The ruins of the Carmo Convent, founded 1389, in Lisbon; the convent was partially destroyed by the earthquake of 1755
(photo: Peter Decherney).
Josiah Blackmore



Even with the plague and attendant depopulation, this period sees a rapid expansion of commerce and trade in Lisbon beginning with the reign of Pedro I (1357-67).  Lisbon becomes center of the economic, social, political, and cultural life of Portugal.  Trade relations with England and Edward III are established in 1353, and the first Anglo-Portuguese political alliance formed in 1373.  Lisbon is a bustling international port, attracting merchants from Castile, Aragon, France, England, and especially Italy (Genoa).  1418 sees first recorded voyage of exploration on behalf of Prince Henry, “the Navigator” (to Porto Santo off Madeira).

End of Galician-Portuguese lyric school

This vibrant poetic tradition, beginning in the late 12th century and lasting for approximately 150 years, is coming to an end; this tradition became known as the Galician-Portuguese “school” of poetry because Galician-Portuguese was the poetic lingua franca of most of Iberia during this time.  It was a court-centred tradition.  Now we see the rise of Castilian as a poetic language, alongside Portuguese: but there are still things to be said about Galician-Portuguese compositions of the late 14th century.  After the decline of this tradition, and before the cultivation of a strong prose tradition beginning in c. 1419, the period 1348-1418 sees relatively little literary productivity in Portuguese.

Texts: Cancioneiro gallego-castelhano; selected texts of Galician-Portuguese poets.

Rise of Avis dynasty and importance of historiography<

Complex political and genealogical relations between Portugal and Castile threaten Portuguese political autonomy.  The battle of Aljubarrota (1385) secured Portuguese independence from Castile.  It also prompted the election of John, Master of Avis (and bastard son of Pedro I), elected as king (John I) against the Galician interests of Leonor Teles, wife of the deceased Fernando I.  A new ruling dynasty was thus established.  (The court of John I would become a hotbed of literary activity, but really only after the period covered here.)  Historiographic writing was crucial in establishing the legitimacy of the House of Avis and in tracing and differentiating genealogical lineages between Portugal and Spain.  Fernão Lopes, first royally-appointed chronicler, assumes a central role after 1418 (he is already a functionary in this year).  Continuing interest is shown in the Alfonsine (from Alfonso X of Castile) tradition and in the genealogical history of Pedro, Count of Barcelos.

Texts: Crónica Geral de Espanha de 1344 (revised c. 1400); 1380-83 rev. of Pedro’s Livro de linhagens

Cultivation of prose

The Avis dynasty stimulates interest in political, religious, moral, and psychological issues, and in sportsmanship.  There is also marked interest in religious writings, plus early manifestations of Arthurian material (to be significantly developed later).  Pedro’s Livro de linhagens attests to interest in prose narrative of various types, mixing the historical and the fantastic; it might be considered as proto-romance.

Texts: Livro de linhagens; Livro de falcoaria; Livro da montaria; Horto do Esposo.

1415 and the beginnings of maritime empire

Under the orders of John I, the Moroccan city of Ceuta is captured by the Portuguese in August 1415.  This initiates the campaign of maritime, imperial expansion that will last for centuries, setting Portugal in the global arena.