County of Portugal

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County of Portugal

Condado Portucalense
Condado de Portugal
Condado portucalense carte-1070-fr.png
Second County of Portugal
StatusVassalage of the Kingdoms of Asturias, Galicia and León
Capital Braga
Common languages Old Portuguese
Andalusian Arabic
Roman Catholicism
Government Feudal monarchy
Count of Portugal  
Vímara Peres (first of the first county)
Nuno II Mendes (last of the first county; Brief Annexation to the Kingdom of León
Henry of Burgundy (first of second county)
Afonso Henriques (last of the second county)
ISO 3166 code PT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Emirate of Córdoba
Emblema del Reino de Asturias.svg Kingdom of Asturias
Bandeirareinogaliza.svg Kingdom of Galicia
Royal Banner of Leon (1157-1230).svg Kingdom of León
Kingdom of Portugal PortugueseFlag1143.svg
Today part ofFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain

The County of Portugal (Portuguese : Condado de Portugal, Condado Portucalense, Condado de Portucale; in documents of the period the name used was Portugalia [1] ) refers to two successive medieval counties in the region around Braga and Porto, today corresponding to littoral northern Portugal, within which the identity of the Portuguese people formed. The first county existed from the mid-ninth to the mid-eleventh centuries as a vassalage of the Kingdom of Asturias and later the Kingdoms of Galicia and León, before being abolished as a result of rebellion. A larger entity under the same name was then reestablished in the late 11th century and subsequently elevated by its count in the mid-12th century into an independent Kingdom of Portugal.


First county

The history of the county of Portugal is traditionally dated from the reconquest of Portus Cale (Porto) by Vímara Peres in 868. He was named a count and given control of the frontier region between the Limia and Douro rivers by Alfonso III of Asturias. South of the Douro, another border county would be formed decades later when what would become the County of Coimbra was conquered from the Moors by Hermenegildo Guterres. This moved the frontier away from the southern bounds of the county of Portugal, but it was still subject to repeated campaigns from the Caliphate of Córdoba. The recapture of Coimbra by Almanzor in 987 again placed the County of Portugal on the southern frontier of the Leonese state for most of the rest of the first county's existence. The regions to its south were only again conquered in the reign of Ferdinand I of León and Castile, with Lamego falling in 1057, Viseu in 1058 and finally Coimbra in 1064.

The leaders of the first county of Portugal reached the height of their power in the late 10th century, when Count Gonzalo Menéndez may have used the title magnus dux portucalensium ("grand duke of Portugal") and his son Menendo used the title dux magnus (grand duke). It could have been this Count Gonzalo who assassinated Sancho I of León after inviting the King to a banquet and offering him a poisoned apple. [2] Not all historians, however, believe that Gonzalo Menéndez was responsible for the king's death and some attribute the regicide to a contemporary count named Gonzalo Muñoz. [3]

In the late 960s Gonzalo's lands were ravaged by Vikings, and in 968, he fell out with king Ramiro III over the latter's refusal to fight the raiders. His son Menendo had close relations with Ramiro's rival and successor, Bermudo II, being made the king's alférez and tutor of his son, the future king Alfonso V. Following Alfonso's succession, Menendo would serve as regent for the boy king and marry him to one of Menendo's daughters.

The county continued with varying degrees of autonomy within the Kingdom of León and, during brief periods of division, the Kingdom of Galicia until 1071, when Count Nuno Mendes, desiring greater autonomy for Portugal, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Pedroso by King García II of Galicia, who then proclaimed himself the King of Galicia and Portugal, the first time a royal title was used in reference to Portugal. The independent county was abolished, its territories remaining within the crown of Galicia, which was in turn subsumed within the larger kingdoms of García's brothers, Sancho II and Alfonso VI of León and Castile.

Second county

The former Kingdom of Galicia, then including modern Portugal as far south as Coimbra, was given by Alfonso VI as a county to his son-in-law Raymond of Burgundy. However, concern for Raymond's growing power led Alfonso in 1096 to separate Portugal and Coimbra from Galicia and grant them to another son-in-law, Henry of Burgundy, wed to Alfonso VI's illegitimate daughter Theresa. [4] [5] Henry chose Braga as the base for this newly formed county, the Condado Portucalense, known at the time as Terra Portucalense or Província Portucalense, [6] which would last until Portugal achieved its independence, recognized by the Kingdom of León in 1143. Its territory included much of the current Portuguese territory between the Minho River and the Tagus River. [6]

Count Henry continued the Reconquista in western Iberia and expanded his county's dominions. He was also involved in several intrigues inside the Leonese court together with his cousin Raymond and sister-in-law Urraca of Castile, in which he supported Raymond's ascension in return for promises of autonomy or independence for Portugal. In 1111 the Muslims conquered Santarém. [7] When Count Henry died in 1112, the population of the County of Portugal, including the powerful families, favored independence. Henry's widow, Theresa, took the reins on behalf of her young son, and allied herself with Galician nobility in order to challenge her sister queen Urraca's dominance and briefly used the title Queen. [8] [9] However, she was defeated by Urraca in 1121 and forced to accept a position of feudal subservience to the Leonese state.[ citation needed ] Her own son, Afonso Henriques, took the reins of the government in 1128 after routing his mother's forces in the Battle of São Mamede, near Guimarães. After this battle, he began to exhibit a seal with a cross and the word "Portugal". He continued to win battles, supported by the nobles of Entre-Douro-e-Minho, eventually triumphing in the Battle of Ourique in 1139, which led to his proclamation as King of Portugal by his troops. [10] Nevertheless:

Even then, between 1128 and 1139 he never used the title of king, but rather that of princeps or infante , which means, in fact, that he could not resolve on his own account, the issue of his political category; that is, he had to admit that it depended on the consent of Alfonso VII who was, in fact, the legitimate heir of Alfonso VI. Also, he never used the title of "count" which would place him in a clear position of dependence vis-à-vis the king of León and Castile. (translation) [11]

It was finally in 1143 when his nominal overlord Alfonso VII of León and Castile recognized the de facto independence of Portugal in the Treaty of Zamora. [12]

List of counts

First county
Second county
Family tree
House of Vimara Peres.PNG


  1. Recognized as "Queen of Portugal" in 1116 by Pope Paschal II, but forced to renounce the claimed independence in 1121, although she would continue to be styled "Queen" in later documents.
  2. Proclaimed king by his troops in 1139, and recognized as independent by the king of León in 1143. [12] Portugal was acknowledged as an independent kingdom by Pope Alexander III in 1179. [13]

Related Research Articles

Afonso I of Portugal 12th-century King of Portugal

Afonso I, nicknamed the Conqueror, the Founder or the Great by the Portuguese, and El-Bortukali and Ibn-Arrink or Ibn Arrinq by the Moors whom he fought, 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.

Ferdinand I of León King of León

Ferdinand I, called the Great, was the Count of Castile from his uncle's death in 1029 and the King of León after defeating his brother-in-law in 1037. According to tradition, he was the first to have himself crowned Emperor of Spain (1056), and his heirs carried on the tradition. He was a younger son of Sancho III of Navarre and Muniadona of Castile, and by his father's will recognised the supremacy of his eldest brother, García Sánchez III of Navarre. While Ferdinand inaugurated the rule of the Navarrese Jiménez dynasty over western Spain, his rise to preeminence among the Christian rulers of the peninsula shifted the locus of power and culture westward after more than a century of Leonese decline. Nevertheless, "[t]he internal consolidation of the realm of León–Castilla under Fernando el Magno and [his queen] Sancha (1037–1065) is a history that remains to be researched and written."

Kingdom of León Former country, from 910-1230 CE

The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León. The Kings of León fought civil wars, wars against neighbouring kingdoms as well as campaigns to repel invasions by both the Moors and the Vikings, to protect their kingdom's changing fortunes.

Theresa, Countess of Portugal Countess-Queen of Portugal

Theresa was Countess and Queen of Portugal. She rebelled against vassalic ties with her half-sister Urraca and was recognised as Queen by Pope Paschal II in 1116. After being captured she was forced to accept Portugal's vassalage to the Kingdom of León in 1121, although she was allowed to keep her royal title. Her political and amorous affairs with Galician nobleman Fernando Pérez de Traba led to her ouster by her son, Afonso Henriques, who with the support of the Portuguese nobility and clergy defeated her at the Battle of São Mamede in 1128.

Urraca of León Queen of León, Castile, and Galicia

Urraca called the Reckless, was Queen of León, Castile, and Galicia from 1109 until her death in childbirth. She claimed the imperial title as suo jure Empress of All Spain and Empress of All Galicia.

Henry, Count of Portugal Count of Portugal

Henry, Count of Portugal, was the first member of the Capetian House of Burgundy to rule Portugal and the father of the country's first king, Afonso Henriques.

Vímara Peres Count of Portucale

Vímara Peres was a ninth-century nobleman from the Kingdom of Asturias and the first ruler of the County of Portugal.

Battle of São Mamede

The Battle of São Mamede took place on 24 June 1128 near Guimarães and is considered the seminal event for the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal and the battle that ensured Portugal's Independence. Portuguese forces led by Afonso Henriques defeated forces led by his mother Teresa of Portugal and her lover Fernão Peres de Trava. Following São Mamede, the future king styled himself "Prince of Portugal". He would be called "King of Portugal" in 1139 and was recognised as such by neighbouring kingdoms in 1143.

This is a historical timeline of Portugal.

This is a historical timeline of Portugal.

Raymond of Burgundy Count of Galicia

Raymond of Burgundy was the ruler of Galicia from about 1090 until his death. He was the fourth son of Count William I of Burgundy and Stephanie. He married Urraca, future queen of León, and was the father of the future Alfonso VII.

FernandoPérez de Traba, also Fernão Peres de Trava in Portuguese, was a nobleman and count of the Kingdom of León who for a time held power over all Galicia. He became the lover of Countess Teresa of Portugal, through whom he attained great influence in that domain, and was the de facto ruler of the County of Portugal between 1121 and 1128. The Poema de Almería, a Latin poem celebrating one of Alfonso VII's major victories of the Reconquista, records that "if one were to see him [Fernán], one would judge him already a king."

Elvira García, was Queen of Leon by marriage to King Bermudo II, and regent of Leon jointly with Count Menendo González during the minority of her son Alfonso V from 999 until 1008.

Alfonso Núñez was a Galician nobleman and military leader.

Gómez Núñez Portuguese military leader

Gómez Núñez was a Galician and Portuguese political and military leader in the Kingdom of León. His power lay in the valley of the Minho, mainly on the north side, bounded by the Atlantic on the west and corresponding approximately with the Diocese of Tui. There, according to a contemporary source, he had "a strong site, a fence of castles and a multitude of knights and infantry."

Menendo González was a semi-autonomous Duke of Galicia and Count of Portugal (997–1008), a dominant figure in the Kingdom of León. He was the royal alférez, the king's armour-bearer and commander of the royal armies, under Vermudo II, and he continued to hold the position until his death. He became the tutor (1003) and ultimately father-in-law of Vermudo's successor, King Alfonso V. He maintained peaceful diplomatic relations with the Caliphate of Córdoba until 1004, after which there was a state of war.

Nuno Mendes or Nuño Menéndez was the last Count of Portugal from the family of Vímara Peres. The son of Count Mendo Nunes, his desires for greater autonomy for Portugal led him to face King Garcia II of Galicia. On 18 February 1071 he fought in the Battle of Pedroso, near the Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães, and his defeat and death led the winning Garcia II to call himself King of Galicia and Portugal. The County of Portugal was then subsumed into the crowns of Galicia and León until regranted by King Alfonso VI of León and Castile a quarter-century later.

Alvito Nunes or Aloyto Núñez was an 11th-century Count of Portugal. Following the death of Menendo González in 1008, he governed the county jointly with Toda, count Menendo's widow.

Lucídio Vimaranes was the second Count of Portugal within the Kingdom of Asturias, which was divided internally into several provinces called "counties". Portus Cale was one of these counties which was incorporated in the Kingdom as a new land conquered from the moors. Although Lucídio's parentage is not confirmed in any source, all historians agree that based on his uncommon patronymic, he was most probably the son of Vímara Peres. Upon the death of his father, King Alfonso III of Asturias entrusted him with the government of the county jointly with Count Hermenegildo Gutiérrez who was succeeded by his son Gutier Menéndez. In the 11th-century, his great-grandson Count Alvito Nunes, initiated a second period in which the family governed the County of Portugal after succeeding Count Menendo González, son of Count Gonzalo Menéndez.


  1. Ribeiro, Ângelo; Hermano, José (2004), História de Portugal I – A Formação do Território[History of Portugal: The Formation of the Territory] (in Portuguese), QuidNovi, ISBN   989-554-106-6
  2. Abdurrahman Ali El-Hajji (1965), "Christian States in Northern Spain During the Umayyad Period (138–366 A.H./A.D. 755–976): The Borders of those States, their kings, Internal Relations; Its Influence on their Relations and Motives for their Diplomatic Relations with the Muslims," Islamic Quarterly, 9(1/2), 51; Roger Collins (1983), Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400–1000 (Macmillan), 242.
  3. Mattoso 1982, pp. 22–23.
  4. Barton 1997, p. 14.
  5. Ferreira 2010, p. 23.
  6. 1 2 Serrão 1990, p. 145.
  7. Serrão 1990, p. 147.
  8. "Donation document of Soure Castle to the Knights Templar by Queen D.Teresa in 1126 ("Ego Regina Tarasia")". Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo. 1126. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015.
  9. "Donation document of the burg of Porto to Bishop Hugo by Queen D.Teresa in 1120". Câmara Municipal do Porto.
  10. Mattoso 2014, pp. 166–172.
  11. Mattoso 2014, p. 137.
  12. 1 2 Mattoso 2014, p. 212.
  13. Mattoso 2014, p. 359.