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Afonso I of Portugal

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Afonso I
Depiction in the Castilian manuscript Compendium of Chronicles of Kings, c. 1312-1325
King of Portugal
Reign26 July 1139 – 6 December 1185
Acclamation25 July 1139
SuccessorSancho I
Count of Portugal
Reign1112 – 25 July 1139
Co-countTheresa (1112–1128)[1]
RegentTheresa (1112–1128)
BornAlphonso Henryquez[citation needed]
1106, 25 July 1109, August 1109 or 1111
Guimarães (some argue Viseu)
Died6 December 1185 (aged c. 73–79)
Coimbra, Portugal
(m. 1146; died 1157)
Urraca, Queen of León
Teresa, Countess of Flanders
Sancho I, King of Portugal
FatherHenry, Count of Portugal
MotherTheresa, Countess of Portugal

Afonso I[a] (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐˈfõsu]; 1106/1109/1111 – 1185), also called Afonso Henriques, nicknamed the Conqueror (Portuguese: O Conquistador) and the Founder (Portuguese: O Fundador)[2][3] by the Portuguese, was the first king of Portugal. He achieved the independence of the County of Portugal, establishing a new kingdom and doubling its area with the Reconquista, an objective that he pursued until his death.

Afonso was the son of Theresa of León and Henry of Burgundy, rulers of the County of Portugal. Henry died in 1112, leaving Teresa to rule alone. Unhappy with Teresa's romantic relationship with Galician Fernando Pérez de Traba and his political influence, the Portuguese nobility rallied around Afonso, who revolted and defeated his mother at the Battle of São Mamede in 1128 and became Count of Portugal soon afterwards. In 1139, Afonso renounced the suzerainty of the Kingdom of León and established the independent Kingdom of Portugal.

Afonso actively campaigned against the Moors in the south. In 1139 he won a decisive victory at the Battle of Ourique, and in 1147 he seized Santarém and Lisbon from the Moors, with help from men on their way to the Holy Land for the Second Crusade. He secured the independence of Portugal following a victory over León at Valdevez and received papal approval through Manifestis Probatum. Afonso died in 1185 and was succeeded by his son, Sancho I.

Early life[edit]

Afonso was the son of Theresa, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso VI of León, and her husband, Henry of Burgundy. He was the youngest of 4 children, with the oldest being Urraca Henriques. According to the Crónica de Portugal de 1419 the future Portuguese king was born in Guimarães, which was at the time the most important political centre of his parents. This was accepted by most Portuguese scholars until 1990, when Torquato de Sousa Soares proposed Coimbra, the centre of the county of Coimbra and another political centre of Afonso's progenitors, as his birthplace, which caused outrage in Guimarães and a polemic between this historian and José Hermano Saraiva. Almeida Fernandes later proposed Viseu as the birthplace of Afonso based on the Chronica Gothorum, which states Afonso was born in 1109, a position followed by historian José Mattoso in his biography of the king,[4] regardless of this, it is widely accepted that Afonso was born in Guimarães. Abel Estefânio has suggested a different date and thesis, proposing 1106 as the birth date and the region of Tierra de Campos or even Sahagún as likely birth places based on the known itineraries of Henry and Teresa.[5][6] His place of baptism is also under suspicion: according to tradition the place is indicated as being in the Church of São Miguel do Castelo, in Guimarães; however, there are doubts because of the date of the consecration of the Church, made in 1239. There are those who argue that the baptism actually took place in the Cathedral of Braga where he was baptised by Primate Archbishop Saint Gerald of Braga,[7][8] which is politically sound for Count Henry to have the highest-ranking clergy baptise his heir.

Henry and Theresa reigned jointly as count and countess of Portugal until his death on 22 May 1112 during the siege of Astorga,[9] after which Theresa ruled Portugal alone.[10] She would proclaim herself queen (a claim recognised by Pope Paschal II in 1116) but was captured and forced to reaffirm her vassalage to her half-sister, Urraca of León.[10]

It is not known who was the tutor of Afonso. Later traditions, probably started with João Soares Coelho (a bastard descendant of Egas Moniz through a female line) in the mid-13th century and ampliated by later chronicles such as the Crónica de Portugal de 1419, asserted he had been Egas Moniz de Ribadouro, possibly with the help of oral memories that associated the tutor to the house of Ribadouro. Yet, contemporary documents, namely from the chancery of Afonso in his early years as count of Portucale, indicate according to Mattoso that the most likely tutor of Afonso Henriques was Egas Moniz's oldest brother, Ermígio Moniz, who, besides being the senior brother within the family of Ribadouro, became the "dapifer" and "majordomus" of Afonso I from 1128 until his death in 1135, which indicates his closer proximity to the prince.[11][12]

In an effort to pursue a larger share in the Leonese inheritance, his mother Teresa joined forces with Fernando Pérez de Trava, the most powerful count in Galicia.[10] The Portuguese nobility disliked the alliance between Galicia and Portugal and rallied around Afonso. The Archbishop of Braga was also concerned with the dominance of Galicia, apprehensive of the ecclesiastical pretensions of his new rival the Galician Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Diego Gelmírez, who had claimed an alleged discovery of relics of Saint James in his town, as a way to gain power and riches over the other cathedrals in the Iberian Peninsula. In order to stop her son Afonso from overthrowing her, Teresa exiled him when he was twelve in the year 1120. In 1122, Afonso turned fourteen, the adult age in the 12th century. In symmetry with his cousin, Afonso made himself a knight on his own account in the Cathedral of Zamora in 1125. After the military campaign of Alfonso VII against his mother in 1127, Afonso revolted against her and proceeded to take control of the county from its queen.

Path to sole rulership[edit]

Statue of Afonso Henriques in Guimarães, Portugal

In 1128, near Guimarães at the Battle of São Mamede, Afonso and his supporters overcame troops under both his mother and her lover, Count Fernando Pérez de Traba of Galicia. Afonso exiled his mother to Galicia, and took over rule of the County of Portucale.[10] Thus the possibility of re-incorporating Portucale into a Kingdom of Portugal and Galicia as before was eliminated and Afonso became sole ruler following demands for greater independence from the county's church and nobles. The battle was mostly ignored by the Leonese suzerain who was occupied at the time with a revolt in Castille. He was also, most likely, waiting for the reaction of the Galician families. After Teresa's death in 1131, Alfonso VII of León proceeded to demand vassalage from his cousin. On 6 April 1129, Afonso Henriques dictated the writ in which he proclaimed himself Prince of Portugal or Prince of the Portuguese, an act informally allowed by Afonso VII, as it was thought to be Afonso Henriques's right by blood, as one of two grandsons of the Emperor of Hispania.

Afonso then turned his arms against the persistent problem of the Moors in the south. His campaigns were successful and, on 25 July 1139, he obtained an overwhelming victory in the Battle of Ourique, and straight after was (possibly unanimously) proclaimed King of the Portuguese by his soldiers, establishing his equality in rank to the other realms of the Peninsula, although the first reference to his royal title dates from 1140. The first assembly of the Portuguese Cortes convened at Lamego (wherein he would have been given the crown from the Archbishop of Braga, to confirm his independence) is a 17th-century embellishment of Portuguese history.[clarification needed]


Complete independence from Alfonso VII of León's suzerainty, however, could not be achieved by military means alone. The County of Portugal still had to be acknowledged diplomatically by the neighboring lands as a kingdom and, most importantly, by the Catholic Church and the pope. Afonso wed Mafalda of Savoy, daughter of Count Amadeus III of Savoy, and sent ambassadors to Rome to negotiate with the pope. He succeeded in renouncing the suzerainty of his cousin, Alfonso VII of León, becoming instead a vassal of the papacy, as the kings of Sicily and Aragon had done before him.

King Afonso I at the Siege of Lisbon (oil on canvas by Joaquim Rodrigues Braga)

In Portugal he built several monasteries and convents and bestowed important privileges to religious orders. He is notably the builder of Alcobaça Monastery, to which he called the Cistercian Order of his uncle Bernard of Clairvaux of Burgundy. In 1143, he wrote to Pope Innocent II to declare himself and the kingdom servants of the church, swearing to pursue driving the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula. Bypassing any king of León, Afonso declared himself the direct liege man of the papacy. Afonso continued to distinguish himself by his exploits against the Moors, from whom he wrested Santarém (see Conquest of Santarém) and Lisbon in 1147 (see Siege of Lisbon).[13] He also conquered an important part of the land south of the Tagus River, although this was lost again to the Moors in the following years.

Meanwhile, King Alfonso VII of León regarded the independent ruler of Portugal as nothing but a rebel. Conflict between the two was constant and bitter in the following years. Afonso became involved in a war, taking the side of the Aragonese king, an enemy of Castile. To ensure the alliance, his son Sancho was engaged to Dulce of Aragon. Finally after winning the Battle of Valdevez, the Treaty of Zamora (1143) established peace between the cousins and the recognition by the Kingdom of León that Portugal was a fully independent kingdom.

In 1169 the now old King Afonso was possibly disabled in an engagement near Badajoz, by a fall from his horse and slamming against the castle gate, and made prisoner by the soldiers of King Ferdinand II of León, his son-in-law. He spent months at the hot springs of São Pedro do Sul, but never recovered and from this time onward the Portuguese king never rode a horse again. However, it is not certain if this was because of the disability: according to the later Portuguese chronistic tradition, this happened because Afonso would have to surrender himself again to Ferdinand or risk war between the two kingdoms if he ever rode a horse again. Portugal was obliged to surrender as his ransom almost all the conquests Afonso had made in Galicia (north of the Minho River) in the previous years.[13] This event became known in Portuguese history as the Disaster of Badajoz (o Desastre de Badajoz).

Afonso at the Battle of Ourique witnessing the Miracle of the Cross (dated 1793 by Domigos Sequeira)

In 1179 the privileges and favors given to the Catholic Church were compensated. With consistent effort by several parties, such as the primate archbishop of Braga, Paio Mendes, in the papal court, the papal bull Manifestis Probatum was promulgated accepting the new king as vassal to the pope exclusively. In it Pope Alexander III also acknowledged Afonso as king and Portugal as an independent kingdom with the right to conquer lands from the Moors.

In 1184, the Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf rallied a great Almohad force to retaliate against the Portuguese raids done since the end of a five-year truce in 1178 and besieged Santarém, which was defended by Afonso's son Sancho. The Almohad siege failed when news arrived the archbishop of Compostella had come to the defense of the city and Fernando II of León himself with his army. The Almohads ended the siege and their retreat turned into a rout due to panic in their camp, with the Almohad caliph being injured in the process (according to one version, because of a crossbow bolt) and dying on the way back to Seville. Afonso died shortly after on 6 December 1185. The Portuguese revere him as a hero, both on account of his personal character and as the founder of their nation.[13] There are mythical stories that it took ten men to carry his sword, and that Afonso wanted to engage other monarchs in personal combat, but no one would dare accept his challenge. It is also told, despite his honourable character, that he had a temper. Several chronicles give the example of a papal legate that brought a message from Pope Paschal II refusing to acknowledge Afonso's claim as king: either after committing or saying a small offense against him or after being simply read the letter, Afonso almost killed, in his rage, the papal representative, and it took several Portuguese nobles and soldiers to physically restrain the young would-be king.

Scientific research[edit]

Tomb of Afonso Henriques in the Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra

In July 2006, the tomb of the king (which is located in the Santa Cruz Monastery in Coimbra) was to be opened for scientific purposes by researchers from the University of Coimbra (Portugal) and the University of Granada (Spain). The opening of the tomb provoked considerable concern among some sectors of Portuguese society and Portuguese State Agency for Architectural Patrimony (Instituto Português do Património ArquitectónicoIPPAR) halted the opening, requesting more protocols from the scientific team because of the importance of the king in the nation's heart and public thought.[14][15]


In 1146,[b] Afonso married Mafalda, daughter of Amadeus III, Count of Savoy and Mahaut of Albon, both appearing together for the first time in May of that year confirming royal charters.[16] They had the following issue:[17]

Before his marriage to Mafalda, King Afonso fathered his first son with Chamoa Gómez,[19] daughter of Count Gómez Núñez and Elvira Pérez, sister of Fernando and Bermudo Pérez de Traba:[29][30]

  • Afonso (1140–1207). Born around 1140,[31] according to recent investigations, he is the same person as the one often called Fernando Afonso who was the alferes-mor of the king and later Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller. His presence in the court is first recorded in 1159. In 1169 he succeeded as alferes-mor his half-brother, Pedro Pais da Maia, the legitimate son of his mother and Paio Soares da Maia.[32][33]

The extramarital offspring by Elvira Gálter were:

  • Urraca Afonso.[34] In 1185, her father gave her Avô, stipulating that this villa was to be inherited only by the children that she had with her husband Pedro Afonso de Ribadouro (also known as Pedro Afonso Viegas), grandson of Egas Moniz,[35] which could indicate another previous or subsequent marriage. In 1187, she exchanged with her half-brother, King Sancho, this villa for Aveiro. She died after 1216, the year she made a donation to the Monastery of Tarouca.[36]
  • Teresa Afonso. In some genealogies she appears as the daughter of Elvira Gálter,[37] and in others as the daughter of Chamoa Gómez. Her first marriage was with Sancho Nunes de Barbosa with whom she had a daughter, Urraca Sanches, who married Gonçalo Mendes de Sousa, the father of Mendo Gonçalves de Sousa known as "Sousão".[38] Her second husband was Fernando Martins Bravo, Lord of Bragança and Chaves, with no issue from this marriage.[38]

King Afonso was also the father of:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Or also Affonso (Archaic Portuguese-Galician) or Alphonso (Portuguese-Galician) or Alphonsus (Latin version), sometimes rendered in English as Alphonzo or Alphonse, depending on the Spanish or French influence.
  2. ^ Although the Annales D. Alfonsi Portugallensium Regis, record that the wedding of Alfonso and Mafalda was celebrated in 1145, it was not until a year later, in May 1146, when they both appear in royal charters. Historian José Mattoso refers to another source, Noticia sobre a Conquista de Santarém (News on the Conquest of Santarém), which states that the city was taken on 15 May 1147, less than a year after their marriage. Since at that time no wedding ceremony could be performed during Lent, Mattoso suggests that the marriage could have taken place in March or April 1146, possibly on Easter Sunday which fell on 31 March of that year.[16]


  1. ^ Haydn, Joseph (1860). A dictionary of dates relating to all ages and nations: for universal reference; comprehending remarkable occurrences, ancient and modern, the foundation, laws, and governments of countries, ... and particularly of the British Empire. By Joseph Haydn. Edward Moxon, Dover Street. p. 527.
  2. ^ Congress, Library of. "Afonso I, King of Portugal, 1109?–1185". id.loc.gov. LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Afonso I | king of Portugal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  4. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 26–27.
  5. ^ Estefânio, Abel (July 2010). "A data de nascimento de Afonso I". Medievalista (in Portuguese). 8. Archived from the original on 11 April 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  6. ^ Estefânio, Abel (January 2016). "De novo a data e o local de nascimento de Afonso I". Medievalista (in Portuguese). 19. Archived from the original on 25 October 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  7. ^ Álvaro, Simão (1600s). "Batismo de Dom Afonso Henriques por São Geraldo, Arcebispo de Braga". Museu de Alberto Sampaio. Archived from the original on 23 May 2022. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  8. ^ Cunha, D. Rodrigo da (1634). Primeira [-segunda] parte, da historia ecclesiastica dos arcebispos de Braga, e dos Santos, e Varoes illustres, que florecerão neste arcebispado. Por dom Rodrigo da Cunha arcebispo, & senhor de Braga, primàz das Hespanhas (in Portuguese). Braga: Manoel Cardozo mercador de livros. pp. 2–29.
  9. ^ Mattoso 2014, p. 34.
  10. ^ a b c d Gerli, E. Michael. Medieval Iberia, Routledge, 2013 ISBN 9781136771613
  11. ^ Mattoso, José (1985). João Soares Coelho e a gesta de Egas Moniz. In Portugal Medieval: Novas Interpretações. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional – Casa da Moeda. pp. 409–435.
  12. ^ Mattoso, José (2007). D. Afonso Henriques. Lisboa: Temas e Debates. pp. 35–38. ISBN 978-972-759-911-0.
  13. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHannay, David (1911). "Alphonso s.v. Alphonso I.". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 733.
  14. ^ IPPAR: direcção nacional diz que não foi consultada sobre abertura do túmulo de D. Afonso Henriques Archived 10 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Público, 6 July 2006. Retrieved December 2006 (in Portuguese)
  15. ^ n:Portuguese Culture Ministry suspends opening of Afonso I's tomb
  16. ^ a b Mattoso 2014, p. 220.
  17. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 226–227.
  18. ^ a b c Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 60.
  19. ^ a b c d e Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 71.
  20. ^ a b c d e Mattoso 2014, p. 226.
  21. ^ a b Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 79.
  22. ^ Arco y Garay 1954, p. 168.
  23. ^ Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 80.
  24. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 372–373.
  25. ^ Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 78.
  26. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 287–288, 290.
  27. ^ Mattoso 2014, p. 227.
  28. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 227, 383.
  29. ^ Calderón Medina 2008, p. 42, n. 11.
  30. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 98, 228, 320.
  31. ^ Mattoso 2014, p. 228.
  32. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 227–229.
  33. ^ Calderón Medina 2008, pp. 42–43, and notes.
  34. ^ Caetano de Souza 1735, pp. 28, 64.
  35. ^ Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 64.
  36. ^ Sotto Mayor Pizarro 1997, p. 457, n. 9 and 10, Vol. I.
  37. ^ Caetano de Souza 1735, pp. 28, 63.
  38. ^ a b Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 63.
  39. ^ Mattoso 2014, pp. 103, 229, 388.
  40. ^ Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 28.


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Afonso I of Portugal
Cadet branch of the House of Capet
Born: 1106, 1109 or 1111 Died: 6 December 1185
Regnal titles
New title
Independence from León
King of Portugal
Succeeded by
Titles of nobility
Preceded by Count of Portugal
with Theresa (1112–1126)