Muslim tower and 15th century mural found at Abrantes castle

A Muslim tower dating back “roughly 1,000 years” and a unique 15th century mural have been discovered at a castle in Abrantes, central Portugal.

Also among archaeological finds are bones “alongside a possible temple honouring the Roman God Mercury”, as well as coins and even cannonballs dating back to the Napoleonic era.

The pieces are now destined to be included in a €14 million project for an “outdoor cultural centre”.

The project will be dependent on community funding, Abrantes mayor Maria do Céu Albuquerque has told Lusa.

Lusa explained how the mural was found during conservation work at the castle’s Santa Maria do Castelo church.

Believed to date back to the 1400s, it is “in an excellent state”.

“This is an extraordinarily important find,” Milene Gil, a researcher from the Hércules lab at the University of Évora agreed.

“These paintings are some of the oldest that we have in Portugal in terms of mural paintings.”

Municipal archaeologist Filomena Gaspar also stressed the importance of the discovery of the Muslim tower, believed to date back to the 9th century.

“We had already found vestiges of Muslim occupation, but nothing that proved there had been a fortification built by Moors here,” she explained.

The “spectacular news” proves that Moors not only passed through Abrantes, but had settled in the town long enough to set up “defensive structures” near the Tagus river between the 9th and 11th centuries.

The archaeological digs that discovered the tower were aimed at “discovering more information about the town’s Roman and Muslim occupation”. They were approved by the the Direção-Geral do Património Cultural (DGPC), the public body in charge of cultural heritage, in 2013, and conducted by municipal archaeologists and the Iberian Museum of Archaeology and Art.