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History & Architecture
The Iberians and Celts were the original settlers in the region that is today known
as Portugal, but these people eventually intermarried
the emigrating people to the region to create a completely different ethnicity.
This began after the Punic Wars, when the Carthaginian coastal cities were overtaken
by the Romans in the late 200s BC. The Romans' infrastructure and communication
slowly Latinized the people of both Spain and Portugal
by introducing a new language and later a new religion in Christianity. However,
as the Roman Empire weakened, Portugal fell into numerous small kingdoms until the
Modern-day Portugal and the most of the Iberian Peninsula
was overtaken and unified by the Moors from North Africa
in the early 700s. The Moors were Muslim and encouraged conversion by forcing a
tax on the local Christians and Jews (although they were allowed to practice). This
system did encourage a large number of conversions, but never converted a majority
of the country to Islam. The Moors also introduced a number of new systems and foods
in the country, forever altering the culture.
As Christian groups slowly began to take control over various lands in the Iberian
Peninsula, the Portuguese founded their first state in 868, but didn't gain
full independence until 1139. Despite independence the country was rather small
in comparison to today and only in the mid-1200s did Portugal
finally defeat the Muslim Moors in the south to establish something very similar
to their modern-day borders.
In the mid-1300s the Black Death struck Portugal and
war with Castille (in Spain) broke out, but quickly ended
with Portuguese victory. This was followed by a relatively peaceful and prosperous
time for Portugal. The 1400s gave rise to Portugal's power on the seas as they
established trade along Africa's coasts and later that century, in 1498, Vasco
da Gama reached India as Portugal took control over the Indian-European spice trade.
Portugal spent much of the 1500s colonizing, most notably
Brazil, Goa, and what is today East Timor (Timor-Leste); they were also the first
Europeans to land in Australia and New Zealand. However,
Portugal's independence weakened in 1580 when their king died without an heir
and the Spanish ruler, Philip II took control of the country.
Although they nominally maintained their independence, this led to Portuguese involvement
in Spanish wars and eventually led to the loss of Portugal's monopoly on Indian
Ocean trading routes. In the mid-1600s Portugal tired of Spanish rule so an uprising
put a Portuguese king back on the thrown.
In the late 1700s a number of social and political reforms were undertaken and in
the early 1800s the Spanish allowed Napoleon's
French troops into their country to invade Portugal.
With the support of the British, the Portuguese
held off the French and maintained independence. This, however was only the beginning
of many of Portugal's problems as, soon after, Brazil gained independence and
Portugal's power went into a continuous decline.
Economic disasters in the early 1900s led to the assassination of the king and his
son, which was followed by revolution, a second new government, a coup, and the
beginning of a dictatorship in 1926. Shortly after the new government took power,
World War II (WWII) broke out, but Portugal managed
to maintain neutrality.
After WWII, Portugal joined NATO and became more involved
in European affairs while, after focusing on their African
territories, eventually moved out of Africa and
Asia entirely. In the 1970s Portugal overthrew their government and again
welcomed a democratically elected body. In the 1990s the European Union (EU) was
founded with Portugal being an original member and the colony of Macau was handed
over to China. In 2002 East Timor was also granted independence.
Much of Portugal's historic architecture is in the
Gothic style, although the Portuguese dragged this style out for years so it's
quite diverse. Additionally, due to outside influences from the Moors and later
as Portugal rose to a world power, there is incredible diversity in Portuguese architecture.
However, older than these styles, there are some Roman ruins that remain in
Portugal, although few are in good condition. The Roman city of Aquae Flaviae
has some of the best remaining examples (in Chaves).
The next major influence was from the Moors, who arrived from
North Africa via Spain. The Moors have few surviving
constructions in Portugal today, but there are a couple
remaining examples, primarily in the form of forts as most mosques were restructured
into churches and are hardly recognizable as former mosques today. One of the better
preserved castles from this time is Silves Castle (700-1200s).
There are numerous Romanesque buildings in Portugal
today; some of the best examples of this style are in the country's two largest
cities: Porto and Lisbon. The Cathedral of Lisbon (or Patriarchal Cathedral of St.
Mary Major; 1147-1200s) and Porto's Cathedral are excellent examples in this
style. The Convent of the Order of Christ (begun in the 1100) in Tomar is fairly
unique as it was built by the local Knights Templar and has a slightly altered style.
Nossa Senhora da Conceicao
The Gothic style in Portugal is primarily found in churches
today. The Alcobaca Monastery (1153-1200s) best displays the Portuguese variety
on this larger style. Few other early Gothic examples are worth noting though, as
the style in Portugal truly emerged later. The extraordinarily unusual Monastery
of Batalha (1385) is a late Gothic structure unlike any other building. The gothic
period continued until the early 1500s and this time period includes one of the
purest examples of Portuguese architecture in the Monastery of the Hieronymites
(begun in 1502).
As Portugal reached its peak of power in the 1500 and
1600s, their architectural achievements during this time somewhat represent this,
but there wasn't as much building as expected during a prosperous time. The
Renaissance and Baroque styles, popular in much of Europe
at the time, weren't well liked by the Portuguese so little from these styles
were built. Most of the structures that were built in these styles are in Tomar,
which was home to the seat of the Order of Christ, which oversaw most of Portugal's
overseas territories. In Tomar, the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (1532-1540), the
Cloister of John III, and the town square are all in either the Renaissance or Baroque
Church in Lisbon
During this same time, Evora was home to the Portuguese
kings so developed a unique style of whitewashed buildings and homes, which directly
led to the growth of this style in Brazil and in other Portuguese colonies.
In the 1800s the neo-Classical style rose in popularity, particularly in Lisbon
after the city was struck with an earthquake and had to be re-built. The Ajuda National
Palace in the capital is a prime example from this time period. Also in the 1800s
the similarly styled Romantic period flourished and the town of Sintra is a great
example of this style.
Although Lisbon was almost wholly rebuilt since the 1700s, it still has a number
of excellent architectural examples throughout history as does Porto. However, perhaps
the best place to see the full scope of Portuguese architecture
is in Tomar, which has ruins from the Romans and has added buildings over history
until the modern day, making it a great destination for an architectural buff.
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