Shifting Priorities: Portuguese Relations with the Latin Church in the Thirteenth Century



During the twelfth century a careful embrace of European cultural influence had brought significant advantages to the Portuguese ruling family. Afonso Henriques’ effective use of his status as a pious defender of Christendom’s southern frontier was instrumental in the achievement of political independence from Leonese authority. In the wake of this success, Portuguese society at all levels had benefited from a greater engagement with the economic and cultural life of the Atlantic seaboard, and royal power had been consolidated as a result. Yet even as the monarchy grew in stature and in confidence, royal relations with the Church began to show signs of strain. For the political advantages Afonso had won through his shrewd dealings with the papal curia were not without price. In order to secure the support of Rome in his bid for royal status, Afonso had been obliged to make significant concessions to the religious institutions in the new kingdom. All too soon, his successors were to find that the position of virtual autonomy the Portuguese clergy had won was incompatible with their own ambitions for a centralised royal authority. The stage was set for what was to prove a prolonged and bitter confrontation between secular and ecclesiastical power in Portugal.


Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century Portuguese Society Military Order Shifting Priority 
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© Stephen Lay 2009

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