Post-classical history


Portugal, located in the western part of the Iberian Peninsula, achieved independence from the kingdom of Leôn in the twelfth century, in a process marked by three decisive events: the rise to the throne of King Afonso I Henriques (1128), Leonese recognition of Portugal as an independent kingdom in the Treaty of Zamora (1143), and papal recognition in Pope Alexander III’s bull Manifestis probatum (1179). Until 1249, Portuguese history was dominated by the process of reconquest of territory from the Moors. The frontier reached the River Douro (Sp. Duero) by 868, the Mon- dego by 1064, and the Tagus (Port. Tejo) by 1147; the conquest of the Algarve (1249) brought the process to completion.

The Crusades in the Portuguese Reconquest

The military situation in the Iberian Peninsula attracted many knights in search of fortune, notably Raymond and Henry of Burgundy, who became rulers of Galicia and Portugal. Throughout the twelfth century Portugal continued to receive contingents of knights who took part in military actions and were rewarded with generous donations. Some of them settled in Portugal, founding villages such as Atouguia da Baleia, Vila Franca de Xira, and Vila Verde dos Francos.

Some crusade fleets, stopping in Portugal en route to the Levant, made important military contributions to the reconquest. The first contribution was the conquest of Lisbon in 1147. Afonso I Henriques obtained the support of a powerful fleet that had sailed from Dartmouth to join the Palestinian campaign of the Second Crusade (1147-1149). This fleet included crusaders from France, Germany, Flanders, and England, traveling on 164 ships. During their stop in Oporto, Bishop Peter Pitôes exhorted them to help the Portuguese monarch. The siege and conquest of Lisbon are narrated in detail in a letter from the Norman priest Raol to Osbern of Bawdsey, the famous De expugnatione Lyxbonensi. This event is also described in the Annals of Magdeburg, the Annals of Cologne, the Indiculum fundationis monasterii s. Vincentii, and other letters. The conquest of Lisbon is thus one of the best-documented military events in the twelfth century. These sources provide extremely interesting details, such as the sermons that convinced the crusaders to delay their departure to Jerusalem, the deployment of military contingents on the battlefield according to their linguistic affiliations, and the use of military engines (catapults, tre- buchets, assault towers). The siege lasted 119 days, beginning on 28 June and ending with the capture of the city on 25 October 1147. Some crusaders remained in Portugal and received donations, and an English crusader, Gilbert of Hastings, became the first bishop of Lisbon after the Christian conquest (1148-1164).

Between 1147 and 1217, at least five other fleets of crusaders aided the Portuguese against the Muslims. In 1151 Gilbert of Hastings went to England to gather an army to help in the Portuguese reconquest. In 1189, taking advantage of two passing crusade fleets, King Sancho I conquered the castles of Alvor and Silves (Algarve). An anonymous crusader wrote a detailed description of the siege of Silves, the Nar- ratio itineris navalis ad Terram Sanctam, which is a magnificent account of crusaders’ military technique. Another source is the chronicle of Ralph de Diceto. The siege lasted from 18 July to 3 September 1189, and the castle remained in Christian hands until 1191. In retaliation two military incursions were organized by the Almohad ruler Abû Yâqub Yûsuf al-Mansur. The first (1190) was directed at the River Tagus and Portuguese Estremadura. The castle of Tomar, headquarters of the Portuguese Templars, was besieged for five days. The village of Torres Novas was burned, and San- tarém, where King Sancho I was positioned, also came under siege. The monarch was rescued by a fleet of crusaders that had stopped in Lisbon. In 1191, following the second Almo- had campaign, the castles of Silves and Alvor fell into Muslims hands, and the frontier had been pushed back to the Tagus. In 1197 German crusaders took part in a new attempt to occupy Silves.

Finally, in 1217 another fleet of crusaders helped the bishop of Lisbon, Soeiro Viegas, in the conquest of Alcacer do Sal. We have several sources for this: the Emonis Chron- icon, the Annals of Cologne, and the De expugnatione Salaciae carmen (a poem by Soeirus Gosuinus). Reporting the conquest of Alcacer do Sal to Pope Honorius III in October 1217, the bishop of Lisbon requested permission for the crusaders to remain in Iberia for another year to fight the Muslims. The commander of the crusaders, Count William I of Holland, asked for papal authorization; in his response, Intellecta ex vestris litteris (12 January 1218), Honorius III informed the Portuguese prelates that he had no wish to divert the crusaders from the Holy Land, although he assured them the same privileges as they would have in the East during their stay in the peninsula. This thwarted the project for a major military campaign against the Almohads, planned by the bishops of Lisbon andÉvora, the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Order of Santiago. Alcacer do Sal was the crusaders’ last contribution to the Portuguese conquest. Thirty years later, due mostly to the efforts of the Order of Santiago, this process ended with the definitive occupation of the Moorish kingdom of the Algarve (1249).

The Kingdon of Portugal in the period of the Crusades

The Kingdon of Portugal in the period of the Crusades

Papal Crusade Privileges

Despite their commitment to the Iberian reconquest, it was only at the end of the twelfth century that the popes conferred crusade privileges on those taking part in it. In 1195, in the bull Incumbit nobis, Pope Celestine III granted the prior of the monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra the privilege of giving the cross to pilgrims and to those who fought the Muslims. This document reflects the military situation in the peninsula and the pressure exerted by the Almohads. Two years later, on 10 April 1197, he issued the bull Cum auctores et factores, which bestowed upon King Sancho I and all those who fought the king of Leon the privileges that Rome usually reserved for those who fought in Jerusalem. This bull (the first crusade bull bestowed on a Portuguese monarch) must be viewed in the political context of the peninsula, where Alfonso IX of Leon had allied with the Almohads against the other Christian monarchs. The conquest of Alcacer do Sal (1217) was accompanied by a papal bull granting clemency, later confirmed by Pope Honorius III’s bull Intellecta ex vestris litteris (12 January 1218). Thereafter the Portuguese received several crusade bulls during the major military offensive that culminated in the conquest of the Algarve (1249). There were bulls in 1220 (for the Order of Avis), 1226 (for the archbishop of Braga, who organized the conquest of Elvas), 1234, 1239 (for Prince Ferdinand of Serpa), 1241, and 1245. Thus a large number of bulls accompanied the end of the Portuguese reconquest. After 1249 papal privileges decreased considerably. However, they increased again in the wake of the battle of Salado (1340), when King Afonso IV proposed relaunching the offensive against the Muslims and received several bulls (1341, 1345, and 1355). Finally, following the conquest of Ceuta (1415), it became commonplace to grant bulls to Portuguese mon- archs. The concept of crusade was one of the elements used by Portuguese diplomacy to justify the expansion into Morocco, and it thus enjoyed a revival in Portugal during the fifteenth century.

Miltary Orders

From the twelfth century, part of the war effort against the Moors was undertaken by military orders. The Templars were the first such order to appear in Portugal, documented since 1128, when they received the castle of Soure. The order’s military activity increased in 1145, when the post of proctor was created (Hugh of Martonio), and again in 1156, when the first master is documented (Gualdim Pais). Between 1160 and 1170, the order built Tomar, the most remarkable of Portuguese castles. By the end of the century, the Templars owned twenty castles, almost a tenth of Portuguese fortifications. The Hospitallers were established in Portugal between 1128 and 1132, but they only assumed a military role around the year 1189. They played an active part defending the Tagus border against the Almohad offensive at the end of the century, building the castle of Belver (1194). Orders founded in the Iberian Peninsula only emerged in the 1170s: the Order of Santiago, documented in Portugal from 1172, and the Knights of Évora (the Portuguese branch of the Order of Calatrava), from 1175-1176. In 1211 the king gave Avis to the Knights of Évora, who built a castle there (1214); thereafter they became known as the Order of Avis.

The role played by each military order differed over time. The Templars were especially vital in the second half of the twelfth century, particularly while Gualdim Pais was master, and they played a decisive role in consolidating the Tagus frontier. They were the only order to be active militarily in Portugal until 1172-1175. The Hospitallers gained importance with the Almohad crisis at the end of the century. The Order of Avis played an active part in the conquest of the Upper Alentejo in the second decade of the thirteenth century. The Order of Santiago was particularly dynamic in the final stage of the conquest, while the dissolution of the Templars gave rise to the Order of Christ, created by Pope John XXII’s bull Ad ea ex quibus (14 March 1319). This new order inherited the Templars’ property in Portugal and played a decisive role in Portuguese expansion in the fifteenth century.

Crusades to the Holy Land

The military situation in the Iberian Peninsula helps to explain a lack of involvement of Portuguese knights in the crusades to the Holy Land. There were even recommendations that they abstain from going to the East: when Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade (1096-1099), he recommended that the knights from the peninsula should remain there to combat the Muslims. Pope Paschal II made the same recommendation in two bulls at the beginning of the twelfth century. In 1145, when the Second Crusade was preached, the town of Coimbra forbade its citizens to go to the East. Instead, it encouraged them to participate in the liberation of Portuguese Estremadura, granting them the same privileges that they would obtain if they went to Jerusalem. In 1217, when he preached the Fifth Crusade, Pope Honorius III once again excluded the Iberian knights.

Medieval documents supply little information about direct Portuguese participation in the crusades to the East. Preaching for the First Crusade coincided with the creation of the county of Portugal, founded by King Alfonso VI of Castile and Leôn in 1095 and entrusted to Henry of Burgundy. A few years after the crusader conquest of Jerusalem (15 July 1099), the first references to Portuguese pilgrimages began to appear, between 1108 and 1146. Some of these journeys were pilgrimages in the modern sense of the word; others were connected with military service in the East, which was designated by the same term.

Some famous Portuguese personalities are known to have gone to Jerusalem, even if we discount unverifiable journeys (such as one planned by Count Henry himself in 1103). The first was Mauricio Burdino, bishop of Coimbra (1099-1109), who stayed in Jerusalem between 1104 and 1108. Among his companions were Telo and Teotônio, who later founded the monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra in 1131. On his return, Mauricio Burdino was elected archbishop of Braga (1109-1118) and later became antipope under the name Gregory VIII (1118-1119).

The nobleman Gualdim Pais made his journey specifically to take part in the Second Crusade. He spent five years in the East, taking part in the siege of Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel) and the defense of the principality of Antioch (both in 1153). He returned in 1156, just in time to be elected master of the Templars in Portugal. He led the order from 1156/1157 until his death on 13 October 1195. His epitaph is in the Church of St. Mary of Olivais, in Tomar. During the thirty-eight years during which he was master, the Order of the Temple experienced its greatest prestige and expansion in Portugal. The castles he built (Tomar, Pombal, Almourol, and others) are among the best Portuguese castles of the time and reflect direct influence from military architecture of the crusaders in the East. Some of these Portuguese castles used a glacis, a military feature that was not known in the peninsula but was widely used by the Franks in the East.

The third known Portuguese nobleman who went to the East was Afonso of Portugal, illegitimate son of King Afonso I Henriques, who participated in the Third Crusade (1189-1192). In 1202 he was elected grand master of the Order of the Hospitallers. He presided over a general chapter of the order, which approved the so-called Statutes of Margat (named from the meeting place of the chapter). However, as a result of the strictness of these statutes, he was forced to resign in 1205. He returned to Portugal, where he died on 20 February 1207. He was buried in the Church of St. John of Alporāo (Santarém), where his epitaph can be found. We also know of journeys to the East by Soeiro Raimundo during the Third Crusade and Prince Peter of Portugal in 1236.

Finally, there is also evidence of news of the Holy Land reaching the kingdom. Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in October 1187 is mentioned in the inscription of the Church of Our Lady of Fresta(Trancoso) and in a document of King Sancho I dated from July 1188. This news must have reached Portugal through the appeal of Pope Gregory VIII on the eve of the Third Crusade, exhorting the Western kingdoms to liberate Jerusalem.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!