INTRODUCTION

The Iberian Peninsula was occupied successively by different people, from the Lusitans to Phoenicians, Romans, Sueves, Celts, Goths, Visigoths and later by Arabic and Berber ipeople.
It however was part of Iberia as a whole. Times were hard, as the Iberian Peninsula was, at the time preceding the birth of Afonso Henriques, occupied by Moors except for the northern part, of which the Kingdom of Leon was one of the Christian Kingdoms left.
The French Count Henry (Henrique) of Burgundy was one of many knights that came to the general aid of the Peninsular Christian Kingdoms in the Crusading movement to draw back the Moors, and then to reach Jerusalem.
Henrique de Borgonha, the Portuguese way of naming Henry of Burgundy, married Dona Teresa, natural daughter of King Alfonso VI of Leon. As part of the dowry he was given the County of Portucal, and the castle of Guimar„es.
Afonso Henriques was born in 1109 in the city of Coimbra. The name Henriques meant Son of Henrique, his father. In 1109 Alfonso VI of Leon died and a power struggle begun between Dona Urraca, his legitimate daughter and Dona Teresa, which led to numerous wars.
However by 1112 Henry of Burgundy died, and his wife continued the struggle with her half-sister. She has by then sided with a Galician nobleman, her lover Count of Trava. Such association made her forget her duties to her son, and most of all, to the powerful archbishop of Braga.

This behaviour lead to the rebellion of Afonso Henriques which would defeat her mother's troops at S. Mamede, very near the Castle of Guimar„es in 1128.
In fact, in 1122 at the very early age of 13, Afonso Henriques anticipates in seven centuries the act of Napoleon. He ignored the Cardinal at knighted himself at Zamora.
The rebellious young count took possession of the Castle of Guimar„es, and from there he departed into fighting for his County, the Condado Portucalense.
Afonso Henriques was one of the warrior heroes of medieval romance; his exploits were sung by troubadours throughout south-western Europe, and even in Africa "ibn Errik" (the son of Henry) was known.
The annals of his reign are filled with feats among which the description of the Valdevez tournament, in which the Portuguese knights vanquished the champions of Leon and Castile. Judging by later deeds of the Portuguese, it would not be a surprise.
While the contemporary world focuses on History according to political or merchantilistic interests, my task is to humbly contribute to make a small but proud country better known.

GUIMAR√ES - THE CITY AND THE CASTLE

The city of Guimar„es is just about 50 km from Porto and Unesco has designated it world heritage.
I had the pleasure to revisit what is considered the birthplace of Portugal.
The city is now one of the chosen places for period movies by European film makers. You will understand why by viewing the pictures I took.
THE ENTRANCE TO THE CITY

Guimar„es greets the visitor with beautiful gardens so typical of the North. Two ends of the access main avenue and a side picture.
Below one is quickly led into the historical center, as if what surrounds us is not as historic as well.

TOWARDS THE HISTORICAL CENTER
As
we go through narrow and very well cared of narrow streets reminiscent of past eras, we reach the first square which is the Oliveira Square. Romanesque architecture greets the visitor while later houses and manor houses are now transformed into tourist cafes and other points of attraction.

As tourists sunbathe religious architecture offers itself in its fortified Romanesque style.

Different angles of the church give way to arch that allow passage to another square of the ancient city where it is difficult to date houses which are definitely built on top the ruins of their predecessors or are carefully conserved.

At this second square we select one of the many restaurants. We do look for traditional food as a cultural element.

After posing outside we seat inside and order traditional food and a plate of ham, cheese and olives with bread. The bread is very rural. The food was peasant's traditional food. After lunch we head towards the castle looking around.

On the way to it we stop at the Tourist Office in a nicely restored house. There are plenty.

THE CASTLE
As
we start to climb towards the castle, I recall it is on top of a hill, a very good defensive position.

The statue of Afonso Henriques dominates the proximity of the castle, while we first see the Romanesque chapel where he was baptized, according to tradition.

As the climb continues, the castle reveals itself amongst trees. I wonder if it had trees before. It is not a big castle. It was built as early as the 10th. century. The right picture allows to view how the defenders looked down in case of a siege.

The entrance is through this not very large door. Once inside it is possible to view that walking near the entrance or around the open air areas was not an easy task with the rough stones. The center picture shows the missing wooden floors and also a fireplace is visible in the center picture.

The guards walk adjacent to the castle walls is wide and would allow for troops movement. Tourists do not understand that they better take one staircase to go up and another down. Me and my son decide to visit the tower in the center.

We climb very steep stairways to different levels inside. The center picture shows my son climbing up the final part leading outside. It is extremely steep, and it would take proficiency to get outside armed and with armour. Then, outside the wind is very strong, so strong it made my ears hurt and gave me loss of balance.

However the city of Guimar„es offers itself to a wide view from the tower. It is not a large castle. But from here Afonso Henriques and possibly his 300 odd men started to build a country. My country, small but like all others, made of some very brave men who, in this case, were the first to sail as far as Japan, in little nutshells. Here is my homage.

The visit to Guimar„es more than 30 years after I have been there, was a very interesting experience.

 

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