, castle or tower, comprised by merlons and battlements. Served as a path for patrol or surveillance to the watchmen.

Chevet - is the end of a church, beyond the naves or transept (whenever existing) and where the sanctuary is located. It consists of several elements, the main one being the chancel. It is associated to the head of Christ.

Church - Christian building where the devotees gather to attend the celebration of worship. The church differs from the chapel for being wider and from the oratory for serving public worship. There are three main levels in the hierarchy of the churches: Cathedral, Collegiate and Primatial. At the lowest level of the hierarchy is the parish church. The abbey's churches, belonging to abbeys, are included in a separate category.

Churchyard - is a patch of land adjoining or surrounding a church, normally surrounded by a short wall.

Clerestory - a set of lighting windows located on the top of a church.

Cloister - the monastery courtyard surrounded by arcaded galleries, one or two floors, which serves as path for the clergymen. Generally it presents a rectangular plan and the centre is the courtyard, which can serve as a garden or cemetery. From the galleries you can access other extensions of the monastic complex, as the chapter house, refectory, etc..

Collateral Altar – altar located in the nave, next to the triumph arch’s adjacent walls. It may be parallel or oblique to the supporting wall.

Colonnette – rhythmic sequence of columns supporting an entablature or a series of arches.

Column – usually cylindrical, it supports a structure. It is composed of three parts: base, frustum and capital.

Composite (Order) – architectonic order with great similarity with the classic Corinthian order, the main difference lying in the composition of the column’s capital, reinforcing the Corinthian decoration (acanthus leaves) with volumetric volutes and a frieze of eggs.

Corbel – architectonic or decorative element projecting from a vertical surface, much like a console, so as to sustain a sculpture, an arch, etc.

Corbel – sculpted or plain stone supporting a cornice.

Cornice – projecting frame finishing the top of a wall.

Crenelle - narrow high window. Crevice.

Crevice - a narrow and high opening on a wall to provide natural light to the interior of the building.

Cross – squared space resulting from the crossing between the central nave and the transept.

Crowning – element that finishes or tops an architectonic structure, a retable, a piece of furniture, etc.

Crowning – element that finishes or tops an architectonic structure, a retable, a piece of furniture.

Cruciform pillar - pillar to which half columns are adjacent.

Cruise Arch - see the Triumphal Arch.

Cut-waters - construction of stone masonry, forming an angle to break the force of the tides.


Diaphragm Arch – arch that, regardless of the shape, is built transversally with the purpose of balancing the weigh of the cover over the lateral façades.

Domus Fortis - fortified manor house.^

Door Frame - vertical piece on the side of windows or portals, often shaped with columns or sculptures at several levels.

Drip - frame that runs along the front elevation to prevent rain water from running down the building's façade.


Emblem – image sometimes composed of several elements with a particular symbolic meaning. It may or may not be accompanied by a caption.

Epistle side – expression used to designate the right side (nave, apsiole) of a temple when observed from the main entrance.

Eucharist Throne – wood structure located inside the tribune of the main retable, organized in consecutive steps that become  progressively smaller, destined to exhibit the Holy Sacrament.

Extradorsum – face or outer surface of an arch or vault.
Ex-voto – pictorial or sculptural representation placed in a temple in the fulfilment of a vow.


Fin – curved element, sometimes shaped like a volute, placed in the straight angles of an architectonic crowning or finishing, a retable or a piece of furniture.

Flight – each of the dividing parts of a nave when considering the cover’s supporting elements.

Framing – in tiling, it refers to a simple frame composed of a series of juxtaposed glazed tiles with a decorative motive limited by two borders.

Fresco - wall painting in which pigments dissolved in water are used. They are applied to fresh plaster, thus impregnating the wall.

Frieze – in architecture, it refers to the part of the entablature between the architrave and the cornice. Decorative horizontal strip that may feature a sculpted or painted interior.

Front – finishing or crowning of an architectonic or decorative structure, door, window or niche. It may take on different forms; it is rooted in Classic architecture.

Front of the Altar – main face, in front of an altar table.

Frustum – vertical piece of a column, generally circular or polygonal, between the base and the capital.


Galilee – projecting body in relation to the main façade or the lateral façades of a building preceding it as a gallery. It is usually sustained by architectonic elements of support, like columns or pillars, although it may be a closed space whose access is done through a portal.

Gargoyle - prominent drip sculpture in the shape of a fantastic animal that has a hole through which storm water is disposed at some distance from the wall, to protect the building.

Gilding – type of coating made  of wood  carved with a chisel and knife which may or may not be finished with gold-plating or painting.

Glazed Tile – ceramic tile, with variable thickness, usually squared, decorated and glazed on one of its sides, whose main purpose is to cover walls and covers in a decorative fashion.

Gold-platting – it consists in applying gold leaves over the sculpted and properly prepared surface.

Gospel side – expression used to designate the left side (nave, apsiole) of a temple when observed  from the main entrance.

Groined vault  - vault produced by the intersection at right angles of two equal barrel vaults.


Hamlet - unit of agricultural exploitation, resulting from the fragmentation of the villa.

High Choir - the area of the temple reserved to the clergy, fundamental in the celebration of the Divine Office  in the Modern Period. Generally, it is above the main entrance of a church.


Iconography – discipline dedicated to the systematic study of the pictorial representations illustrating a specific artistic theme.

Impost – element of projecting stone that separates the arch, vault or capital, frequently decorated.

Initial – marking by the mason engraved in the panels or other construction parts destined to signal the authorship when the work was paid by the day. Position marking destined to define the placing of the pieces in the construction.

Inscription - set of characters graved in various media, including stone, which indicate the destination of a monument, evoke a fact or a date.

Intradorsum – face or inner surface of an arch or vault.

Invocation – evocation of the saint to whom a church or chapel is dedicated.

Ionic (Order) – one of the three architectonic orders of classic Greek architecture. Mainly characterized by the fact that the column features a striated frustum supported by a stylobate and a rectangular abacus with volutes surrounding the echinus.


Joanine Style – designation attributed to the gilding produced according to a trace in which Italian influence  is evident, exploring the scenic effect of the altarpiece ensemble to the fullest through the effective disposition of the structural and decorative elements.  The origin of this classification derives from the approximate timeline of a set of retables with identical formal characteristics which coincides with the period of the reign of King D. João  V; they present a specific decorative language, namely in the use  of the Berninian column, the  introduction of drapes, bordervolutes, baldachins, the use  of festoons,  garlands, winged cherubs, atlases, shells, among other elements.


Key Edge
- closing of a vault or an arch, often decorated.

King's Council - an institution sprung out of the Court, more restrictive, consisting of the most loyal and private, whose advice he trusted the most. Formed since King D. Afonso III, the elements of the Council, unlike the ones of the Curia, would not necessarily be chosen for their status, but by their knowledge (Sapientia), particularly legal.

Knight-villains - the wealthier inhabitants of the area of a county that had income enough to have horses available for waging war on horseback.


Lantern - highest outer part of a dome. 

Lateral Altar – secondary altar located in the walls that form the lateral projections of the naves of a church or chapel.

Longitudinal Plant - building in which the plant has a guiding directive (eg. rectangle, Latin cross, etc.).

Louver - small cylindrical or prismatic-shaped piece shaped like a turret, with a hollow side, which completes a dome, for the interior lighting.

Lying Statue (sculpture) - sculpture representing the deceased, which adorns the lid of a chest tomb.


Machinery – small portable oratory-cabinet with one or more glass faces that keeps imagery.

Main Altar – the most important altar in a church or chapel, usually located in the chancel and placed in its axis.

Mannerism, Mannerist – term that designates a trend or artistic style of Italian origin corresponding, in Portugal and roughly speaking, to the second half of the 16th century and the first half of the following century. Derived from the Renaissance, it is seen as a transgression of art’s classical ideals, transposing them in a way that results in ambiguous works, carefree of classic strictness and exploring unexpected effects. 

Mason - artist who grinds, cuts and enhances the stones that will stand as stonework.

Masonry - building system that uses stones with irregular shapes and sizes.

Mayor - man of law directly appointed by the king that represented him in the counties with castles. In some counties, that representative was chosen between the good men. As a rule, however, he was a nobleman.

Modillion - the same as corbel.

Modinature - Also a group of the different frames of a building element.

Monastery - from the Greek monastérion, of monázo, ie, living alone, is a religious building where the monks (1st Order) or nuns (2nd order) live, ruled by an abbot or abbess, respectively. There were monasteries where the monks led the contemplative life and these were built outside the villages. These were usually deployed in the fertile lands and along major roads.

Mural Painting - painting executed on a wall.


Narthex - atrium with a portico erected immediately before the naves of the early Christian basilicas, Romanesque monasteries and churches.

National Style – expression first suggested by Germain Bazin and Robert Smith to classify gold gilded retables that assumed similar formal traits:  use of sequences of twisted columns, extended in concentrical archivolts surrounding the tribune and the Eucharist throne. A scheme that, according to those authors, reminds the organization of the Romanesque portals.  The decoration consists mainly in the profuse application of acanthus and vine leaves, children and birds peeking through grape clusters, and also a few cherubs, in an iconographic logic that reports to the realm of the Eucharist liturgical practice.

Nave – longitudinal space or area of a church or chapel located between the main entrance and the chevet, delimited by architectonic elements of support like walls, columns, pillars, arches, etc.

Neoclassicism, Neoclassic – artistic current developed since the last decade of the 18th century, prevailing mostly in the first decades of the following century, characterized by the inspiration in the rigor of the classic Greco-Roman forms, particularly in the use of its typical decorative grammar.  In architecture and the remaining arts, it results in simple and elementary works of contained decoration, assuming great monumentality in architecture, for instance.


Oculus - circular or oval window on the façades. It can also be found on the doors and the upper parts of walls or air to illuminate the interior. Also called a bull's-eye.


Palm – decorative element of classic origin using a palm leaf.

Patterning – term for the patterns applied as decoration; pattern – composition of decorative character defined by the repetition of a module.

Pediment – upper part or top of a façade, where the roofing framework is set.

Phytomorphic - ornate or decorative motif in botanic form.

Pilaster – vertical element of supporting or decorative purpose, with quadrangular or polygonal cut, adjacent to a wall.

Pillar – vertical element of tectonic purpose and with rectangular, cruciform or polygonal cut.

Plan - architectonic drawing that represents a building or part of it in a horizontal perspective.

Plane – trace, design or project of a building, retable, etc.

Plinth – squared element in which the base of a column or of a pedestal is supported.

Porch - lean roof attached to a wall.

Portal – large door, generally monumental, with sculptures and other decoration.

Portico - piece anterior to a church portal. Simple wood wind-guard or stone monumental covering, which can be carved, protecting the devotees and the sculptures from the adverse climate.

Pseudo-isodome apparel – apparel composed of tiers of different heights, but where each tier’s panels are of the same height, although they might feature different lengths.

Pulpit - ecclesiastical furniture intended for reading and preaching. It is usually raised above the ground and adjacent to a pillar or wall of the nave.


Quadrilobe – decorative element formed by four interconnected arched segments.


Railing – bar, balustrade, wood,  steel plate or stone panel to prevent from falling from staircases, balconies, windows.

Register – area where the elements or figures are placed in different levels inside the same composition, saying that they are in different records.

Retable, Altarpiece Structure, Altarpiece Ensemble – painted or carved structure of devotional character placed in the sacred space as an altar for placing liturgical objects and apparel. Usually featured against a wall; it may represent an episode of the sacred realm or display several related representations.

Rib – linear groove with rounded cut, in half cane, opened vertically in the frustum of a column, pillar or pilaster.

Rib vault - Groined vault reinforced by two ribbed vault that cross at the key-edge.

Rococo, Rocaille – term used to indicate the late stage of the Baroque,  standing as a reaction to its classicizing forms.  Particularly visible in the decorative language that usually embellishes the interiors, transforming them, through its great freedom of composition, into extremely exquisite spaces by following a formal language based in exotic and somewhat bizarre motives. The shell or “bat wing” motives placed asymmetrically and combined with botanicals elements are preferentially typical.  In architecture, it magnificently explores the values of light, the role of the artistic furnishing and the colour schemes.

Rosette – circular illumination span, usually framed with stone ribbing.


Sectioned Box – embedded panel placed inside the intradorsum of a cover or span, limited by a usually regular framework, squared or rectangular, sometimes polygonal, and it may be painted or carved.

Serlian – sequence of three spans; the central one is a perfect arch and higher than the lateral, straight ones.

Spaulder – vertical back of a seat.

Stamping – decorative technique that imprints the drawing on the surface using an etching (a piece of paper or parchment in which a drawing is carved in order to be repeated several times).

Stonework - stone geometrically displayed and arranged on a regular basis.

Stool – projecting body of an altar for placing candlesticks or other types of liturgical objects.


Tablet – ornamented form  shaped like a frame or casing that hosts an inscription, symbol, heraldic element or emblem, which can be painted or sculpted.

Tapestry – in tiling, it refers to the repetition of patterns applied in large areas, usually delimited with frames. Term also applied to another sort of parietal coating like mural painting.

Thurible – metal liturgical object, with various shapes, suspended by chains and meant for containing burning incense during the sacred ceremonies.

Tomb - monument executed in several materials and shapes (eg: tombstone (flat), chest tomb, etc.).

Tombstone/Headstone  – stone with an inscription destined to honor and/or celebrate the memory of someone or commemorate an occurrence.

Toral Arch - transverse arch on the protruding dome, perpendicular to the side walls to increase their resistance.

Torus – projecting frame of circular cut.

Transept – transversal body of one or more naves, built perpendicularly to the nave (or naves) of a temple.

Transom – linear frame or element, decorated or plain, with certain projection and with horizontal development, that establishes the connection between the planes of the walls and ceiling.

Tribune – in an altarpiece structure, it corresponds to the hollowed area (like an elevated balcony) sheltering the Eucharist throne.

Triumph  Arch – arched span, usually of  great proportion, that establishes  the connection between a temple’s nave and chancel or between the nave and the transept.

Trompe l’Oeil – pictorial technique of illusionist effect.

Tuscan (Order) – architectonic order of Roman origin derived from  the classic Greek Doric architecture. The columns feature a straight frustum and a base with double torus supported by a plinth.

Twisted Column – column whose frustum is twisted in a spiral.

Tympanum – element closing the semi-circular part of a span originated by the construction of an arch.  In portals, it usually has a sculpture.


Vault – concave or arched covering, usually built in bonded stone or brick.

Ventana – window or arch of the bell tower or belfry that receives the bell.

Volute – decorative element imitating a scroll which describes a spiralled movement in a column.

Voussoir – designation given to the wedge-shaped stones or bricks that are disposed in a radius, participating in the organization of arches and vaults.


Water Shoot – head, mask,  or grimace of the fantastic imaginary sculpted in stone, wood or metal, and placed as a decorative motive in transoms, friezes, attics, fountains, basins, etc.