What to see in Olivença Portugal

What to see in Olivença, Portugal

There is a dispute over 200 years old, between Portugal and Spain, for the sovereignty of Olivença. The “question” of Olivença has had difficult moments since 1297, when D. Diniz agreed with Castile to draw up the borders. A story worth remembering and leaving the challenge of finding Portugal in a disputed place, but in a peaceful neighborhood. We leave a list of suggestions on what to visit in Olivença.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

History of Olivença, Portugal

Olivença was reconquered from the Moors by the Templars and became part of Portuguese territory in 1297, by agreement with the kingdom of León and Castile, in the Treaty of Alcanizes (Alcañices in Castilian).

This treaty, signed by the Portuguese king D. Dinis and the king of León and Castile, D. Fernando IV, defined the layout of the border lines, which remained, with the exception of the loss of Olivença in 1801.

The Alcanizes Treaty exchanged territories under Portuguese law for other places in the Kingdoms of Leon and Galicia, one of which was Olivença.

To maintain a climate of peace, the treaty also established the marriages of her two children. The future King of Portugal, D. Afonso IV, with D. Beatriz de Castile, and D. Fernando IV, with the Infanta D. Constança.

In the National Archives of Torre do Tombo, there is a copy of this Treaty in Spanish.

D. Dinis ordered the construction of a fortification and, later, D. João II reinforced it with the construction of a keep. At 37 meters high, this is the tallest of the fortress towers on the Portuguese border. If you have time, add this place to the list for things to visit in Olivença.

The bridge that connects Elvas to Olivença, over the Guadiana River, was ordered to be built by King Manuel I, at the site of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda.

The “Question” of Olivença

Olivença is currently part of the Autonomous Community of Spanish Extremadura and is the subject of litigation between Portugal and Spain.

The Alcanizes Treaty established Olivença as part of Portugal, but in 1801, by the Treaty of Badajoz and following the invasion of Portugal by the Franco-Spanish forces of Napoleão Bonaparte and Manuel de Godoy, Portugal was forced to sign this agreement.

Agreement denounced by the King Regent of Portugal, D. João VI, in 1808, in Brazil, where the Royal family had moved following the invasion.

Napoleon, with Godoy's support, intended to defeat the Great Britain with which Portugal had an alliance, the Treaty of Windsor of 1386, still in force today.

After Napoleon's defeat, the allied forces entered Paris in March 1814. The Treaty of Paris ended the hostilities of the Napoleonic wars, signed in April of that same year and to which D. João, Prince Regent of Portugal adhered.

The Congress of Vienna, in 1815, also ratified by Spain, defines that Spain must return the territories in its possession to Portugal, and for that purpose it must employ all possible efforts.

This never happened.

Manuel de Godoy and the War of the Oranges

Godoy, born in Badajoz, from a modest family, joined the Spanish Royal Guard at the age of 17.

He became friends with the Princes of Asturias and became the mistress of Princess Maria Luisa of Parma.

When these princes came to the throne in 1788, their career was given a strong boost.

He was a Cavalry Colonel at the age of 22 and in 1791 was promoted to Lieutenant General.

At the age of 25, in 1792, he was appointed Prime Minister of Spain.

Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain through the Pyrenees in 1793 and, faced with several military setbacks, Manuel de Godoy decides to ally himself with France in 1796, declaring war on Great Britain.

Godoy's journey from that point onwards was very troubled.

As early as 1797, the Spanish fleet was destroyed in front of Cabo de São Vicente, a sea area patrolled by Portugal. The British Navy will have been alerted to be able to react quickly.

Godoy was forced to resign in 1798, but returned to government in 1801 with the support of Napoleon Bonaparte.

It was in this new context that he attacked Portugal, after declaring war on February 27, 1800.

It conquered several fortresses in Alentejo, as was the case of Olivença.

It is called the orange war, because Manuel de Godoy presented a branch of orange to his sovereign, Queen Maria Luísa.

The “Questão” of Olivença and the Portugal Spain relationship

The Franco regime, which was established after the Spanish Civil War, was marked by a strong repression against everything that was not Castilian.

This vision obviously had an impact on Olivença as well. The use of the Portuguese language was repressed with penalties ranging from fine to imprisonment. Portuguese street names have been eliminated and even people's names have been changed to their Castilian equivalent. The administration of the territory was carried out by new Spanish colonists.

Popular festivals and folklore were persecuted, Portuguese coats of arms vandalized, and it was forbidden to pray to traditional Portuguese saints, such as Santo António. (Source: Wikipedia, oliventine portuguese).

Until the 1940s, the language spoken there was mainly Lusophone and at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, Oliventino Portuguese is only spoken among the elderly.

The 1980s, with the democratization of Portugal, after the revolution of April 1974 and of Spain, with the withdrawal of Franco, and with the integration into the European Union in 1986, led to the disappearance of borders and Olivença is twinned with several cities Portuguese heritage, with the Portuguese heritage being recovered.

In coordination with Spain, Portugal undertook the construction of a new bridge and the reconstruction of the Ponte da Ajuda, which had been partially destroyed by the Spanish army, in the War of Restoration (1640).

In 2008, several Spanish and Portuguese municipalities reached an agreement to create a Euroregion (Source: RTP News).

In 2010, new toponyms in tiles were inaugurated in the center of Olivença.

The Portuguese sidewalk was once again visible in some places in the city's historic center.

Portuguese sidewalk Olivença Portugal
Portuguese sidewalk Olivença Portugal

What to visit in Olivença

A list of suggestions for what to visit in Olivença: don't miss these four.

Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval

Today, it is the seat of the Municipality of Olivença (Ayuntamiento) in the Plaza de la Constitution.

There is a beautiful Manueline-style door, with the Cross of Christ, the armillary sphere and the 5 corners.

Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, what to visit in Olivença
Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, Olivença

This former Palace of the Conde de Olivença came to belong, by inheritance, to the Dukes of Cadaval.

The first Count of Olivença was Rodrigo Afonso de Melo. Title awarded by D. Afonso V in 1476, as a prize for his services as advisor, main guard and captain of Tangier.

Church of St. Mary Magdalene

It was the Cathedral of the Bishopric of Ceuta, in the time of Henrique de Coimbra, buried here.

It is a beautiful work of art, in the purest Manueline style, with a wide variety of very traditional Portuguese tiles that are worth contemplating.

Church of St. Mary Magdalene
Church of St. Mary Magdalene

Friar Henrique of Coimbra

He was a friar in the first Franciscan Convent in Portugal. He was born in Coimbra in 1465 and was confessor of King D. João II and was at the Convento de Jesus de Setúbal.

Frei Henrique de Coimbra Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Diego Delso, CC 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Frei Henrique de Coimbra Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Diego Delso, CC 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

traveled in the fleet of Pedro Alvares Cabral which arrived in Brazil in 1500.

Above all, he is known for having celebrated the first mass in Brazil on April 26, 1500.

First Mass in Brazil, Screen by Vítor Meireles de Lima, Brazil, 1860, CC 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
First Mass in Brazil, Screen by Vítor Meireles de Lima, Brazil, 1860, CC 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

On this expedition, he led a group of religious who later accompanied him on missions in the East. In one of these missions, five of the eight religious who accompanied him were killed in an encounter with Muslims. After this mission Henrique de Coimbra returned to Portugal.

After that failed mission, D. Manuel I chose him as Bishop of Ceuta, who was confirmed by Pope Julius II in 1506.

Olivença was included in the territory of the Bishopric of Ceuta in 1512 and it was here that he established the seat of its Bishopric.

Bishop Henrique promoted the construction, by D. Manuel I, of the episcopal palace, the court and the aljube. The Sé Cathedral was built, the Church of Santa Maria Madalena in “Manueline” style, which was partly inspired by the Convent of Jesus de Setúbal.

Tomb of Henrique de Coimbra Church of Santa Maria Madalena. What to visit in Olivença
Tomb of Henrique de Coimbra Church of Santa Maria Madalena

Bridge of Help

Also known as the bridge of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda or simply de Olivença, it was built in 1509 by King Manuel I.

Its objective was to ensure the operationality of the Portuguese military forces on the left bank of the Guadiana River and in support of the Castle of Olivença.

Made up of 19 arches, it is about 400 meters long and has a turret in the middle.

In 1646 it was partially destroyed by the Spanish army during the War of Restoration and was repaired after the end of the war.

In 1709, the Spanish army blew up the bridge, destroying it and preventing access to Olivença from Portuguese territory.

Ajuda Olivença Bridge
Ajuda Olivença Bridge

In 1967 the Portuguese state declared the Ajuda bridge as monument of national interest.

In 2000 a new bridge was inaugurated next to the old one, built and financed by Portugal.

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