Afonso I of Portugal

Afonso I[lower-alpha 1] (European Portuguese: [ɐˈfõsu]; 1106 / 25 July 1109 / August 1109 / 1111  6 December 1185), nicknamed the Conqueror (Portuguese: O Conquistador), the Founder (O Fundador) or the Great (O Grande) by the Portuguese, and El-Bortukali [in Arabic البرتقالي] ("the Portuguese") and Ibn-Arrink or Ibn Arrinq [in Arabic ابن الرَّنك or ابن الرَنْق] ("son of Henry", "Henriques") by the Moors whom he fought, was the first King of Portugal. He achieved the independence of the southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia, the County of Portugal, from Galicia's overlord, the King of León, in 1139, establishing a new kingdom and doubling its area with the Reconquista, an objective that he pursued until his death in 1185, after forty-six years of wars against the Moors.

Afonso I
Portrait in Compendium of Chronicles of Kings (c. 1312–25)
King of Portugal
Reign26 July 1139  6 December 1185
Acclamation26 July 1139
SuccessorSancho I
Count of Portugal
Reign24 June 1128  25 July 1139
BornDisputed: 1106, 1109 or 1111
Disputed: Coimbra, Guimarães or Viseu, Portugal; Tierra de Campos or Sahagún, León
Died6 December 1185 (aged 73–79)
Coimbra, Portugal
SpouseMafalda of Savoy
among others ...
(illeg.) Fernando Afonso
Urraca, Queen of León
Teresa of Flanders
Sancho I
HousePortuguese House of Burgundy
FatherHenry, Count of Portugal
MotherTeresa, Countess of Portugal


Afonso was the son of Henry of Burgundy and Teresa, the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso VI of León and Castile. According to Fernão Lopes' Crónica de Portugal de 1419, the future Portuguese king was born in Guimarães, which was at the time the most important political center of his parents. This was accepted by most Portuguese scholarship until in 1990 Torquato de Sousa Soares proposed Coimbra, the center of the county of Coimbra and another political center 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 basing himself on the Chronica Gothorum, which states Afonso was born in 1109, a position followed by José Mattoso in his biography of the king.[1] 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 counts Henry and Teresa.[2][3]

Henry and Teresa reigned jointly as count and countess of Portugal until his death on 22 May 1112 during the siege of Astorga,[4] after which Teresa ruled Portugal alone.[5] 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 Léon.[5]

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 José 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.[6][7]

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.[5] 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 1122, Afonso turned fourteen, the adult age in the 12th century. In symmetry with his cousin he made himself a knight on his own account in the Cathedral of Zamora in 1125, with the permission of his mother. 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.

Sole count

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 Peres de Trava of Galicia. Afonso exiled his mother to Galicia, and took over rule of the County of Portucale.[5] 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, Afonso VII of León and Castille 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.


Complete independence from Alfonso VII of León's suzerainty, however, was not a thing he just could achieve militarily. 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 Amadeus III, Count 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.

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).[8] 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 (Afonso's cousin) 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, sister of the Count of Barcelona and Infanta 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 Dom Afonso was possibly disabled in an engagement near Badajoz by a fall from his horse, and made prisoner by the soldiers of the king of León Fernando II also his son-in-law. From this time onward, the Portuguese king never rode a horse again, but it is not certain this was because of the disability: according to the later Portuguese chronistic tradition, this happened because Afonso would have to surrender himself again to Fernando II of León or risk war between the two kingdoms if he rode a horse. 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.[8]

In 1179 the privileges and favours given to the Catholic Church were compensated. With consistent effort by several parties, such as the Primate Archpishop 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 crown with the right to conquer lands from the Moors. With this papal blessing, Portugal was at last secured as a kingdom.

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 the heir Sancho. The Almohad siege failed when news arrived the archbishop of Compostela 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, probably out of a sudden cause of death, 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.[8] There are mythical stories that it took 10 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 the 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, taking several portucalense nobles and soldiers to physically restrain the young would-be king.

Scientific research

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.[9][10]


In 1146,[lower-alpha 2] 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.[11] They had the following issue:[12]

Before his marriage to Mafalda, King Afonso fathered his first son with Chamoa Gómez,[14] daughter of Count Gómez Núñez and Elvira Pérez, sister of Fernando and Bermudo Pérez de Traba:[24][25]

  • Afonso (1140–1207). Born around 1140,[26] 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.[27][28]

The extramarital offspring by Elvira Gálter were:

  • Urraca Afonso.[29] 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,[30] 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. [31]
  • Teresa Afonso. In some genealogies she appears as the daughter of Elvira Gálter,[32] 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".[33] Her second husband was Fernando Martins Bravo, Lord of Bragança and Chaves, with no issue from this marriage.[33]

King Afonso was also the father of:

  • Pedro Afonso (died after 1183), Lord of Arega and Pedrógão, mayor of Abrantes in 1179, alferes of King Afonso I between 1181 and 1183, and Master of the Order of Aviz.[34][35]


See also


  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.[11]


  1. Mattoso 2014, pp. 26–27.
  2. Estefânio, Abel (July 2010). "A data de nascimento de Afonso I". Medievalista (in Portuguese). 8.
  3. Estefânio, Abel (January 2016). "De novo a data e o local de nascimento de Afonso I". Medievalista (in Portuguese). 19.
  4. Mattoso 2014, p. 34.
  5. Gerli, E. Michael. Medieval Iberia, Routledge, 2013 ISBN 9781136771613
  6. 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.
  7. Mattoso, José (2007). D. Afonso Henriques. Lisboa: Temas e Debates. pp. 35–38. ISBN 978-972-759-911-0.
  8.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hannay, David (1911). "Alphonso s.v. Alphonso I.". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 733.
  9. 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)
  10. n:Portuguese Culture Ministry suspends opening of Afonso I's tomb
  11. Mattoso 2014, p. 220.
  12. Mattoso 2014, pp. 226–227.
  13. Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 60.
  14. Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 71.
  15. Mattoso 2014, p. 226.
  16. Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 79.
  17. Arco y Garay 1954, p. 168.
  18. Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 80.
  19. Mattoso 2014, pp. 372–373.
  20. Rodrigues Oliveira 2010, p. 78.
  21. Mattoso 2014, pp. 287–288, 290.
  22. Mattoso 2014, p. 227.
  23. Mattoso 2014, pp. 227, 383.
  24. Calderón Medina 2008, p. 42, n. 11.
  25. Mattoso 2014, pp. 98, 228, 320.
  26. Mattoso 2014, p. 228.
  27. Mattoso 2014, pp. 227–229.
  28. Calderón Medina 2008, pp. 42–43, and notes.
  29. Caetano de Souza 1735, pp. 28, 64.
  30. Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 64.
  31. Sotto Mayor Pizarro 1997, p. 457, n. 9 and 10, Vol. I.
  32. Caetano de Souza 1735, pp. 28, 63.
  33. Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 63.
  34. Mattoso 2014, pp. 103, 229, 388.
  35. Caetano de Souza 1735, p. 28.


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  • Baquero Moreno, Humberto (2006). "Portugal e o reino das Astúrias no período de formação". Astúrias e Portugal. Relações históricas e culturais. Actas do Colóquio 5 a 7 de Dezembro de 2005 (in Portuguese). Lisbon: Academia Portuguesa da História. pp. 115–141. ISBN 972-624-164-2.
  • Caetano de Souza, Antonio (1735). Historia Genealógica de la Real Casa Portuguesa (PDF) (in Portuguese). Vol. I. Lisbon: Lisboa Occidental, na oficina de Joseph Antonio da Sylva. ISBN 978-84-8109-908-9.
  • Calderón Medina, Inés (2004). "La nobleza portuguesa al servicio del rey de León 1157–1187. Pero Pais de Maia y Vasco Fernandes de Soverosa". Actas IV Simposio Internacional de Jóvenes Medievalistas, Lorca 2008 (PDF) (in Spanish). Universidad de Murcia, Sociedad Española de Estudios Medievales, Ayuntamiento de Lorca, et al. pp. 39–50. ISBN 978-84-8371-801-8.
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  • Previte-Orton, C.W. (1912). The Early History of the House of Savoy: 1000–1233. Cambridge University Press.
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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
Sancho I
Titles of nobility
Preceded by
Henry and Teresa
Count of Portugal
with Teresa (1112–1126)
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