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Coimbra: The king’s capital

The birth of the Portuguese nation is far from ordinary. It hides a rich and unusual story, full of interesting details. However, there is a “detail” that deserves our undivided attention more than all others and its name is D. Afonso Henriques.

D. Afonso Henriques was the first king of Portugal, the ruler who chose Coimbra as the nation’s capital and who led the country’s fate from the city of students. He remained in his city of choice even after his death! And that’s why this month we dedicate our report to D. Afonso Henriques.

To D. Afonso Henriques, Coimbra was the most important city of the Portuguese kingdom.

Afonso I, born on June 25th of 1109 in an unknown location (although Coimbra is the most likely place), will forever be an unforgettable name in Portuguese history. But perhaps this is not the best name to describe the first king of Portugal: D. Afonso Henriques sounds definitely better!

Known as ‘The Conqueror’ or ‘The Founder’, D. Afonso Henriques founded the Portuguese nation in 1139 after conquering the southern part of the Galicia kingdom and defeating the Spanish troops commanded by the emperor Afonso VII of Castile and Leon.

The creation of the new country – approved in 1179 by the Catholic Church – was the icing on the cake. It completed the Reconquista, the conquest plan that D. Afonso Henriques pursued throughout his life, which faced strong opposition from the Spanish and the Moors.

But even before the creation of Portugal and nomination of the Mondego city as the kingdom’s capital, the region of Coimbra was already a reference. It was in Coimbra that D. Afonso Henriques promoted the foundation of historical icons like the Monastery of Santa Cruz.

D. Afonso Henriques would eventually govern Portugal from Coimbra for 57 years, becoming the subject of many legends and stories. One revolves around the king’s gigantic sword, which was so big it could only be carried by at least ten men. The king would use this sword to challenge all other monarchs, but none of them accepted the challenge because they feared the Portuguese monarch.

Afonso I died in 1185, ruling the new nation until the end of his life. He was buried in the Church of Santa Cruz, in the historical center of Coimbra. Today, you can still visit the church and see the tomb of Portugal’s first king.


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Hotel Oslo - Coimbra
Av. Fernão de Magalhães, 25
3000-175 Coimbra, Portugal
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