back The Castle of Guimarães and Paço dos Duques is an important icon of Guimarães’ local identity, and an important piece in the city’s list of tourism assets. Over 500.000 people visit the monument every year, making it a relevant source of revenue and attention for the municipality. The palace is extremely well kept, much like the rest of the city’s historical center. It’s one of the many symbols of a glorious medieval past which has Guimarães as its starting point. It invokes an history of conquest, self-determination and expansion. However, a key event in this palace’s past should make us rethink the legitimacy of this building as an artifact of a distant, fabulous era, but also how the citiy’s cultural agents sell this monument to outside visitors. António de Oliveira Salazar giving a speech atop of the Castle of Guimarães, 1938 André Ventura, far-right presidential candidate and party leader, giving a speech in front of the Castle of Guimarães, 2021
Statue of D. Afonso Henriques, erected in 1887
Guimarães is a small city in the northern region of Portugal which boasts an extremely well kept, UNESCO protected historical center. It was the location of the seminal battle that kicked off Portugal’s independence in 1128, and is traditionally thought to be the birthplace of D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. As such it’s widely regarded as the “birthplace (or “cradle”) of the nation”. This medieval heritage is an integral part of the town’s identity, and a huge source of pride for the people of Guimarães.
This medieval heritage is an important tourism asset and a ubiquitous marketing tool.
D. Afonso Henriques Stadium “Founder” Hotel Moto “Founder” Cradle of the Steaks. A reference to “Cradle of the Nation”
However, is this ubiquity a result of a natural dissemination of culture and tradition, or was it artificially boosted at some point?
Let’s look at two examples.
Castelo de Guimarães Back walls of the castle Front view of the Palace. Paço dos Duques Aerial view of Monte Lamito (Lamito Hill) Satelite view. Bottom left: Palace; Center left: Castle; Top right: S. Mamede Field.
These are two of the town’s most important tourist spots, and some of the most iconic symbols of its medieval heritage. For most of their existence however, these buildings have been neglected and left to degrade. Here are their respective descriptions as found on the Guimarães Tourism website:
Castle: “In the 10th century, Countess Mumadona Dias, after becoming a widow, had a monastery built at her homestead in Vimaranes - today Guimarães. The constant attacks by the Moors and Normans leads to the need to build a fortress to guard and defend the monks and the Christian community that lived around them. Thus emerges the primitive Castle of Guimarães. In the 12th century, with the formation of the Portucalense County, Count D.Henrique and D.Teresa came to Guimarães to have major works carried out in the Castle in order to expand it and make it stronger. Tradition says that it was in the interior of the Castle that the counts took up residence and D. Afonso Henriques was probably born there. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, several kings will contribute to the improvement and restoration of the Castle. Linked to heroic exploits of the period of the foundation of nationality, such as the Battle of S. Mamede in 1128, which is why it is known as Castelo da Fundação or S. Mamede, it has served throughout its history as stage for several real conflicts. Having lost its defensive function, the Castle enters a process of abandonment and progressive degradation until the 20th century, when it was declared a National Monument and restoration works were carried out.” Palace: “Majestic manor house from the 15th century, built by D. Afonso - future Duke of Bragança, bastard son of King D. João I - which served as his residence and his second wife, D. Constança de Noronha. Palace of vast dimensions, with architectural features of a fortified house, roofs with strong slopes and numerous cylindrical chimneys that show the influence of the manor architecture of Northern Europe, it is a unique example in the Iberian Peninsula. The 16th century marks the beginning of progressive abandonment and consequent ruin that worsened until the 20th century. The rebuilding of the palace began in 1937 and lasted until 1959, (...)”
The Salazarist regime plans a celebration of the 8th centenial of D. Afonso Henrique’s self proclamation as king of Portugal for the year of 1940 The preparations include the restoration of the two monuments. The Palace would also be used as the dictator’s oficial residence in the North.
1910 picture of the decrepit Castle 1938 photo of the front façade of the Palace 1940
Stills from 1940 propaganda video at the time of the Castle’s inauguration during the commemorations
The castle viewed from S. Mamed Field, filled with a bustling crowd. Extras dressed as crusader knights during the ceremony. Salazar walking down the steps of the Castle walls. Members of the Mocidade Portuguesa, a Salazarist youth organization saluting Salazar’s train on the way to Guimarães. 1940-1959
Paço dos Duques didn’t make it in time for the commemorations, and its restoration would last until 1959. This was its state in 1938.
Front view of the Palace. Inside view. Inverse inside view. South wall.
After the presentation of many architectural projects, the proposal put forth by Rogério de Azevedo was chosen. He would move away from the project in the years to come.
Model of one of the restoration proposals, 1940. Model of one of the restoration proposals, 1940.
Blueprint of what was left of the palace in 1938. Final palace blueprint after restoration, 1959.
Paço dos Duques in its final form, 1960. A complete modification from its original form.
Front view of the Palace. Inside view. Inverse inside view. South wall.
One of the regime’s propaganda strategies was to associate itself with the country’s glorious historical feats.
Crusader knights, reconquering lands from the Arabs, christianity. Guimarães’ heritage makes it naturally prone to far-right propagandizing.
Post from André Ventura’s facebook page.
“Yesterday I had the Castle of Guimarães behind me, and I felt the immense responsibility to reconquer Portugal from the socialism and corruption that is killing our Nation.”
Guimarães symbolises the assertion of the Portuguese nationality against larger powers.
Simultaneously, it also represents distrust and beligerence against external elements.
The appropriation of history is a conservative urge to preserve a strong continuity between present and past. An attempt to reconnect with older layers of an identity as a form of nostalgia, often caused by fear of change. Did Salazar’s intervention in Guimarães go beyond its buildings? Does this local pride aid far-right ideologies? How do we perserve Guimarães’ history without perserving the resistance or distrust to foreign/unknown elements?
Proposals 1. Contribute to an accurate representation of the city’s history, while respecting the folk elements.
Host talks in the town’s already thriving cultural programmes about an honest, version of the history of Guimarães.
2. Debrand, rename the Paço dos Duques.
Guimarães has a strong identity, it doesn’t need to pretend the current building was once a Palace of Dukes. The building contains a rich collection of medieval weapons, tapestry and furniture, why not brand it as a Museum?
3. Make Guimarães’ relevance in 20th Portuguese history a tourist asset on its own.
Portugal has an incredibly rich 20th century history, why not frame Guimarães as part of that history? Talk about what was happening in Guimarães during the dictatorship, how did Salazar view the city? What role did the city have in the struggle for democracy?