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History, Muslim Domination and the Christian Reconquest

Portucale, Alfonso VI, Portus Cale, Spanish kingdom, Afonso Henriques

In 711 Muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula from Africa and deposed the Visigothic monarchy. Several small Christian kingdoms in the north of the peninsula, however, resisted Muslim expansion. In 997 the territory between the Douro and Mino rivers (now northern Portugal) was captured from the Muslims by Bermudo II, king of Leon. By 1064 the Christian struggle to reclaim lands from the Muslims, known as the Christian reconquest, was completed as far south as present-day Coimbra under Ferdinand I, king of Castile and Leon. The reconquered districts were then organized into a feudal county, composed of fiefs loyal to Spanish kings.

In 1093 Alfonso I, the Christian king of Castile (who also ruled Leon as Alfonso VI), called on the assistance of a French nobleman, Henry of Burgundy, to help defeat a siege of Muslims at Toledo (in what is now central Spain). In gratitude Alfonso named Henry count of Portugal and awarded Henry land on the Atlantic seaboard between the Douro and Mino rivers. This land, named Portus Cale (later called Portucale) after a former Roman settlement on the Douro, became the basis of modern Portugal.

On the death of Alfonso in 1109, Count Henry, and later his widow, Teresa, refused to continue feudal allegiance to Castile and Leon. Henry invaded the Spanish kingdom and began a series of peninsular wars, but with little success. In 1128 Henry’s son, Afonso Henriques, rebelled against Teresa and defeated her in battle. Afonso Henriques declared Portugal independent from Castile and Leon in 1139 and proclaimed himself Afonso I, the first king of Portugal. Eight years later Afonso, assisted by Christian Crusaders bound for the Holy Land, seized Lisbon from the Muslims. In 1179 Afonso obtained papal recognition of the title of king, placing the Portuguese kingdom under the protection of the Holy See. Afonso, as founder of the Portuguese monarchy, remains a Portuguese national hero.

Article key phrases:

Portucale, Alfonso VI, Portus Cale, Spanish kingdom, Afonso Henriques, Bermudo, Henry land, French nobleman, Spanish kings, Muslim expansion, Christian Crusaders, central Spain, king of Leon, northern Portugal, Iberian Peninsula, Roman settlement, king of Portugal, Castile, Douro, Holy Land, Toledo, Atlantic seaboard, Ferdinand, Teresa, Leon, Lisbon, lands, Muslims, widow, battle, territory, founder, assistance, Africa, years, protection


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