The Historical Village of Castelo Rodrigo preserves, until today, several references that take us back to medieval times. Traces are also found that attest to the presence of an important community of new Christians (Jews forced to convert)
From the top of a hill, the small village of Castelo Rodrigo dominates the plateau that extends to Spain, in the east, up to the deep Douro valley, in the north. According to tradition, Afonso IX de Leão founded it, to donate it to Count Rodrigo Gonzalez de Girón, who repopulated it and gave it its name. With the Alcanices Treaty, signed in 1297 by King D. Dinis, which defined the borders between Spain and Portugal, it passed to the Portuguese crown.
Castelo Rodrigo preserves the marks of some episodes of territorial dispute. The first took place less than a hundred years after its integration in Portugal, during the dynastic crisis of 1383-1385. D. Beatriz, the only daughter of D. Fernando de Portugal, was married to the king of Castile. Upon the death of his father, and with his accession to the throne, Portugal would lose its independence in favor of Castile. Castelo Rodrigo sided with D. Beatriz, but D. João, Mestre de Avis came to win the Castilians at the Battle of Aljubarrota, in 1385 and for this feat he was crowned king of Portugal with the name of D. João I. As a reprisal for the lords of Castelo Rodrigo having taken sides with Castile, the new king ordered that the shield and arms of Portugal be represented in an inverted position on his coat of arms.
Later, XVI, when Filipe II of Spain annexed the Portuguese Crown, Governor Cristóvão de Mora became defender of the cause of Castile, coming to suffer the revenge of the population that set fire to the huge palace on December 10, 1640 as soon as news arrived there of the Restoration (occurred on the 1st of December), leaving this ancient history the ruins at the top of the hill, next to the castle.
Place of passage for pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela, the legends tell that St. Francis of Assisi himself would have spent the night here on his pilgrimage to the tomb of the Saint.
Being on the pilgrim route to Compostela, the Church of Nossa Senhora de Rocamador was built here, founded by a brotherhood of hospitable friars from France in the 13th century. With some changes of the 14th and 17th centuries, the coffered ceiling with baroque painting and a rococo altarpiece.
In this church is kept an image of Santiago Matamouro (Killer of the moors) and one of Saint Sebastian from the 14th century that, according to tradition, older and still unmarried women pray for luck in love.
Manuel I Rei de Portugal, known as the Fortunate, o Blessed or the Lucky. He was born in Alcochete, a town near Lisbon in 1469 and died in Lisbon in the year 1521. Ninth son of Infantes D. Fernando, 2nd Duke of Viseu and D. Beatriz, married D. Isabel, daughter of the Catholic Kings.
With the Queen’s death due to childbirth, he married second wife the Infanta D. Maria de Castela, sister of D. Isabel, with whom he had ten children, in addition to the first child with his previous wife. Again a widower, he married Infanta D. Leonor, having two more children.
With the death of D. Afonso, legitimate successor to the throne of his priest King D. João II, D. Manuel I was acclaimed as his legatee to the throne in 1495.
King Manuel I’s policy was a continuation line of the previous governments. He continued with the Portuguese overseas exploration campaigns, expeditions that were decisive for the expansion of the empire and that led to the discoveries of Brazil by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500, of the way to India by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and of the Moluccas by Admiral D. Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511.
Likewise, he received from his predecessor a powerful and centralized government with a strong tendency towards absolutism. D. Manuel dedicated himself to tax, legislative and administrative reforms. These reforms were fundamental to configure the Kingdom of Portugal as a modern state.
But the history of this king, which meant so much to the history of Portugal, is also a part worthy of the best soap operas.
Princess D. Leonor was destined for the wife of Prince D. João, heir to the crown of Portugal, and they were both still very young. King Manuel, however, who was widowed for the second time, seeing the portrait of the young princess, who was only nineteen, and says the tradition is of rare beauty, was so pleased with her charms that he decided to choose her for his wife, ignoring the pretensions of the prince his son, thus making his third nuptials.
Carlos V had been acclaimed as emperor of Germany, and had come from Flanders to Zaragoza, where he had met the court, and D. Manuel, on the pretext of congratulating him on having girded the imperial crown, sent Zaragoza as his ambassador, and Major Álvaro da Costa, but the main purpose of this embassy was to deal with the wedding, very secretly, given the circumstances that were taking place.
Álvaro da Costa carried out his mission with great diligence and diplomacy, the proposal was well accepted by the court of Castile, and the negotiations were quickly concluded.
The marriages took place in the same city of Zaragoza on 16 July 1518, with prosecutors being appointed to deal with Ambassador Álvaro da Costa, Cardinal Florent, Bishop of Tortosa, who later was Pope Adriano VI, Guilherme de Croy, duke of Sora; and João le Sauvage, lord of Strambeque.
This marriage of D. Manuel caused a certain astonishment in Portugal, because the monarch had been inconsolable by the death of his second wife, saying that he abdicated the crown on his son, and retired to the Penha Longa convent.
The prince felt great disgust, because he had also fallen in love with the portrait of his future wife, who had now become a stepmother.
After the marriage contracts were concluded, the new queen D. Leonor left Zaragoza, and entered Portugal through Castelo de Vide with the accompaniment of nobles.
The monarch was waiting for her at Crato, and on November 24th there were pompous parties. As there was plague in Lisbon, the royal spouses left with the entire court for Almeirim, where they stayed until the following summer, then passing to Évora, returning to Lisbon only when the epidemic was completely extinguished
D. Manuel I died in December 1521, leaving two more children with his third marriage. It is said, after widowing, D. Leonor recovered his destiny. The 23-year-old woman had a secret relationship with her stepson, D. João III. The secret love for her ex-fiance was a way to recover the lines of destiny that had been broken by D. Manuel I.
D. Afonso VI is one of the Portuguese representatives of the scandals that involve the monarchy.
D. Afonso VI was consecrated as “the Victorious” in the History of the Portuguese Monarchy, because it was during his reign that the decisive battles took place during the restoration war that ended in 1668 with the independence of Portugal from the Spanish kingdom.
But if on the one side he wielded his sword well on the battlefield, with women he did not have the same talent.
But let’s go in order.
D Afonso was the son of D. João IV and D. Luísa de Gusmão. Attacked in childhood by an unidentified disease, he is mentally and physically diminished. With the death of his brother D. Teodósio and his father, he ascends the throne at the age of thirteen, so the regency was left to his mother. The king grew up, rebellious to all the educational action, leading an unruly life and manifesting himself perfectly incapable of assuming the responsibilities of the government.
One of his companions, António Conti, insinuated himself in such a way that he soon lived in the royal palace, at the invitation of D. Afonso VI and having an influence on the business of the kingdom government. The scandal increased to the point that D. Luísa de Gusmão let the Infante D. Pedro, D Afonso’s younger brother, swear as future king and António Conti was arrested.
Meanwhile, the count of Castelo Melhor, advisor of the king and prime minister, carried out a coup d’état, compelling D. Luísa, to hand over the government to D. Afonso VI and forcing her to retire to a convent.
In the good graces of the king, he launched his brilliant political career in his short film, ending victoriously with the War of Restoration and managing to marry D. Afonso with Maria Francisca Isabel de Saboia who very quickly came into conflict with the count, and helped the brother-in-law D Pedro to remove his own husband from the government.
To achieve this, he asked to annul the marriage, accusing the king of impotence. During the process, 14 women participated as witnesses.
D. Afonso VI then experienced the humiliation of having these fourteen women witness his disability in bed!
In the time frame marked between January 9 and February 23 of the year 1668, public hearings took place that aimed to assess a possible sexual incapacity of King D. Afonso VI. The historic moment took place in the archbishop’s palace in Lisbon. 55 witnesses were called to testify, distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, always in the afternoon.
The queen took refuge in the Convento da Esperança, having appointed the Duke of Cadaval as prosecutor in the process.
There was no lack of exquisite details that are present in a manuscript at Torre do Tombo that was published by António Baião, in 1925. Titled Cause of nullity of marriage between Queen D. Maria Francisca Isabel de Saboya and King D. Afonso VI, this document revealed the testimonies of its 14 partners.
None of the women defended D. Afonso VI.
In fact, no one appeared at the hearings to defend D. Afonso, who was later deposed by decision of the Council of State.
With a new conspiracy in the palace, the abdication of D. Afonso VI resulted. D. Pedro took the power, married his sister-in-law, after the annulment of her marriage with D. Afonso and Afonso was exiled to Angra do Heroísmo in 1669, from where he returned in 1674, being then closed in the Palace of Sintra, where you can still visit his prison room, until his death.
D. Pedro II was crowned King, and fulfilled his role well with D. Maria Francisca. 9 months later a princess was born, Isabel Luísa.
Son of Dona Maria II and D Fernando II, D. Pedro V had a careful moral and intellectual education, studying among other disciplines, natural sciences, philosophy, writing and languages. From an early age he showed remarkable intelligence: at the age of two he spoke German and French and at the age of twelve he mastered Greek and Latin, and he also knew English.
He traveled to several countries and tried to bring to Portugal the modernity and evolution he found in these trips, he was liberal and innovative but also charitable and concerned with his people. He inaugurated the first telegraph in Portugal and also the railroad between Lisbon and Carregado and was called “O rei Santo” the king saint because he refused to leave Lisbon during the cholera and yellow fever epidemics from 1853 to 1857 where he provided direct assistance to the victims and created the D. Pedro V asylum to welcome the orphans, giving them primary education and teaching them a trade.
D. Pedro V had no great matrimonial interests, refusing his first promised wife but finally accepting his second, Estefânia de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.
In April 1858, King D. Pedro V and Queen D. Estefânia were married by Proxy, but they only met a month later.
The wedding took place on May 18, 1858, at the church of São Domingos, in Lisbon. The entire city was ready to host the event.
In order to please his future wife, D. Pedro V ordered to make one of the most expensive jewels in the Portuguese Crown in his name and specifically for his wedding. A diadem with more than 4,000 diamonds and it is here, that according to the people, the misfortune of this love story begins.
At the time, diamonds should not be used by virgin women at the wedding and as if that was not an omen, the jewel was so heavy that it made an open wound on the Queen’s forehead. When they left their marriage with blood running down the people dictated their sentence: “Oh poor… she will die!
However, for D Pedro V, after meeting D. Estefânia, everything changed: the couple seemed in love, they walked hand in hand through the gardens of Sintra and Benfica.
But the queen needed to get pregnant. A year after the wedding, the queen felt bad and was hospitalized. At just 22 years of age, the queen died of diphtheria that was contracted at a railroad inauguration in Alentejo.
The husband stayed at the head of her bed, without sleeping, for two whole days. The doctors of the royal house performed an autopsy, but its result was not made public until 50 years later in an article by the famous doctor Ricardo Jorge: the queen died virgin!
On the day of the funeral, Estefânia took with her the precious jewel that on arrival at the place was exchanged for a crown of orange flowers … the jewel, worth 86,953,645 reis, was never seen again.
D. Pedro, sad with the loss of his great love, died on November 11, 1861, at the age of 24. He died of typhoid fever, which he contracted from drinking contaminated water during a hunt.
The Church of São Domingos, a baroque church located in the historic center of Lisbon, next to Praça do Rossio, dates from the 13th century and, in addition to being an important church because royal weddings were celebrated here, is also the protagonist of a history that still makes us shiver today.
The first stone of the Church of São Domingos was laid in 1241, and since then, it has undergone successive restoration and expansion campaigns.
The architectural style of the Church of São Domingos is a mixture of the different periods and influences that shaped it, including in 1748, with the reform implemented by Frederico Ludovice to the chancel, as well as the subsequent reconstruction work by Manuel Caetano Sousa and the reconstruction works that took place after the great fire of 1959. Of the various elements that constitute it, the Mannerists and Baroque stand out.
This Baroque church is classified as a National Monument. It contains mannerist features, with a single nave in a Latin cross, a prominent transept, a rectangular chancel, a circular crypt, a cloister and a sacristy. The exterior is characterized by the simplicity of lines and the interior is rich and eclectic, highlighting its large columns, marble and tiles.
But it is a story that happened here more than 500 years ago that has marked the history of this church forever.
It was in the Church of São Domingos that one of the darkest episodes in Lisbon’s history began: the massacre of the city’s Jews in 1506.
On April 19, 1506, the faithful filled the church, calling for an end to the drought and plague, when a light entered the church and someone said they saw the face of Christ illuminated. Soon everyone started shouting that it was a miracle. In the midst of this, there was a dissenting voice: a new Christian, that is, a Jew who was forced to convert, tried to argue that it was just a physical phenomenon, caused by the reflection of light. Enraged, the crowd turned on him and beat him to death.
It was the beginning of three days of slaughter in the city of Lisbon. The story goes that the Dominican friars cried out against the Jews and urged the people to kill the “heretics”. Many people had already left the city because of the plague, but those who stayed, to which were joined many passing sailors – “of ships from Holland, Zealand, Germany and other place”, wrote Damião de Góis -, did not spare the Jews who crossed their path. Men, women and children were tortured, massacred and burned at the stake, many of them right there near the Church of São Domingos. Between 2,000 and 4,000 Jews are said to have died.
Damião de Góis wrote: “And since they were unable to find new Christians on the streets, they went to rob the houses where they lived and dragged them to the streets, with their sons, women and daughters, and threw them into the mix, alive and dead, at the campfires, without mercy. ”
25 years later, in 1531, a terrible earthquake damaged the church, that was restaured. In 1755, the great Lisbon earthquake damaged the church once again and badly. And it was not the last tragedy. A fire occurred on August 13, 1959.
When the church was rebuilt (it reopened in 1994), it was decided to leave the marks of what had happened. Today the burned walls remind us of the story of the massacre of 1506 – as if the words of hatred of the Dominican friars and the sound of the angry mob and the screams of the Jews still echoed.
After the military coup of 1926, a dictatorship was established in the country. In 1932, Antônio de Oliveira Salazar became the finance minister and dictator and established a regime inspired by Italian fascism.
It was a country where everything was censored and forbidden: primary teachers and nurses could not get married; the bikini was chased on the beaches; the ladies at Mass could not carry their bare arms; to use a lighter they needed a license; newspapers, books, films, plays, songs and music had to go through censorship, were cut and banned.
There was no freedom of expression, press, assembly, demonstration, strike, union, political parties and the right of association was very limited and controlled. There was no right to health, social protection, education or housing and, therefore, a large number of Portuguese people lived without running water, electricity or sewage.
The political police (PIDE) monitored, controlled and recorded the lives of citizens. Intercepted mail, telephones, kept in touch with contacts, travel, participation in leisure, cultural, sports and especially social and political activities. Since the fascists came to power on May 28, 1926, those who opposed and fought for freedom and democracy have suffered the greatest repression.
The state apparatus was adapted as a repressive instrument of the fascist regime.
The clandestine emigration was the escape, in the sixties, for more than one million Portuguese people looking for jobs and living conditions that they did not have in Portugal. In 1968 the dictator suffered a stroke, which resulted in his replacement by his minister Marcelo Caetano, who continued his policy. However, the economic decline that the country suffered, together with the erosion of 13 years of colonial war, caused discontent among the population and the armed forces, which resulted in the appearance of a movement against the dictatorship.
It is in this conjuncture that the military of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), which had been organising and conspiring since 1973, carried out on April 25, 1974, a military coup that overthrows the regime, which falls without offering significant resistance and almost without shots and victims.
But why did this revolution remain in history as a carnation revolution?
Celeste Caeiro was a waitress at Franjinhas restaurant.
That day was the anniversary of the opening of the Franjinhas restaurant with an innovative self-service service, the first in Lisbon. A party where flowers could not be missing. When she arrived at work, Celeste found the door closed and was told by her boss that she would not open it because a revolution was underway. But let the flowers not be wasted.
She took the carnations with her to Rossio, where the military tanks awaited further orders from Salgueiro Maia. A soldier asked Celeste for a cigarette, but Celeste was not a smoker and all she had to give him was one of the carnations she had brought from the restaurant. The soldier accepted the flower and placed it in the barrel of the shotgun, a sign of a revolution without weapons, and soon his companions followed in his footsteps, leading Celeste to distribute all the carnations in her arms.
An unusual gesture, an image that went around the world and installed itself in the imagination of dreamers. Hours later, several florists were striving to ensure that no one was left without flowers, contributing to immortalise them as a symbol of freedom.
In the 13th century, in the kingdom of Aragon, a princess was born who would remain in the history of Portugal forever.
Isabel, also the name of her aunt, Saint Isabel of Hungary, sister of her paternal grandmother, was most likely born in Zaragoza in the Kingdom of Aragon on 11 February 1270. She was the daughter of D. Pedro the Great and Dona Constança of Sicily. On her father’s side, blood from Hungary was flowing in her veins, while on her mother’s side she descended from Manfredo of Naples and Sicily and from Dona Brites de Savoy, her grandparents. The girl, firstborn, among several siblings, was delicate and very beautiful and since childhood, lived a good part in Barcelona, demonstrated a taste for prayer, the candid power to generate affections and reconciliations, naive kindness and promising intelligence. These virtues triggered in several Royal Houses in Europe the strong desire to have her as queen.
In 1279 D. Dinis ascended the throne of Portugal, a cultured monarch, poet, grandson of Afonso X, the Wise. The young king was nineteen and considering, among several other reasons of state, he chose to choose for his queen, Isabel, the daughter of the king of Aragon. Isabel had three suitors, however it is D. Dinis who will have her by the Portuguese throne. The bases of the nuptial contract were signed on April 24 1281.
The wedding took place, by proxy in the city of Barcelona, after a copious epistolary exchange. Just two months later the bride and groom met for the first time in Portuguese lands.
The queen received a significant donation from her husband: Óbidos, which she loved very much, Porto de Mós, Abrantes and 12 more castles.
It was in the city of Coimbra that Queen Isabel began a life full of magnanimity and sanctity with her court. Mother of Constança and Afonso, future king Afonso IV, pious, of supreme charity and devout, the life of the queen remained linked to acts of complacency, of favor through alms, offerings, care, with which she dedicated herself to the poorest.
At the same time, their pleas and diplomacy spread harmony and peace between kingdoms, relatives as well as between husband and son.
The marriage with King D. Dinis lasted about 44 years and only the death of the monarch in 1325 separated the royal spouses. When she remained widowed, D. Isabel wore, from that date, the humble habit of the religious of Santa Clara, and established her residence in Coimbra in the Paço that she had next to the Monastery of the Poor Clares. She survived her husband just over ten years, and in December 1327 she made her second will in which she dedicated her body to a tomb in the Church of the Santa Clara Monastery in Coimbra. Between the Palace and the Convent, the queen combined the duties of the Crown with devotion and piety, followed by days of prayer, works of charity, fasting and fatigue that time does not appease.
In June 1336, the queen was informed that her son was going to fight in combat with his grandson D. Afonso IV of Castile. King Afonso IV and his court were already in Estremoz, D. Isabel, mother and grandmother, aged 66, undertook a long and painful journey of dozens of leagues between Coimbra and Estremoz. The journey was tiring and exhausting, the Queen arrived very ill and died on the 4th of July 1336.
The next day, the king, complying with his mother’s latest determinations, ordered the transfer of the body to Coimbra.
Queen Dona Isabel was esteemed by the people for her works of charity, in death the same people began to venerate her remains, worshiping him believing in miracles and in her holiness. King D. Manuel asked the Holy See to beatify Queen D. Isabel, granted by Pope Leo X in 1516. In the 17th century, the tomb was opened, declaring who saw that the queen’s body was uncorrupted and with an aroma of flowers. The queen was holy. In May 1625 Pope Urban VIII solemnly canonised Queen Dona Isabel, changing her name to Queen Saint Isabel. When the coffin was transported from the Monastery of Santa Clara Velha to Monastery of Santa Clara a Nova, after the waters of the Mondego had completely flooded the old convent, the tomb was opened again and, to the amazement of all, it was verified that the body remained uncorrupted and that the smell was still the scent of flowers.
The miracle of roses
A legend said that the king, already irritated by her always walking with beggars, forbade her to give more alms. But one day, seeing her sneak out of the palace, he went after her and asked what she was hiding under his cloak.
It was bread. But she, distressed to have disobeyed the king, exclaimed:
– They’re roses, sir!
“Roses, in January?” He doubted.
With her eyes down, Queen Saint Isabel opened her lap – and the bread had turned into roses, as beautiful as they had ever been seen.
D. Dinis is one of the greatest figures in Portuguese history. He was, at his time, one of the most respected Kings in the world. Known as the “King Poet” (because he wrote 173 poems in Galician-Portuguese) or the “Farmer King”, D. Dinis was the 6th monarch of Portugal and reigned for 46 years. He is described as cultured, just, sometimes cruel, pious, determined and intelligent. Son of D. Afonso III and Beatriz de Castela, he was born on the day of S. Dinis, on October 9, 1261, in Lisbon. In 1279, at the age of 17, D. Dinis came to the throne of a country that was living in unstable times. Between 1280-1287, in order to establish peace in Portugal, he negotiated with the Holy See. The relationship with the church was deteriorated for many years, reaching the point, for example, that King Afonso III was excommunicated. Early in his reign, in 1280, D. Dinis thought of marriage and possibly political issues. He found his ideal wife in Isabel de Aragon, popularly known today as the “Holy Queen”. The marriage would be made 2 years later, in Barcelona, by proxy. Queen Isabel was … 10 years old! Upon arriving in Portugal, the ceremony was held in Trancoso. And then they settled in Coimbra. From this marriage they had two children: D. Constança and D. Afonso, future D. Afonso IV. However, D. Dinis had several extramarital relationships, of which he had children, who were educated by the Holy Queen! D. Dinis took several measures, such as: he created a system of laws, he created fairs, he bet on fishing and other maritime activities, he gave land to cultivate to those who had no means.
In Entre Douro e Minho he divided the land into couples, each couple later coming to give rise to a settlement. In Trás-os-Montes the king adopted a collectivist regime: the lands were handed over to a group that shared the charges, certain services and buildings were communal, such as the bread oven, the mill and the guard of the flock. In 1290, he founded the first university in the country, which was located in Lisbon and later moved to Coimbra.
He established Portuguese as an official language in the drafting of documents and made an alliance with Aragon. Between 1319 and 1324 he was at war with his son D. Afonso. They ended up making peace. However, the chronicles say that, because of this conflict, the relations with his wife, the Holy Queen, was never healthy again. In 1290, after the Portuguese reconquest was over, King Dinis I of Portugal decreed that the “vulgar language” (Galician-Portuguese spoken) be used instead of Latin at court, and named “Portuguese”. The troubadour king had adopted his own language for the kingdom, just as his grandfather had done with Castilian. In 1296 Portuguese was adapted by the royal chancellery and started to be used not only in poetry, but also in the drafting of laws and by notaries. 7th January 1325, with 63 years (really old for the time) D Dinis passed away in Santarém. He was buried in the Odivelas Monastery, a building that he created. Analyses made to his tomb indicate that the “King Poet” was very healthy (he incredibly died with all his teeth), allowing to conclude that he measured 1.65 meters and had red hair and beard.