D. Afonso Henriques
Visiting Portugal is getting to know millennia of history and culture, but visiting Guimarães is getting to know part of the Portuguese DNA. Just 50 km from Porto, Guimarães offers historic streets, monuments, religious architecture, old manor houses, palaces and museums.
The name Portucale derives from the Latin, which means Portus (port) and Cale (beautiful), later giving rise to the Portucalense County and, today, is the root of the country’s name. In terms of border stability, Portugal is the oldest country in Europe. The brave and charismatic D. Afonso Henriques, later King Afonso I of Portugal, led the Portucalense County until independence and expansion of the territory to the south.
D. Afonso Henriques was probably born in the Guimarães Castle in 1109. The castle is open to the public, in good condition and a monument worth visiting, as it has become a symbol in Portugal’s history. The imposing mediaeval castle in Guimarães municipality, near Campo de São Mamede, has become iconic of heroic and impressive battles.
D. Afonso Henriques was the son of D. Teresa of Leon and Count D. Henrique of Burgundy, and the grandson of the king of Leon and Castile, Spain, to whom he owed vassalage. At the time of his father’s death, Condado Portucalense consisted of the land between the Minho and Mondego rivers, with Guimarães and Coimbra being the most important cities.
The choice of the tutor was made by Count D. Henrique of Burgundy, who died when D. Afonso Henriques was only three years old. Egas Moniz, the preceptor, was born in a locality in the district of Porto, was an accomplished knight and an illustrious member of the Portuguese nobility, who offered him the best physical and military education and the moral principles of the time.
Knighted at 16, D. Afonso Henriques relentlessly pursued his independence goals and excelled in leading armies. In 1128 he dared to face his mother in the battle of São Mamede, very close to Guimarães, opposing the desired union of the County with Galicia. The battle day, June 24, was called The First Portuguese Afternoon, as it marked the beginning of the process of founding the nationality.
After the battle, D. Afonso Henriques moved the capital from Guimarães to Coimbra, establishing his court there. He devoted the following years to expansion towards the south, conquest of territories occupied by Muslims, marking borders, granting charters and building castles to help settle populations.
In 1139, Portugal changed from a county to a kingdom, with Prince D. Afonso Henriques taking on the title of king. It was only in 1147 that he conquered Santarém, Sintra, Lisbon, Palmela and Almada. He died in Coimbra in 1185, after which his son, king D. Sancho I, continued the expansion of territories to the south.
Married to D. Mafalda of Savoy in 1146, he had seven children. The queen dedicated herself to religious and charitable activities, her children’s education, and works of public utility. She died after twelve years of marriage. Now, she lies in a tomb near her husband and king in the Church of Santa Cruz, Coimbra.
With the nickname of The Conqueror, the reign of Afonso I was the second longest of a Portuguese king, 46 years. Since 1987, D. Afonso Henriques has been the Portuguese Army patron, and his sword is in the Military Museum of Porto. This city encompasses the history of the North Region and, therefore, it is a major cultural destination.
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