Afonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries

The Pastrana Tapestries are among the finest surviving Gothic tapestries. The Invention of Glory: Afonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries will feature the recently restored set of four monumental tapestries that commemorate the deeds of Afonso V, King of Portugal.

Woven in the late 1400s, these monumental tapestries, each measuring 12 by 36 feet, depict Afonso V’s conquest in 1471 of the Moroccan cities of Asilah and Tangier, located near the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. They are among the rarest and earliest examples of tapestries created to celebrate what were then contemporary events, instead of allegorical or religious subjects. The designer minimized the misery of warfare, reinventing the event with the heroic image of Afonso and the ideals of chivalry in mind. Exquisitely rendered in wool and silk threads by Flemish weavers in Tournai, Belgium, the tapestries teem with vivid and colorful images of knights, ships, and military paraphernalia set against a backdrop of maritime and urban landscapes.

Since the 17th century the tapestries have been the property of the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Pastrana, Spain, 50 miles east of Madrid. Because of their outstanding quality and historical significance, the Spanish government listed them as cultural patrimony to be safeguarded during the Spanish Civil War. Only one of the four tapestries has previously travelled to the U.S.

The conservation of these tapestries received the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2011.


All images from Diocese of Sigüenza-Guadalajara and the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Pastrana, Spain. ©Fundación Carlos de Amberes. Photograph by Paul M.R. Maeyaert

The Siege of Asilah (detail), Wool and silk, c.1470, Pastrana