Nuno Álvares Pereira

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Nuno Álvares Pereira
Constable of Portugal
Count of Barcelos, Ourém, and Arraiolos
In office
6 April 1385 – 1 November 1431
MonarchJohn I of Portugal
Preceded byÁlvaro Pires de Castro
Succeeded byJohn of Portugal
Lord High Steward
In office
6 April 1385 – 1 November 1431
MonarchJohn I of Portugal
Preceded byGarcia Rodrigues de Taborda
Succeeded byDiogo Lopes de Sousa
Personal details
Born24 June 1360 (1360-06-24)
Cernache de Bonjardim, Portugal
Died1 November 1431 (1431-12) (aged 71)
Convent of the Carmelites, Lisbon, Portugal

Nuno of Saint Mary

São nun'alvares pereira.jpg
Born24 June 1360
Cernache de Bonjardim, Kingdom of Portugal
Died1 November 1431
Convent of the Carmelites, Lisbon, Portugal
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified23 January 1918 by Pope Benedict XV
Canonized26 April 2009, Rome, Papal States by Pope Benedict XVI
Major shrineChurch of Santa Engrácia
Feast6 November
AttributesKnight, sword, fleur-de-lis, Carmelite habit

D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, OCarm (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈnunu ˈalvɐɾɨʃ pɨˈɾɐjɾɐ]; 24 June 1360 – 1 November 1431) was a Portuguese general of great success who had a decisive role in the 1383-1385 Crisis that assured Portugal's independence from Castile. He later became a mystic and was beatified by Pope Benedict XV, in 1918, and canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.[1]

Nuno Álvares Pereira is often referred to as the Saint Constable (Portuguese: Santo Condestável) or as Saint Nuno of Saint Mary (Portuguese: São Nuno de Santa Maria), his religious name.[2] He was count of Barcelos, Ourém and Arraiolos.


Nun'Álvares Pereira coat of arms

Nuno Álvares Pereira was born on 24 June 1360 in Cernache do Bonjardim, central Portugal, the illegitimate son of Dom Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira, prior of Crato and Iria Gonçalves do Carvalhal.[3] His grandfather was Dom Gonçalo Pereira, the archbishop of Braga from 1326 until 1349. He was descended from the oldest Portuguese and Galician nobility.

About a year after his birth, the child was legitimized by royal decree[4] and so was able to receive a knightly education typical of the offspring of the noble families of the time.

At 13 years of age he became page to Queen Leonor.[3] At age 16, he married Leonor de Alvim, a rich young widow.[3] Three children were born to the union, two boys who died early in life, and a girl, Beatriz, who married Afonso, son of King John I and founder of the House of Braganza.[2]

Military life[edit]

Álvares Pereira began military service in 1373, when he was only 13, and helped stop an invasion from Castile. However, according to his own words, his first military campaigns were no more than skirmishes on the borders of Portugal. He was an impetuous and brave young man who soon showed himself to be an excellent leader.

When King Ferdinand I of Portugal died in 1383, his only heir was Beatrice, married to king John I of Castile. In order to preserve Portuguese independence, the nobles supported the claim of King Ferdinand's half-brother John, Master of Aviz to the throne. After his first victory over the Castilians, in the Battle of Atoleiros (April 1384), John of Aviz named Nuno Álvares Pereira protector and constable of Portugal, in practice supreme commander of Portugal's armies, and count of Ourém.[5] He was only 24 years old.

Álvares Pereira used guerilla tactics trying to dislodge the Castilian army besieging Lisbon in 1384 but plague finally drove them away.[6]

In April 1385, John of Aviz was recognized as king by the Cortes. This triggered an invasion of the country by King John I of Castile, in support of his wife's rights to the throne. Nuno Álvares Pereira was engaged against the northern cities loyal to the Castilians. During this time of war, he fed the hungry populations of his Castilian opposition at his own expense.[5]

On 14 August 1385, at Aljubarrota he led 6,500 volunteers to victory against a Castilian force of over 30,000, thus ending the threat of annexation. He attributed the victory to the Blessed Virgin, whose name, Maria, was inscribed on his sword.[5] Dedicated to Mary, he fasted on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The banner he chose as his personal standard bore the image of the cross, of Mary and of the saintly knights James and George. At his own expense he built numerous churches and monasteries, among which was the Carmelite church in Lisbon and the church of Our Lady of Victories at Batalha.[2]

After the 1383-1385 Crisis, Álvares Pereira was made the count of Arraiolos and Barcelos, which, along with the previous one, were the only three countships existing at the time and which had been taken from nobles who had taken the part of Castile. He was also made the major majordomo of the realm.

Not wanting to give the enemy room to manoeuvre, the king of Portugal and his supreme general took the offensive and raided several Castilian towns, defeating once again a much larger Castilian army at the Battle of Valverde.[4] He continued to watch out for the king of Castile, until his death in 1390. When hostilities ended, he gave the bulk of his wealth to the veterans.[2]

Religious life[edit]

Statue of Nuno Álvares Pereira atop the portal of Santo Condestável church, Lisbon

After the death of his wife, he became a Carmelite friar (he joined the Order in 1423) at the Carmo Convent (Lisbon) which he had founded[4] in fulfilment of a vow, and took the name of Friar Nuno of Saint Mary (Portuguese: Frei Nuno de Santa Maria). There he lived until his death on 1 November 1431. He was noted for his prayer, his practise of penance and his filial devotion to the Mother of God. Nuno suffered from debilitating arthritis.[7]

During the last year of his life, King John I went to visit and embrace him for the last time. He wept for he considered Nuno Álvares Pereira his closest friend, the one who had put him on the throne and saved his country's independence.

Nuno Álvares Pereira's tomb was lost in the famous 1755 Lisbon earthquake. His epitaph read:

"Here lies that famous Nuno, the Constable, founder of the House of Bragança, excellent general, blessed monk, who during his life on earth so ardently desired the Kingdom of Heaven that after his death, he merited the eternal company of the Saints. His worldly honors were countless, but he turned his back on them. He was a great Prince, but he made himself a humble monk. He founded, built and endowed this church in which his body rests."


Statue of Nuno Álvares Pereira on horseback in Batalha

Álvares Pereira was beatified on 23 January 1918 by Pope Benedict XV.[4] He was celebrated liturgically on 1 April as an obligatory memorial by the Order of Carmelites and as an optional memorial by the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

Álvares Pereira had been on the point of being canonised by decree in 1940 by Pope Pius XII. According to a recent statement by the postulator general of the Carmelite Order, his canonisation was postponed for diplomatic reasons (the Portuguese ambassador indicated that the time was not right).[8]

On 3 July 2008 Pope Benedict XVI signed two decrees in Rome, promulgating the heroic virtues of Nuno Álvares Pereira and the authenticity of a miracle that had already been previously confirmed as such by medical and theological commissions. By this act, the pope formally canonised Friar Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira. The public celebration of his canonisation took place on 26 April 2009 in Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican City. The Carmelites now celebrate St Nuno on 6 November; the date also appointed for his feast in Portugal.

The Blessed Nuno Society is a mission society and prayer apostolate officially recognized by the Catholic Church as a diocesan Private Association of the Christian Faithful and affiliated with, the Catholic Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "26 April 2009: Holy Mass for the Canonization of Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, Gertrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli | BENEDICT XVI".
  2. ^ a b c d "Nuno De Santa Maria Álvares Pereira (1360-1431) - Biography".
  3. ^ a b c "St. Nuno Alvares Pereira, Religious (M)". THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE CARMELITE ORDER.
  4. ^ a b c d "Cronologia da vida de Santo Condestável" (in Portuguese). Secretariado Nacional da Pastoral da Cultura.
  5. ^ a b c d "Biography of Blessed Nuno of St. Mary". Archived from the original on 2013-08-15. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  6. ^ "Insight Scoop - The Ignatius Press Blog".
  7. ^ "The Canonization of Dom Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira".
  8. ^ Comments by the Postulator General Centrum Informationalis Totius Ordinis Carmelitorum (CITOC), No. 3 – May–June 2000 (English edition)]

External links[edit]

Nuno Álvares Pereira
Born: 24 June 1360 Died: 1 November 1431
Portuguese nobility
Preceded by 7th Count of Barcelos
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Juan Fernández Andeiro
3rd Count of Ourém
Succeeded by
Preceded by 2nd Count of Arraiolos
Succeeded by