Rabaçal Museum - Area : Penela City Hall

Picture: Viewpoint
Picture: Roman Villa
Picture: Roman Villa

Roman Villa of Rabaçal

The Roman Villa of Rabašal is called, due to the lack of any written evidence or inscription, by the name of the present day village of Rabaçal. Located 12 km to the south of Conimbriga, it is an integral part of the ancient civitas territory, close to the Roman road which connected Olisipo (Lisbon) to Bracara Augusta (Braga) in what is now the council of Penela, District of Coimbra.

Its situation on "the side of a hill", in an advantageous position between a wooded ridge and a stream, conforms with the recommendations of Columella (1st century).

The archaeological excavations started in 1984 through the voluntary support of experts, local people, youngsters and various professionals.

The mass of superficial traces has allowed us to delimit the area of the villa (agricultural estate), which basically occupies a rectangular area along a north-south line, about 50 meters wide by 150 meters long. At the moment it is not possible to tell which farms (fundus) were a part of it.

Of the villa rustica (servants' quarters) and the frumentaria (granary, winery and stables) a few walls, pavements and drains are known. This area is separated from the residential area by a trench and dominates a slight elevation to the north.

The villa urbana (manor house), with an octagonal central peristyle (columned patio), laid out according to the points of the compass, with adjoining buildings radiating out, is to the south. From the main hall, four functional areas have been defined: on the southern side, the entrance, reception area, and watchtower; to the east, the area that benefits from the light a view that extends to the horizon; to the north is the part related with services; and a noble area with bedrooms, oecus and triclinium to the west.

The figurative motifs of the mosaics (seasons, quadriga (four-horse chariot), seated female figure) and some of the geometrical and vegetal compositions bear no resemblance to any others existing in Portugal, forming a whole new style altogether.

The timeline of the villa is based on the study of the collections of coins found, with dates in several periods of the 4th century B.C. The long-lasting circulation of the late Roman currency issues persisted until the invasions in 409-411, the Swabian raids in 465-468, and even later (PESSOA et alii, 1993, p. 1).