With such a long sea coast, it is not surprising that Portugal has witnessed so many sailings and arrivals. This is why we have been open to the world and to communication for so long. We have assimilated peoples of different origins: Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans (who left us our language), northern Europeans and peoples from Mauritania.
In spite of all these mixtures, Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe. In the 12th century, the country gained its independence from the other kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula thanks to Count Afonso Henriques, who was our first king at his own wish. A century later, with the conquest of the Algarve, Portugal was todefinitively establish its continental border.
In the late 13th century, King Dinis founded our university, one of the oldest in Europe, and took it to the beautiful city of Coimbra. In the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to sail to Africa, the distant Orient and the heart of South America, from where we brought a wealth of treasures. Even before advancing along the coast of Africa, we discovered the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, which are part of our territory in the Atlantic.
After a dynastic crisis and a period under the rule of the Spanish crown, in 1640 a Portuguese king took the throne once more, because, although we are discrete, we have a strong sense of independence. In the 18th century, King João V, an absolutist monarch and a patron of the arts, built a huge palace and convent in Mafra and the great aqueduct that supplied Lisbon’s water. In the 19th century, the monarchy was weakened by clashes between different factions and, in 1910, it was overthrown and Portugal became a republic.
We have been members of the EU since 1986, though we still value our own virtues.
From this brief history, you will see that our art is a little different from that you already know.
Note some of the peculiarities, especially the “Manueline” style, which exalted the age of the discoveries, the way we have learned to work with tiles and our fado, the song of nostalgia.