With most of its border facing the ocean, it is no surprise that Portugal has witnessed so many departures and arrivals throughout the centuries. Thus, we have long become open to the world and the endless possibilities of communication and contact with others. We have absorbed the influences of many other peoples: the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans (who have left us to this day the language that we speak), the Norse and the people from Mauritania. Even with all these influences and interferences, our country is one of the oldest in Europe. It gained its independence in the twelfth century, thanks to the actions of count Afonso Henriques, who later went on to become our first king. A century later, with the conquest of the Algarve, Portugal had already defined its continental borders.
In the thirteenth century, king D. Dinis founded our first University, one of the oldest in Europe, and took it to the city of Coimbra. Throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we were the first Europeans to sail to Africa, the Far East and the depths of the South American continent, from where we brought many treasures. Before we set sail along the coast of Africa, we found the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, which are still part of our territory in the Atlantic.
After a severe dynastic crisis that put us under the rule of Spain for sixty years, we regained our independence and our own Portuguese king in 1640, because, although discrete, we have always maintained a strong sense of independence. In the eighteenth century, D. João V, an absolutist king but also a lover of the arts, ordered the construction of the immense palace/convent of Mafra and the big Aqueduct, which brought water to the city of Lisbon. In the nineteenth century, political struggles gradually weakened the Monarchy, which finally collapsed in 1910, the year that signalled the birth of the Republic in Portugal.
We have been part of the European Union since 1986, but that does not mean we do not value our own virtues.
With such a singular History, you will eventually realize that our Art is quite different from everything you have already experienced. Some of our styles are, in fact, unique, and you’ll find that in our «Manuelino», a celebration of our era of discoveries; in the way we have preserved the art of tiles («azulejos»), and in our «Fado», a traditional song of melancholy and nostalgia.