Counter-Reformation, Diplomacy and Art Patronage in the Portuguese Empire under Cardinal-Infant D. Henrique of Portugal. A legacy to serve Church and Kingdom

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Commonly known as the Cardinal-King, D. Henrique of Portugal was a Portuguese royal blood infant who would soon be destined to become a prince of the Church. He was a preeminent figure that crossed great part of the sixteenth century, the period of the political, economic, religious and cultural expansion propagated under the aegis of the Portuguese Empire and of the Catholic Church reformation.
Consecutively occupying the seats of the three Portuguese archdioceses of Braga, Évora and Lisbon, and ruling the most powerful monastic houses, as the Monastery of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz), in Coimbra, and the Monastery of Holy Mary (Santa Maria), in Alcobaça, the prelate was chosen to lead the Holy Office in Portugal, as a grand inquisitor, which he only abandoned one year after becoming King of Portugal. Once elected cardinal, the prelate received the title of the Four Crowned Saints, and was nominated legate a latere, a papal diplomatic position which became permanent.
After the Council of Trent, the Holy See entrusted the Cardinal-Infant with the establishment of the main pillars of the Counter-Reformation in Portugal. Moving strategically in the Portuguese Royal Court, between Lisbon and Évora, he orchestrated his own political prestige and privileges at the Papal Curia through diplomacy. D. Henrique established networks of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Portugal by suppressing some tribunals and erecting others; supporting new religious orders and reforming older ones; and establishing an important set of infra-structures, such as seminaries, colleges and churches. In addition he sponsored the printing of several liturgical, doctrinal, and spiritual books.
This paper will focus on the institutional projects and material reforms initiated by D. Henrique in Portugal, through complex diplomatic relations between the Portuguese Crown and the Holy See, during the Counter-Reformation period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196–222
Number of pages28
JournalRoyal Studies Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Counter-Reformation in Portugal
  • Cardinal-King D. Henrique of Portugal
  • Ecclesiastical institutions reforms
  • Religious orders colleges and diocesan seminaries

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