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27 Jul

Siege of Lisbon (1147)

In addition to being one of the crucial battles of the Reconquista, the Siege of Lisbon was one of the scarce Christian victories of the Second Crusade.  When Pope Eugene III authorized the Second Crusade in the Iberian peninsula in 1147, he also granted permission for Alfonso VII of Leon and Castile to class his campaigns against the Moors with the Crusade.  Because the war against the Moors had been going on for hundreds of years, individuals who wanted to join the Crusade were urged to stay at home, where their battles were held to be equally as important as the ones around Jerusalem.

Crusaders from Scotland, Friesland, Normandy, England, and Cologne left from Dartmouth, England in May of 1147.  These men considered themselves to be Franks, and their fleet was commanded by Henry Glanville, Constable of Suffolk.  As England was in the throes of The Anarchy at the time, this part of the crusade was not led by a king or a prince.  Between 164 and 200 ships were forced by bad weather to stop in the northern Portuguese city of Porto in June of 1147 as they traveled towards the Holy Land.  There, these Crusaders met with King Afonso and reached an agreement that, in return for pillage of Lisbon’s goods and the ransoms of kidnapped prisoners, they would aid King Afonso in his war against the Moors.  Additionally, Afonso agreed to divide any conquered territories amongst the leaders of the Crusaders as fiefs.  Hostages were exchanged as securities for oaths, and the siege began.

Not long after the siege’s start on July 1, the Crusaders began capturing surrounding territories, and were soon laying siege to the walls of Lisbon itself.  As the city was sheltering refugees from Santarem, Sintra, Almada, and Palmela, famine set in rapidly.  When the Crusaders’ siege tower reached the wall of Lisbon on October 21 of that year, the Moorish leaders agreed to surrender to the Crusaders.  The Crusaders, after some brief rioting, entered the city on October 25.  The terms of surrender promised that the Muslim garrison of the city would be permitted to keep their property and lives, but these terms were broken almost as soon as the Crusaders entered the gates.

Afterwards, some of the Crusaders continued on to the Holy Land.  Most of them, however, chose to settle in the newly captured city and bolster the population of Christians in Iberia.  The Crusaders’ victory brought Lisbon under definitive Portuguese control, which enabled the city to become the capital of Portugal in 1255.

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