Assault on Asilah (Asalto de Arcila)

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Assault on Asilah (Asalto de Arcila)
Following a fierce struggle, the Portuguese army took the city on 24th August, 1471, commanded by the king and Prince John. The colouring of the standards, armour, figures and arms stands out over a city more European than Moorish in appearance.

A valuable booty

As indicated in the legend of the upper banner, ‘the fight was fierce, with many casualties’. Despite the difficulty of taking such a fortified location, the Portuguese succeeded and seized a remarkable booty, which the king gave away to his soldiers. It could not have been otherwise, since this city ‘was the main emporium of the region’.


The troops departing from the Portuguese camp to lead the assault on the city are shown in a single scene, similar to the second tapestry in the series. This time, it is the infantry and crossbowmen that shoulder the operation, relieving the artillery. The havoc wreaked is visible in the walls, which the assaulters are climbing with ladders while the defenders try to repel them. As a consequence of the fierce fight, many contenders are stabbed with arrows. The coat of arms of Portugal already flies from one wall, seen on the left, as a symbol of victory. The masts of Portuguese ships can be seen in the background, beyond the city.

The Perfect Price

The figures of the king and his son stand out amid the crowd of armed men populating the motley composition: a space teeming with soldiers, spears and flags which conveys the action of the event through its chaos. Afonso V and Prince John took direct part in the assault, leading their troops and proving great daring, as was expected from people of their quality. The prince, known as the Perfect Prince, was just 16 years old, and his courage and resolution in combat won him a knighthood from his father after the taking of the enemy city.

Series Conquest of Asilah and Tangier by Afonso V of Portugal (The Pastrana tapestries)

Third tapestry in the series

Manufacture Tournai workshops, a likely manufacture by Passchier Grenier, c. 1471-1475

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 369 (left) / 355 (right) x 1099 (max) /1094 (min) cm

Location Museum of the Collegiate Church of Pastrana (Guadalajara)

Origin A bequest in 1667 by the 4th Duke of Pastrana and 8th Duke of the Infantado


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