Enigma of the De Expugnatione Lyxbonensi

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One of the most famous works in Portuguese Medieval History and, certainly, the most well-known outside Portugal, the De Expugnatione Lyxbonensi purports to furnish a contemporary eye-witness account of Portuguese King Afonso Henriques’s 1147 conquest of Lisbon accomplished in combination with a passing fleet of Anglo-Norman, German and Flemish crusaders on their way by sea to Palestine and the Second Crusade. For over a quarter of a century, most commentators have accepted without demur the late Harold Livermore’s assertion that the author of the Lyxbonensi, identified in the text only as “R”, could be none other than the Anglo-Norman crusader-priest, Raul, who donated the battlefield church founded by him during the siege of Lisbon to the royal monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra, as recorded in a deed dated April of 1148. This article will argue that such identification must now be rejected, or at least substantially qualified, in the light of more recent scholarship and following a comprehensive consideration of the likely circumstances subsisting in Portugal around the time of Afonso Henriques’s Lisbon campaign. Examining previously over-looked complexities in the relationship between Afonso Henriques’s war on the Saracens of al-Andalus and the conduct of the “crusades” taking place both in the East and in other parts of Iberia, this article suggests an alternative and more likely authorship than that proposed by Livermore, and puts forward the case for the true purpose behind the construction of this extraordinary text, which has, until now, remained something of an enigma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-129
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Medieval Iberian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2017


  • Afonso Henriques
  • canon law
  • Conquest of Lisbon
  • crusades
  • holy war
  • just war
  • Reconquista
  • total war


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