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Middle ages
The measures of Monforte
Medidas da Igreja de Monforte
Measures of the Church of Madalena, in Monforte

There are 2 length measures engraved in the south pillar of the porch of the Church of Madalena, in Monforte, one measuring 91,5 cm and the other 55 cm, according to Manuel Barroca. This author, who presented, in 1992, the first systematic work on medieval standard length measures, considers that it is a half-braça and a half-vara, assuming that the braça would measure 184 cm, although it is commonly accepted that 1 braça was equal to 2 varas (220 cm).

Although the smallest measure corresponds to the half-vara of the craveiro system, more recent studies provide new clues. Rui Maneira Cunha, in his master’s thesis, published in 2003, associates the smallest measure with the rassasi côvado of 32 fingers, measuring 55.2 cm, which was the iberian version of the hasimi côvado, used in ancient Egypt to measure the floods of the Nile. As for the larger one, he states it may have been a yard, corresponding to 3 feet.

Further information​

António Neves: aneves@ipq.pt
Museum of Metrology: museu.metrologia@ipq.pt