Portugal is one of Europe’s oldest countries full with a lot of stories. Have you ever heard of the adventurous history of Portugal?
Founded in 12th century by D. Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, who succeeded in merging the country’s current Northern and Central regions, thus establishing Portugal’s first capital in Guimaraes, we are a country with a rich and adventurous history.
Ours is a country which fought the Moors in the Algarve in 13th century, who constantly fought for its freedom against the Spanish and with a centuries-old alliance with Britain. We are the country which created what we now call “the first global village” by building up a literally worldwide empire. We are proud to have had Henry the Navigator as our Prince. It was him who set in motion the gigantic adventure of the Portuguese Discoveries, carried out by simple men who sailed fragile caravels, with hardly any scientific means (though the vernier scale was invented at the time) from the Sagres promontory.
Portugal is the birth place to King D. Manuel, whose court was world renown for its richness, exotic animals, black slaves, spices from the Malabar coast and luxurious fabrics. But also to D. João V, who had Coimbra’s University Library and Chapel as well as the Mafra convent built. Or even to the Marquess of Pombal, who was the kingdom’s Prime Minister and Lisbon’s architect after the dreadful 1755 earthquake (when Lisbon’s downtown simply collapsed under a gigantic wave).
Ours is a traditionally Catholic country with numerous shrines, of which Vila Viçosa, Fátima and Bom Jesus in Braga are probably the best known. For most of its existence, Portugal was a monarchy related to the best European royalty. But the 1910 coup-d’état changed this forever, after the killing of D. Carlos and his heir. Since then the country has been involved in many problems, namely the 40-year long dictatorship and the April 74 Revolution.
But the last 20 years have witnessed a remarkable evolution, which is patent in its increasingly renovated buildings and monuments, great night-life (visit the Clerigos area in Oporto), sophisticated restaurants, top-end shopping (check Avenida da Liberdade) and reviews in the best international press.
Photos: first: Cover of the book “Quadros-da-Historia-de-Portugal”, second: José Manuel