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A Country Named Portugal - Os Herois do Mar - History

History of Portugal

The early history of Portugal, whose name derives from the Roman name Portus Cale, is shared with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. The region was settled by Pre-Celts and Celts, giving origin to peoples like the Gallaeci, Lusitanians, Celtici and Cynetes, visited by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, incorporated in the Roman Republic dominions (as Lusitania in 138 BC), settled again by Suevi, Buri, and Visigoths, and conquered by Moors. Other minor influences include some 5th century vestiges of Alan settlement, which were found in Alenquer, Coimbra and even Lisbon. In 868, during the Reconquista (by which Christians reconquered the Iberian peninsula from the Muslim and Moorish domination), the First County of Portugal was formed. A victory over the Muslims at Ourique in 1139 is traditionally taken as the occasion when Portugal is transformed from a county (County of Portugal as a fief of the Kingdom of León and Castile) into an independent kingdom.

On June 24, 1128, the Battle of São Mamede occurred near Guimarães. At the Battle of São Mamede, Afonso Henriques, Count of Portugal, defeated his mother, Countess Teresa, and her lover, Fernão Peres de Trava, in battle - thereby establishing himself as sole leader. Afonso Henriques officially declared Portugal's independence when he proclaimed himself king of Portugal on July 25, 1139, after the Battle of Ourique, he was recognized as such in 1143 by Afonso VII, king of León and Castile, and in 1179 by Pope Alexander III.

Afonso Henriques and his successors, aided by military monastic orders, pushed southward to drive out the Moors, as the size of Portugal covered about half of its present area. In 1249, this Reconquista ended with the capture of the Algarve on the southern coast, giving Portugal its present day borders, with minor exceptions.

In 1373, Portugal made an alliance with England, which is the longest-standing alliance in the world.

In 1383, the king of Castile, husband of the daughter of the Portuguese king who had died without a male heir, claimed his throne. An ensuing popular revolt led to the 1383-1385 Crisis. A faction of petty noblemen and commoners, led by John of Aviz (later John I), seconded by General Nuno Álvares Pereira defeated the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota. This celebrated battle is still a symbol of glory and the struggle for independence from neighboring Spain.

In the following decades, Portugal spearheaded the exploration of the world and undertook the Age of Discovery. Prince Henry the Navigator, son of King João I, became the main sponsor and patron of this endeavor.

In 1415, Portugal gained the first of its overseas colonies when a fleet conquered Ceuta, a prosperous Islamic trade center in North Africa. There followed the first discoveries in the Atlantic: Madeira and the Azores, which led to the first colonization movements.
An anachronous map of the Portuguese Empire (1415-1999). Red - true possessions; Pink - explorations, areas of influence and trade and claims of sovereignty; Blue - main sea explorations, routes and areas of influence. The disputed discovery of Australia is not shown.

An anachronous map of the Portuguese Empire (1415-1999). Red - true possessions; Pink - explorations, areas of influence and trade and claims of sovereignty; Blue - main sea explorations, routes and areas of influence. The disputed discovery of Australia is not shown.

Throughout the 15th century, Portuguese explorers sailed the coast of Africa, establishing trading posts for several common types of tradable commodities at the time, ranging from gold to slaves, as they looked for a route to India and its spices, which were coveted in Europe. In 1498, Vasco da Gama finally reached India and brought economic prosperity to Portugal and its then population of one million residents.

In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral, en route to India, discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. Ten years later, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa, in India, Ormuz in the Persian Strait, and Malacca in what is now a state in Malaysia. Thus, the Portuguese empire held dominion over commerce in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic. The Portuguese sailors set out to reach Eastern Asia by sailing eastward from Europe landing in such places like Taiwan, Japan, the island of Timor, and it may also have been Portuguese sailors that were the first Europeans to discover Australia.

Portugal's independence was interrupted between 1580 and 1640. Because the heirless King Sebastian died in battle in Morocco, Philip II of Spain claimed his throne and so became Philip I of Portugal. Although Portugal did not lose its formal independence, it was governed by the same monarch who governed Spain, briefly forming a union of kingdoms, as a personal union; in 1640, John IV spearheaded an uprising backed by disgruntled nobles and was proclaimed king. The Portuguese Restoration War between Portugal and Spain on the aftermath of the 1640 revolt, ended the sixty-year period of the Iberian Union under the House of Habsburg. This was the beginning of the House of Braganza, which was to reign in Portugal until 1910. On 1 November 1755, Lisbon, the largest city and capital of the Portuguese Empire, was strongly shaken by an earthquake which killed between 60,000 and 90,000 people and destroyed eighty-five percent of the city.

By this time, however, the Portuguese empire was already under attack from other countries, specifically Britain and the Netherlands. Portugal began a slow but inexorable decline until the 20th century. This decline was hastened by the independence in 1822 of the country's largest colonial possession, Brazil.

At the height of European colonialism in the 19th century, Portugal had lost its territory in South America and all but a few bases in Asia. During this phase, Portuguese colonialism focused on expanding its outposts in Africa into nation-sized territories to compete with other European powers there. Portuguese territories eventually included the modern nations of Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique.

In 1910, a revolution deposed the Portuguese monarchy, but chaos continued and considerable economic problems were aggravated by the military intervention in World War I, which led to a military coup d'état in 1926. This in turn led to the establishment of the right-wing dictatorship of the Estado Novo under António de Oliveira Salazar.

In December 1961, the Portuguese army was involved in armed action in its colony of Portuguese India against an Indian invasion. The operations resulted in the defeat of the isolated and relatively small Portuguese defense force which was not able to resist a much larger enemy. The outcome was the loss of the Portuguese territories in the Indian subcontinent.

Also in the early 1960s, independence movements in the Portuguese overseas provinces of Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea, in Africa, resulted in the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974). In 1974, a bloodless left-wing military coup in Lisbon, known as the Carnation Revolution, led the way for a modern democracy as well as the independence of the last colonies in Africa shortly after. However, Portugal's last overseas territory, Macau (Asia), was not handed over to the People's Republic of China until as late as 1999.

Portugal was a founding member of NATO, OECD and EFTA. In 1986, Portugal joined the European Union (then the European Economic Community). Portugal was one of the founding countries of the euro in 1999 and is integrated into the Eurozone. It is also a co-founder of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).

(Image: Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Prince Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese Age of Discovery, Lisbon)

The city of Guimaraes is located at a distance of 50 km from OPorto and 35 km from Braga. Guimaraes is a nominated city from UNESCO (world heritage).

Guimaraes is known as one of the most beautiful and historical cities in Portugal. It is also famous for being the birthplace of Portugal and its first capital when, in 1139, D. Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese king, proclaimed the national independence.

On 13 December 2001, UNESCO inscribed the city of Guimarães on the list of World Heritage.

Leiria (my city)

A striking royal castle, built in 1135 by the first king of Portugal Dom Afonso Henriques, hangs above the graceful city of Leiria. The castle was restored in the early 14th century, when it gained a fine keep and graceful loggia, with eight ogival arches fixed on twofold pillars. The castle commands a magnificent view over the city, namely the charming old town, with small dwellings over archways and elegant arcades. It is also worth admiring the small Romanesque Church of St. Peter (12th century), the 16th-century Cathedral with an archaeology museum on its premises, Our Lady of Pena Church (Gothic) and the grand stairway leading to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Incarnation (16th century), from the same century.

Crossed by the river Lis and its branch, the whole region is characterized by fertile fields and forests, namely pinewoods, which provide a landscape of unusual amenity and soothing shades of green. The Leiria pine forest, a long coastal pine forest planted by king Dinis to supply wood for ship building, extends northwards to the beach of Pedrógão, quite popular during the Summer, while the nearby lagoon of Ervideira offers good fishing.

Leiria is set between Lisbon and Oporto with the country's largest motorway (A1) crossing it in the north-south direction It is placed at the central section of the Portuguese coastline, where intense reflections on the water lend their name to Costa de Prata (SilverCoast).

The mild temperatures and white sandy beaches offer one the choice between practising water sports and the calm life of the seaside. The curative springs and the lush vegetation of secular forests have preserved all the rewards of their unspoilt nature. The monasteries, convents, castles, churches, and museums witness the priceless historic and artistic heritage of renowned universal value.

Costa de Prata is also home for famous traditional art treasures, such as its porcelain and crystal, as well as its gastronomy, strongly influenced by the sea and its tasty wines and delicious sweets. In the fishing villages or urban historic centres, the kindness of the people is another asset to add to its extensive and diverse list of qualities.

In a Region with this characteristics, and due to the wide diversity of the area it involves, it is always very difficult to suggest this or that place to visit, specially when everything is so worthwhile seeing ... It will be our pleasure to welcome you all...

Here we give a list of the monuments to visit and the natural resources classified World Heritage. The Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha, the Sanctuary of Fátima, the Spas of Monte Real, the beaches, the Pinewood Forest of Leiria, the Natural Park of Serras d’Aire and Candeeiros and many other motives to find us....

Tiles (called azulejos) are everywhere in Portugal. They decorate everything from walls of churches and monasteries, to palaces, ordinary houses, park seats, fountains, shops, and railway stations. They often portray scenes from the history of the country, show its most ravishing sights, or simply serve as street signs, nameplates, or house numbers.

Although they are not a Portuguese invention (the use of glazed tiles began in Egypt), they have been used more imaginatively and consistently in Portugal than in any other nation. They became an art form, and by the 18th century no other European country was producing as many tiles for such a variety of purposes and in so many different designs. Today, they still remain a very important part of the country's architecture.

After the Gothic period, Azulejo panel most large buildings had extensive areas of flat plaster on their interior walls, which needed some form of decoration. These empty architectural spaces produced the art of the fresco in Italy, and in Portugal, the art of the azulejo.

The term azulejo comes from the Arabic word az-zulayj, meaning "polished stone." The Moors brought this term to the Iberian Peninsula, but despite their long presence, their influence in early Portuguese azulejos was actually introduced from Spain in the 15th century, well after the Christian reconquest. No tile work from the time of the Moorish occupation survives in Portugal.

King Manuel I was dazzled by the Alhambra in Granada (Spain), and decided to have his palace in Sintra decorated with the same rich ceramic tiles. The first ones were imported from Seville, and in accordance to Islamic law, they portrayed no human figures, only geometric patterns.

Gradually the Portuguese painters weaned themselves off ornamental decoration and employed human or animal figures in their designs. Tiled walls in Lisbon's Fronteira Palace The dominant colors were blue, yellow, green and white, but in the 17th century, large, carpet-like tiles used just white and blue, the fashionable colors at the time of the Great Discoveries, influenced by the Ming Dynasty porcelain from China. They now portrayed Christian legends, historical events, and were not only decorative, but also protected against damp, heat and noise.

In Lisbon's Tile Museum, visitors can trace the development of tiles in Portugal from their beginnings to the present. Other outstanding displays are found in Lisbon's São Vicente de Fora Church and Fronteira Palace, in Porto's São Bento Station, Almancil's São Lourenço Church, Buçaco's palace, Lamego's Nossa Senhora dos Remedios Church, and in several of Evora's churches and university.

Today Portuguese tile factories also export to northern Europe, and azulejos by contemporary artists can be seen even in many of Lisbon's Metro stations. They are also tempting buys, especially in Lisbon, Sintra, and Algarve. Most visitors to Portugal end up buying a tile as a souvenir, which can be remarkably inexpensive.

If you're interested in an azulejo tour in Lisbon, see
For a flyer with information about this tour, click here.

An azulejos despiction of the Palacio Sobre Ribas in Coimbra

A 19th century Portuguese couple with typical rural clothes from Minho province, in a Singer sewing machine advertisement card, distributed at World Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.

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