The city of Guimarães is historically associated with the foundation and identity of the Portuguese nationality. Guimarães, among other settlements, precedes the foundation of Portugal and because of its role in the foundation of the country it is known as the “cradle of the Portuguese nationality”. In 1128, major political and military events that would lead to the independence and the birth of a new nation took place in Guimarães. For this reason, in one of the old towers of the city’s old wall it is written “Aqui nasceu Portugal” (Portugal was born here).
From the foundation of Guimarães to the foundation of Portugal
Statue of Mumadona Dias, in front of the city court.
After the political actions of the Reconquista organized by the Kingdom of Galicia in the 9th century, the medieval foundations of the actual city have roots in the 10th century. At this point, the Countess Mumadona Dias, erected a monastery in her property of Vimaranes, which originated the fixation of people in the area known as “vila baixa” (downtown). At the same time, she ordered the construction of a castle on the hill area which became known as “vila alta” (uptown), to defend the settlement. To connect these to other areas, the Rua de Santa Maria was built.
The monastery became the “Real Colegiada” (Royal Collegiate church) and throughout time acquired importance due to the privileges and donations given to it by nobles and kings and it became a famous pilgrimage site.
Henry, Count of Portugal approved the first national foral possibly in 1096 (but not confirmed). The foral proves the growing importance of the village of Guimarães at that time, which was chosen as the capital of the County of Portugal.
On 24 June 1128, the “Batalha de São Mamede” (Battle of São Mamede) took place in Guimarães.
During the reign of the king Denis, as the village was expanding, it was partially surrounded by defensive wall. In the meanwhile, mendicant orders got settled in Guimarães and helped to mold the shape of the city. Later, during the reign of John I the wall would be torn down and the two parts of the city (uptown and downtown) would be finally united and the city started to expand outside the city walls.
Modern and contemporary
Until the 19th century the structure of the city did not suffer many transformations besides the construction of a few more churches, convents and palaces. It was by the ending of the 19th century that new urbanistic ideas of hygiene and symmetry that the village, that was promoted to city by the Queen Maria II in 23 June 1853 had its greatest changes.
The complete demolition of the city walls was authorized and the creation of many streets and avenues could start at that point. The controlled process of urbanization permitted the conservation of the city’s magnificent historical center.