Tile panel Caravela (Jose Manuel)
Source: José Manuel

Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe, with eight centuries of History and a happy mixture of peoples, cultures and traditions.

Before 1143, the year in which D. Afonso Henriques in Guimarães declared independence from the kingdoms of León and Castile and became the first King of Portugal, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginian, Romans, Huns, Suevi, Alans, Vandals and peoples from North Africa had already passed through the land.

During the 12th and 13th Centuries, the Portuguese Kings extended the borders, with the help of the Crusaders, until they finally conquered the Algarve, consolidating a territory almost unchanged until today.

With its borders defined, Portugal started to look inside itself. At the end of the 13th Century, King D. Dinis founded the prestigious University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in Europe. In the most important centers, castles, palaces and cathedrals have been built and cemented the territorial administration. But the kingdom was too small for the size of the ambition of the Portuguese monarchs, who could not resist the call of the sea.

Thus started one of the greatest adventures of humanity, the Discoveries, led by the visionary Infante D. Henrique. During the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese caravels navigated to Africa, the far East and the heart of the South American continent. They conquered lands, hoarded wealth and brought to Europe things never seen before. This might have been the beginning of the globalization.

The small kingdom was then the largest Empire in the world. Portugal brought together wise men and mercenaries, scientists and painters, businessmen and poets, slaves and princes. Such power and wealth awoke the jealousy of other peoples and after the tragic death of the young King D. Sebastião, in a battle at Alcácer Quibir, in the North of Africa, the resultant vacant throne was occupied by Spanish Kings, who united the two states under the same government for 60 years.

But in 1640 we had once again a Portuguese King, D. João IV, who restored the independence of Portugal. In the 18th Century D. João V, an absolutist King lover of the arts, ordered the construction, in Mafra, of a giant convent and palace and, in Lisbon, the Aqueducto das Águas Livres.

However, the luxurious and exotic capital of the kingdom almost completely vanished in 1755 due to a devastating earthquake. It was Marquês de Pombal, Prime Minister of King D. José, who recreated a new Lisbon, monumental and ready to take on the furies of nature.

In the 19th Century, Napoleon's troops invaded Portugal and the court moved to Brazil, returning 13 years later to a different country, weakened by years of war and where Republican ideas were increasingly gaining ground. The Republic was in fact finally established in 1910.

After a troubled period and the Portuguese participation at the Great World War, emerged the “Estado Novo” of António Oliveira Salazar, dictator who governed the country with an iron hand for almost half a century. However, on 25 April 1974 the «Carnation Revolution» returned freedom to the Portuguese and ended what still remained of the former colonial empire.

Once again inside its own borders, Portugal turned round and faced Europe. In 1986 the country joined the EEC and, in the last twenty five years, the Portuguese have been enthusiastic participants in the construction of a new Europe. Without however forgetting their History, their character and their traditions.

In website of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU 2007

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