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Martim Moniz, truth or myth?

Updated: 20 hours ago

Many tales are told in Lisbon about the king's brave knight who died trapped in the gates of St George's Castle. And today he even gives his name to a square in the city overlooking the castle. But are the legends true? Or are they simply stories? The truth is that the conquest of Lisbon will forever be associated with the legend of Martim Moniz and his heroic death by allowing himself to be trapped between the gates, preventing them from closing and thus allowing Afonso Henriques' knights to pass through.

Castelo de S.Jorge - Lisboa

In 1147 D. Afonso Henriques - Portugal's first king - laid siege to Lisbon Castle with the aim of conquering the city from the Moors, setting up two camps, one where the Monastery of S. Vicente de Fora is today, and the other where the Church of the Martyrs now stands. This was a siege that lasted around three months, with no-one entering or leaving the castle walls. The king also had precious help from a group of Knights Templar from England who were on their way to the Holy Land.

Martin Moniz - Conquista de Lisboa

According to legend, a man by the name of Martim Moniz, a soldier of the king who sacrificed his life just to "help" conquer Lisbon, was decisive in the onslaught that took place on 21 October 1147. Martim Moniz allowed himself to be trapped in one of the gates of the castle of Lisbon to prevent the castle gates from being closed to allow the besiegers to enter. His courage and the sacrifice of his life were (or may have been) crucial in allowing passage. Afonso Henriques' knights took the opportunity to enter and make history.

Martim Moniz went down in Portuguese history because he gave his life so that King Afonso Henriques could achieve yet another victory for the Portuguese kingdom.

Although the story goes back a long way, it is not known exactly whether Martim Moniz's sacrifice is true or a myth. There is no reference to this moment in the documents of the time, so historians cannot prove the existence of this person. Martin Moniz is probably not a real person but rather a character who represents in some way all the soldiers who sacrificed themselves in acts of bravery on behalf of the king.

What is certain is that this character has become something of a legend. Whether real or imagined, Martim Moniz has become a legendary figure in Portuguese history. Today, you can find the name of this legendary knight next to the castle gate.

Placa sobre Martin Moniz

What is also true is that Lisbon was conquered by King Afonso Henriques from the Muslims on 21 October 1147 after a long siege that had begun on 1 July 1147 and lasted around three months, in which the Portuguese king had the help of foreign knights.

There are some monuments that commemorate this figure. The square at the foot of the castle of São Jorge honours this legendary hero. It was given the name Praça Martim Moniz. This is the most multicultural area of the capital. This square is located in the Mouraria neighbourhood, close to Rossio. It is home to the largest number of ethnic groups in the city. The square was somewhat forgotten for many years. However, in 2012 it was revitalised.

In 1966, a Lisbon Metro station was opened here. Later, in 1997, the station was remodelled. As part of the programme to improve and expand the network, it was completely refurbished. The work took two years and was renamed Martim Moniz. A curiosity is that in this station you can see a bas-relief depicting the body of Martim Moniz. However, this "entrapment" doesn't happen at the door of the castle, it happens at the door of a metro carriage.

Got curious? Come and discover this and other stories with a local guide around Lisbon. Book your tour on our website. And come and have a different one, visit more places in one day.

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