Medieval Porto in northern Portugal

Porto is my mother’s birthplace so hugely significant to me – a place where I developed a love for medieval history. Looming above the eighteenth century city centre is a mass of granite topped by the medieval cathedral. In front of it is a pillory, a statue of the warrior Vimara Pires and a huge palace for the bishop.

The hill with the cathedral became the centre of Porto under the Suevi invaders who succeeded the Romans – who had developed Porto as a commercial harbour town. It fell to the Moors in 711 with most of Iberia but in the 9th century, a Galician warlord called Vimara Pires drove out the Moors. They came back occasionally but Porto became part of the ‘county’ of Portugal – not a fully fledged kingdom. That would come later.

The Moors ruled southern Portugal from the year 711 till 1147 when Lisbon was taken by King Afonso Henriques and eventually the Algarve was incorporated into the kingdom of Portugal. The crusade against the Moors in Lisbon embarked from Porto when the city’s bishop, Pedro Pitoes, rallied a huge army of crusaders from all over Europe to march southwards – with a promise of significant booty. I describe this event in my book Quest for the True Cross.