History of Portugal

History of Portugal

terça-feira, 30 de março de 2010

Christian Reconquest - Dinasty of Burgundy

Afonso Henriques Becomes King

After the peace of Tuy, Afonso Henriques temporarily turned his attention to the Muslim threat in the south. In 1139 he struck deep into the heart of Al Andalus and defeated a Muslim army at Ourique, a place in the Alentejo. After this battle, Afonso Henriques began to be referred to in documents as king.

In 1140 he renewed his claim on southern Galicia, which he invaded. This again sparked a reaction by Alfonso VII who, in return, marched on Portugal. The two armies met at Arcos de Valdevez and engaged in a joust won by the Portuguese knights.

Afonso Henriques's self-proclamation as king was finally recognized in 1143 at the Conference of Samora when Alfonso VII recognized him as such, although, because he was an emperor, Alfonso VII still considered Afonso Henriques his vassal

Afonso Henriques was a brilliant military commander and during his reign reconquered more Muslim territory than any other of the Christian kings on the peninsula. He established his capital at Coimbra, and as early as 1135 he built a castle at Leiria. In 1147 he took advantage of a series of religious rebellions among the Muslims, and, with the help of a passing fleet of English, Flemish, and German crusaders bound for Palestine, captured Lisbon after a seventeen-week siege.

Continued internecine fighting among the Muslims, Lisbon's strategic location, and additional help from passing fleets of crusaders eventually allowed Afonso Henriques to advance across the Tagus and capture and hold large sections of the Alentejo. As a result of this vigorous prosecution of the reconquest, the pope officially recognized Afonso Henriques as king of Portugal in 1179 and granted him all conquered lands over which neighboring kings could not prove rights.

At his death in 1185, Afonso Henriques had carved out an officially recognized Christian kingdom that extended well into Muslim Iberia.

Sancho I - The Populator (r.1185-1211) and Afonso II (1211-23)
Sancho I (r.1185-1211), Afonso Henriques's son and heir, continued to enlarge the realm. In 1189 he captured the Muslim castle at Alvor, the city of Silves, and the castle at Albufeira. These territories however, were retaken by the Muslims and had to be reconquered by his son and heir, Afonso II (r.1211-23). With the help of his brother-in-law, Alfonso VIII of Castile, Afonso retook territory in the Alentejo, fighting major battles at Navas de Tolosa in 1212 and Alcácer do Sal in 1217.

Sancho II (r.1223-48) and Afonso III (1248-79)

Conquered additional territory in the Alentejo and carried the reconquest into the Algarve, where Muslim armies were defeated at Tavira and Cacela in 1238. The reconquest was completed by Afonso III (r.1248-79) in 1249 when he attacked and defeated an isolated enclave of Muslims ensconced at Faro in the Algarve. This last battle, which extended Portuguese territory to the sea, established the approximate territorial limits Portugal has had ever since .

The rapid advance of Afonso Henriques from Coimbra to Lisbon created a vast, relatively uninhabited tract of land between north and south. The repopulation of this deserted territory with Christian settlers began immediately. Afonso Henriques invited many of the crusaders to remain after the siege of Lisbon and granted them lands, especially at Atouguia and Lourinhã, as payment for their help. In addition, Sancho I directed most of his time and energy to settling the new monarchy, for which he is known as The Populator (O Povoador).

He sent agents abroad, especially to Burgundy, the land of his ancestors, to recruit colonists, who settled at various places, but especially at Vila dos Francos (present-day Azambuja). Such communities spread rapidly throughout the realm thanks to the protection of the king, who saw in them not only a way to populate the kingdom but also a way to diminish the power of the nobility.

The vacant territory between north and south was also filled by various monastic orders, including the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Benedictines. The Roman Catholic Church granted charters to the orders to build monasteries and cultivate the surrounding land. The most successful of these orders were the Benedictines, who built a monastery at Alcobaça and planted the surrounding land in orchards that remain to this day. This monastery grew to over 5,000 monks and occupied a huge territory stretching from Leiria in the north to Óbidos in the south, including the port-town of Pederneira (present-day Nazaré).

In the valley of the Tagus and to the south, settling communities of unarmed colonists was too dangerous; therefore, early Portuguese kings called upon religious-military orders to fortify, cultivate, and defend this territory. Founded in the early twelfth century to wage war against infidels and protect pilgrims, these religious orders of knights had become powerful in the Holy Land and in many areas of Europe.

Several orders of knight-monks were given huge tracts of land in the Tagus Valley and the Alentejo as recompense for their military service to the king at a time when he had no standing army on which to rely. The most successful of these knight-monks was the Order of the Templars, which was granted territory on the Zêzere River (Rio Zêzere), a tributary of the Tagus, where they built a fortified monastery in Templar fashion at Tomar.

The Templar domain gradually grew to encompass territory from Tomar in the north to Santarém in the south and as far west as the lands of the Benedictines at Alcobaça. As more territory in the Alentejo was reconquered, additional orders were granted tracts of land to defend and cultivate. The Order of the Hospitallers was given land surrounding Crato; the Order of the Calatravans (later Avis) was established at Évora; and the Order of the Knights of Saint James was given lands at Palmela.

Political and Social Organization

Afonso Henriques and subsequent Portuguese kings ruled by divine right until a constitutional monarchy was established in the early nineteenth century. The early kings were assisted by a royal council composed of the king's closest advisers and friends from among the higher nobility and clergy. The royal council was staffed by a number of functionaries, such as the chancellor, who kept the royal seal and was the highest official in the land; the notary, who gave advice on legal matters; the scribe, who wrote the king's letters and documents (many early kings were illiterate); and the majordomo, who commanded the king's household guard.

When questions of exceptional importance arose, the king would convoke the cortes, an expanded royal council that brought together representatives of the three estates of the realm: nobility, clergy, and commoners. The first such cortes was called in 1211 at Coimbra in order to legitimate the succession of Afonso II, Afonso Henriques's grandson, to the throne, as well as to approve certain laws of the realm.

After the Cortes of Leiria, which was convoked in 1254 by Afonso III, representatives of the self-governing settler communities began to attend. Cortes were convoked at the king's will and were limited to advising on issues raised by the king and presenting petitions and complaints.

Resolutions passed by the cortes did not have the force of law unless they were countersigned by the king. Later, the cortes came to limit the power of the king somewhat, but gradually the monarchy became absolute. The cortes was convoked less and less frequently, and in 1697 it stopped being called altogether.

As to territorial administration, northern Portugal was subdivided into estates (terras), each a quasi-autonomous political and economic unit of feudal suzerainity governed by a nobleman (donatário) whose title to the land was confirmed by the king. Religious administration was carried out by the Roman Catholic Church, which divided the north into bishoprics and parishes. In the south, administration was the responsibility of the military orders: Templars, Hospitallers, Calatravans, and Knights of Saint James. In the center, administration fell to the monastic orders: Benedictines, Franciscans, and Dominicans.

The towns and communities of settlers, as well as a certain amount of land around them, were owned by the king, who was responsible for regulating them. The settler communities (concelhos) were each recognized by a royal franchise, which granted local privileges, set taxes, specified rights of self-government, and controlled the relationship among the crown, the concelho, and the donatário, if the community was located within a terra. Each concelho governed itself through an assembly chosen from among its resident "good men" (homens-bons); that is, freemen not subject to the jurisdiction of the church, the local donatário, or the special statutes governing Muslims and Jews.

Each concelho was administered by a local magistrate, who was assisted by several assessors selected from among the homens-bons of the assembly. The tutelary power of the king was represented by an official (alcalde) appointed by the king, who was empowered to intervene in local matters on the king's behalf when necessary to ensure justice and good administration. The degree of self-government of these communities gradually declined as the monarchy became increasingly centralized. During its formative stages, Portugal had three social classes: clergy, nobility, and commoners.

By virtue of the religious fervor of the times, the clergy was the predominant class. It was the most learned, the wealthiest, and occupied the highest office in the realm: the chancellorship. The clergy comprised two categories; the bishops and parish priests of the regular church hierarchy and the abbots and monks of the religious and military orders. These two categories were divided into the higher clergy (bishops and abbots) and low clergy (priests and monks). The clergy enjoyed various privileges and rights, such as judgment in ecclesiastical courts according to canon law, exemption from taxes, and the right to asylum from civil authorities within their churches.

The next social class, the nobility, owed its privileged position above all to its collaboration with the king in the reconquest. The highest level among the nobility was made up of the "rich men" (homens-ricos) who owned the largest feudal estates, had private armies, and had jurisdiction over great expanses of territory. Below them were the lesser nobility, who held smaller estates and were entrusted with the defense of castles and towns but did not have private armies or administrative jurisdiction.

Below the lesser nobility were the highest class of free commoners, the villein-knights, who maintained their own horses and weaponry, serving the king as required. These knights were often encouraged to settle in or near the colonial communities of the frontier where they were granted special privileges and organized raids against the Muslims for their own profit.

The commoners formed the bottom of the social strata. Among them the serfs were the lowest group. The most numerous group, they were bound by heredity to the estates of the crown, nobility, and clergy, where they were occupied in agriculture, stockraising, and village crafts. Serfs could become free by serving as colonists in the underpopulated territories in the south.

The second lowest group consisted of the clients, that is, freemen who did not own property and received protection from an overlord in exchange for service. Above the clients were the villein-knights, who formed a stratum that merged the commoners with the nobility.
Finally, outside the basic social structure were the slaves, usually Muslim captives, who tilled the lands of the military orders in the Alentejo.

Control of the Royal Patrimony

Disputes over land ownership became an increasing source of conflict between the crown and the upper nobility and clergy. Land ownership was important because the crown's main source of revenue was taxes from the great estates and tithes from lands owned directly by the king. But in medieval Portugal, hereditary title to land did not exist in any developed legal form.

As the original grants of land were obscured by passing years, many of the upper nobility and clergy of the church came to believe that they held their land by hereditary right. Thus, each time a new king ascended the throne, the crown had to review land grants and titles in order to assert its authority and reclaim land removed from the king's patrimony.

The first king to confront this problem was Afonso II, who discovered when he ascended the throne in 1211 that his father, Sancho I, had willed much of the royal patrimony to the church. In 1216, after a lengthy legal battle between the crown and the Holy See over various provisions of Sancho's will, the pope recognized Afonso II's right to maintain the royal patrimony intact. From 1216 until 1221, the Portuguese crown asserted this general right by requiring those who had received donations from previous kings to apply for letters of confirmation.

The crown thus created the power to review grants to nobles and ecclesiastical bodies. The process of confirmation was carried a step further when the king appointed royal commissions authorized to investigate land ownership, especially in the north where much of the feudal land tenure predated the creation of the monarchy. These inquiries, as they were called, gathered evidence from the oldest, most experienced residents in each locale without consulting local nobles or church officials. They revealed a large number of abuses and improper extensions of boundaries, as well as conspiracies to defraud the crown of income.

The first inquiry found that the church was the biggest expropriator of royal property. The archbishop of Braga, angered by the activities of the commissions, excommunicated Afonso II in 1219. The king responded by seizing church property and forcing the archbishop to flee Portugal for Rome. In 1220 the pope confirmed the king's excommunication and relieved him of his oath of fealty to the Holy See. This dispute between church and crown ended temporarily when the excommunicated king died in 1223 and his chancellor arranged an ecclesiastical burial in exchange for the return of the seized church property and the promise that future inquiries would respect canon law.

Dinis (r.1279-1325)

The conflict between the church and crown concerning property was finally resolved during the reign of King Dinis (r.1279-1325). In 1284 Dinis launched a new round of inquiries and in the following year promulgated deamortization laws, which prohibited the church and religious orders from buying property and required that they sell all property purchased since the beginning of his reign. For this action against the church, Dinis, like his father and grandfather, was excommunicated. This time, however, the king refused to pledge obedience to the pope and established once and for all the power of the Portuguese crown to regulate and control the royal patrimony.

This power allowed Dinis to nationalize the most powerful and wealthy of the military-religious orders. The Calatravans, founded in Castile, had in effect become Portuguese when the town of Avis was bestowed upon them by Afonso and they became known as the Order of Avis. In 1288 the Knights of Saint James, also of Castilian origin, became Portuguese when the order elected its own master.

In 1312, as the result of an investigation into the activities of the Templars, Pope Clement V suppressed this order and transferred their vast properties in Portugal to the Hospitallers. Dinis was able to prevail upon the pope to give this wealth to a newly founded Portuguese military-religious order called the Order of Christ, which was initially situated at Castro Marim but was later moved to Tomar.

After nationalization, most of these orders became chivalric bodies of quasi-celibate landowners. The Order of Avis, however, remained on a war footing and contributed significantly to Portugal's independence from Castile. The Order of Christ also remained a military-religious order, and its wealth was later used by Prince Henry the Navigator to pay for the voyages of discovery.

Development of the Realm - King Dinis the Farmer
Having established the boundaries of the national territory, asserted their authority over the church and nobility, and gained control over the resources of the military orders, Portuguese kings began to turn their attention to the economic, cultural, and political development of the realm. This was especially true of King Dinis, who is referred to by the Portuguese as The Farmer (O Lavrador) because of his policies designed to encourage agricultural development. He decreed that nobles would not lose their standing if they drained wetlands, settled colonists, and planted pine forests. The pine forests were to produce timber for the shipbuilding industry, which Dinis also encouraged, the crown having already at that time begun to look toward the sea for future fields of conquest.

Dinis chartered many settlements of colonists on lands conquered from the Muslims and authorized the holding of fairs and markets in each of these, thereby creating a national economy. He laid the basis for Portugal's naval tradition by bringing the Genoese, Emmanuele Pessagno (Manuel Peçanha in Portuguese) to Portugal in 1317 to be the hereditary admiral of the Portuguese navy. Maritime commerce was encouraged when Dinis negotiated an agreement with Edward II of England in 1303 that permitted Portuguese ships to enter English ports and guaranteed security and trading privileges for Portuguese merchants.

Dinis provided the impetus for the development of Portuguese as a national language when he decreed that all official documents of the realm were to be written in the vernacular. Finally, Dinis stimulated learning when, in 1290, he founded an academic center similar to the "General Studies" centers that had been created in León and Aragon. In 1308 this center was moved to Coimbra where it remained, except for a brief time between from 1521 to 1537, and became the University of Coimbra, Portugal's premier institution of higher learning.

Afonso IV (r.1325-1357) Pedro I (

Afonso IV (r.1325-1357) continued his father's development policies. He also improved the administration of justice by dismissing corrupt local judges and replacing them with judges he appointed. When a large Muslim army landed on the peninsula in 1340, Afonso IV allied himself with the king of Castile, Alfonso XI, and the king of Aragon in order to do battle against this threat to the Christian kingdoms.

Afonso sent a fleet commanded by Manuel Peçanha to Cádiz and marched overland himself to meet the Muslim army, which was destroyed at the Battle of Salado.

Fernando I (r. 1367-83)

When Afonso's grandson and heir, Fernando I (r.1367-83), ascended the throne, the economic productivity of the country had been so greatly disrupted by the plague that ravaged the country in 1348 and 1349 that he found it necessary to take measures to stimulate food production. In 1375 he promulgated a decree, called the Law of the Sesmarias, which obliged all landowners to cultivate unused land or sell or rent it to someone who would. The law also obligated all who had no useful occupation to work the land.

This decree had its intended effect and led to the rebuilding of the country's wealth. Fernando also stimulated the development of the Portuguese merchant fleet by allowing all shipbuilders who constructed ships of more than 100 tons to cut timber from the royal forests and by exempting the owners of these ships from the full tax on the exports and imports of their first voyage. He also established a maritime insurance company into which owners of merchant ships of more than fifty tons paid 2 percent of their profits and from which they received compensation for shipwrecks.

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