Guimarães, Portugal’s birthplace

Guimarães, Portugal’s birthplace, or the nation’s cradle as the Portuguese call it. It is an amazing city in the North of the country, situated in the district of Braga. The city was declared World Heritage by UNESCO for its amazing and well preserved medieval architecture and a great example of the development of a medieval settlement into a modern town.

King Afonso Henriques or Henrique I

There isn’t a consensus as to where the king was born. Some believe it had been in Viseu, others believe it was in Guimarães, where it is believed he lived until 1128. The date of his birth is also undetermined and it goes from 1106 to 1111. Afonso Henriques was the son of Teresa of Leon and Henrique of Burgundy. Teresa was the daughter of the King Afonso IV of Galicia, Leon and Castille.

The County of Portugal

When Teresa of Leon married Henrique of Burgundy she was given a county by her father King Afonso IV of Galicia, Leon ad Castille. The County was called the County of Portugal (Condado Portucalense) and it was located in the regions we now know as the North of Portugal.  They became Count Henrique of Portugal and Teresa Countess of Portugal.

The rebel son and the battle of São Mamede

After Count Henrique of Portugal died, there was a period of turmoil. Afonso Henriques could not succeed his father because he was still a baby. But his mother was ambitious and wanted to claim the County and govern it as queen, such as her sister Urraca of Leon. She achieves the title and was officially recognised in 1116.

However, in 1122 with the advice from the Archbishop of Braga, Paio Mendes, Afonso Henriques wants to ensure his dominance and right to the throne and becomes a Knight of Zamora. His mother did not see it eye to eye and the conflict between the parts rose. Afonso Henriques and the Portuguese Knights rebelled against Teresa, in the Battle of São Mamede, a town in the municipality of Guimarães. He won that battle and claimed the throne. Then he conquered territories to the south, that were then occupied by the Moors and, on the 5th of October 1143, with the Zamora Treaty, he finally made peace with Castille and Portugal was declared a Kingdom.

Why is it the cradle?

Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal for two main reasons. The first one is the belief that King Afonso Henriques was born there. Secondly, because the Battle of São Mamede was fought nearby. Undoubtedly this city will be forever linked with the country’s independence and establishment as a sovereign kingdom. It has plenty of places to visit and lots of things to do. So, have you made your booking yet?

Photo: Cila Neves