The coat of arms of Portugal is Argent, five escutcheons Azure of five
besants Argent in saltire 1,
2 and 1 and a bordure Gules seven three-towered castles Or, 3, 2 and 2.
For a little three hundred years, Portugal
was ruled by princes from the Burgundian House. Alfonso I, who succeeded his father
Henry in 1112, accepted the royal title around 1139. We do not know what
Henry’s arms looked like. His reign also seemed quite early for the carrying
of a coat of arms except that, as a crusader, he could have put a cross on
his armor. A coat of arms is attributed to him with a blue cross on a silver
field. These arms is, however, only described many centuries after his death
for the first time so that there is no certainty about that. 
Charter from 1139 of Alfonso Henriques signed Æ po
rt ug al rex.
the text he calls himself alfonsus
portrugalensium rex. (Arquivo da Torre do Tombo).
The same source responsible for the
attribution of the arms with the cross to Henry, also reports on two shields
that would have been kept in the monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra. The
first is attributed to Alfonso I and it is depicted in an engraving as a
norman shield with damaged upper edge. According to the caption, there would
have been nineteen shields on this, of which seventeen remained. Five are in cross
form, the two on the sides with the points inwards. Four smaller ones in the
four quarters, also with the points to the heart. Finally, the 10 (8)
remaining are on the edge of the shield. The shields are each studded with 13
besants (3,3,3,3,1) and further connected by a cord per bordure, per cross
and per saltire
The second shield would have belonged to
Sancho I. It shows five shields connected by a cord. 
Whether the shields were actually available
or this is just a propaganda item, in any case these shields have disappeared
and it can no longer be verified whether they were authentic or not.
Notwithstanding, Sancho I’s arms are
confirmed by contemporary seal material. A two-sided wax seal has been kept
of this monarch on a document dated 1 March 1195. It shows on both sides an
elongated shield with round upper corners on which clearly five shields in
cruciform form have the same shape as the main shield. Even it remains
possible that in the upper corners and in the tip three more such shields have
stood. Due to the poor condition in which the seal is, the edge lettering is
unreadable. It is also impossible to see whether the plaques are studded with
medals or that merely a relief has been applied to them 
Obverse of a wax seal on a
document from 1195 of Sanch I for the Alcobaça monastery.
(Arquivo Nacional da Torre
That the shields must have been strewn with
pennies is confirmed by the signatures that can be found on a document from
the time of Sancho dated 1183.  The mark of King Alfonso I
on it, consists of 12 cross-wise placed shields strewn with white dots. The
motto "PAX LUX REX LEX" (peace, light, king, law) stands in the
quarters of the cross thus formed; description: Alfonsvs Portvgalensivm Rex.
In any case, the signatures indicate that
around 1211, the time that the "forgery" would be made, a cross
consisting of more than five escutcheons strewn with pennies was accepted as
the emblem of the then only a quarter of a century ago deceased ruler.
Indeed, this leaves the possibility open for the blazoning of the original
coat of arms as "strewn with shields", (possibly concentrically
ordered), or "a cross of shields".
however, there can be about the image on the seal that hangs from a document
of Alfonso II from 1211. On the shield five shields are strewn with pennies
cross-wise, the two shields on the sides directing with their points to the
middle.  The
figure is known as Quinas. Assuming
that the shield of Alfonso I and Sancho I had an indeterminate number of
shields that were not necessarily placed cross- wise, then the explanation
for the cross of shields of Alfonso II can only be found in a reduction to a
cross at a time when the political quarrels for the hegemony between emperor
and pope necessitated taking sides. It is precisely at this time that arms
with a cross, usually in recognition of papal suzerainty, are beginning to
course of time, various explanations of the heraldic device have been drawn
up, all based on the form of a cross and the number five. For example, in a
description he gave of the Portuguese royal coat of arms, Martinus, Bishop of
Lisbon, during his visit to the French king Charles V on 14 July 1380,
thought that the five shields were inspired by the five wounds in the form of
a cross Alfonso I in the Battle of Ourique (1139) would have suffered. 
quod rex noster facit quinque scuta in modum crucis cum quinque ictibus, in
quolibet scuto in asulio, et albo, pro eo uod in bello victorioso in quo
obtinyt contra infinotos sarracenos in campo de Eurriqoe inventa sunt in
corpore regis quinque ictus in modum crucis". 
de Camoes gives in his Lusiades (1572) an other explanation. He too makes a
connection between the origin of the arms and the Battle of Ourique but gives
a more christian turn to the grounds:
o Grao Rei no campo fica,
Aqui junta no
branco o escudo ufano,
Que agora esta
Em sinal destes
cincos Reis vencidos.
E nestes cinco
escudos pinta os trinta
que Deus fora vendido,
memoria em varia tinta
D'Aquele de Quem
Em cada um dos
cinco, cinco pinta,
Porque assi fica
o numero comprido,
Contando duas vezes
o do meio,
Dos cinco azuis
que em cruz pintando veio." 
statements have also been transcribed in later literature and sometimes even
further intensified. .
The arms with the Bordure Gules
According to a seal from
1248 the coat of arms of Alfonso II was continued unchanged by his son and
successor Sancho II. 
The brother and successor
of the last, Alfonso III, bore a coat of arms being an increase of that of
his brother and father by adding a red bordure, charged with castles. 
castles are derived from the arms of his grandfather, Alfonso VIII of
Castile. The use of castles for difference of the dynastic arms is also found
with his French cousins. These were sons of Louis VIII and the older sister
of his mother Urraca, Blanche. So, for example, Robert, Count of Artois, bore the French lilies and a red lambel
charged with golden castles. Alfonso, Count of Poitou parted of the French
lilies and a red, strewn with golden castles. Charles, Count of Anjou,
finally, bore France with a red bordure charged with golden castles. 
Wax seal on a document from
1255 issued by Alfonso III to the
On this two-sided seal
the is the oldest representation of
the arms with the bordure and castles .
His arms appear in Walford's roll dating from
the time before he succeeded his father as the sole ruler in Portugal. It is
described there as: "Le Roy de
Portugall, gulez poudre turelles d'or un labell d'azure".  After his succession in Portugal, he continued to bear the arms of his
father. It is on his seal, the shields on both sides still with the foot to
the center and strewn with an indefinite number of besants, the bordure
charged with fourteen castles of the Castilian model with three towers. From
his time also dates the first image of
the arms in color. It is in the role of arms Wijnbergen, which dates from its
first reign before 1290. The coat of arms is silver in it with five blue,
escutcheons strewn with besants, and a red bordure charged with fourteen
three-towered golden castles. 
Later Developments, the Crest.
The Order of Aviso had arisen from a group of
high-ranking Portuguese who had formed an army around 1144 to fight the
Moors. After conquering Mafra castle in 1162 that they were allowed to keep,
King Alfonso, Alfonso turned the group into a spiritual knighthood. It was
named after the conquered city of Evora until 1166, when in 1187 it conquered
the fortress city of Aviso and received it as a gift. 
to 1485, the improvement of the royal arms was on the agenda of the Cortes
that had been called by King John II. Eventually it was decided to leave out
the cross of the Order of Aviso as a heraldic anomaly in the future. At the
same time, the escutcheons on the sides of the quinas were set upright and
the number of castles was set at seven.
appears on the arms for the first time in the coat of arms of the herald
Gelre.  It is a castle from the bordure of the
arms. The arms represented must be attributed to King Ferdinand I
I also introduced a new crest. It occurs for the first time in his coat of
arms of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which, however, arose only after the
death of John I. It is a golden dragon issuant that can be seen here as the
attribute of St. John the Evangelist and thus as an allusion to the name of
King John. It is by no means excluded that the crest was taken over from the
Castilian House that was extinct in 1367 but which included the grandmother
of John I, Beatrix (daughter of King Sancho IV of Castile). Meanwhile, the
House of Trastamare, which had come to power in Castile, used the Castle of
Castile as a crest. By the way, John I who was also related to the House
Aragon, of which King Peter IV (1336-'87) certainly had a dragon issuant as a
crest since 1363. Insofar as the Portuguese kings were members of the Order
of the Golden Fleece, their arms were also surrounded by the collar of this
arms with the crest still occurred until the middle of the 18th century.
the rule of the Portuguese kings from the House of Bragança (1640-1853) the
arms were usually represented with a royal crown only. In the 19th century
the arms are sometimes surrounded by a crowned mantle.
death of King Henry, Cardinal of Lisbon, in 1580, the throne was claimed by
King Philip II of Spain who was a cousin of the last kings by his mother Isabella
of Portugal. After he had taken Portugal, he added the coat of arms of
Portugal to his royal coat of arms. Despite the fact that Spanish rule in
Portugal ended in 1640, it remained in the Spanish arms until the reign of
King Charles III.
achievement was introduced in the 14th century by adding two angels for
supporters. These were replaced by dragons by the House of Brangança in the
on the achievement consisted of the ancient Portuguese arms covered with a
crowned helmet guardant from which rises a green dragon with red wings.
Around the shield is a collar to which the star of the Order of Avis hangs.
As supporters serve two dragons as in the crest of which the dexter keeps a
banner with the quinas, the
sinister a banner of castles of the bordure of the shield. In the 19th
century the achievement is sometimes surrounded with a crowned mantle.
French period, the heir to the throne, John VI, took refuge to the Portuguese
colony of Brazil where in 1808 he proclaimed an independent kingdom. When he
succeeded his mother in Portugal in 1816, Brazil and Portugal were united in
a personal union into a commonwealth named Reino Unido de Portugal, Brasil e
Algarves (the Algarve was a kingdom that was always a fief of the Portuguese
heir to the throne). The arms of this united kingdom remained the ancient
arms of Portugal, crowned with a royal crown but placed on a golden armillary
sphere on a blue background. The Armillary-sphere is surrounded by a wreath
of olive and oak branches.
Na het uitroepen van de republiek op 5 october 1910 werd in 1911 een nieuwe wapencompositie vastgesteld. Deze bestond uit het oude Portugese wapen dat geplaatst was op een gouden armiliaarsfeer waarachter een rechtopstaande fasces. Rondom de armiliaarsfeer een krans van olijf- en eiketakken. Niet lang daarna verviel de fasces.
disintegration of the United Kingdom in 1822, the Armillary-sphere bearing
the Portuguese arms also disappeared. Amongst others on coins from the
successors of John VI, the coat of arms of Portugal is depicted on a crowned
accolad shield surrounded by a wreath of olive and oak branches.
coat of arms only occurs in the time of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
proclamation of the republic on 5 October 1910, a new achievement was adopted
in 1911. This consisted of the old Portuguese arms placed on a golden
armillary sphere. It symbolized the Portuguese empire as defined in the
constitution of 1822:
Constitution of 29 of Aprtil 1826 stipulates that the territory of the
Kingdom of Portugal and Algarves consists of
O seu Território o Reino
de Portugal e Algarves, e compreende:
§1.° - Na Europa, o
Reino de Portugal, que se compõe das Provinciasd do Minho, Trás-os-Montes, Beira,
Estremadura, Alentejo, e Reino do Algarve e das Ilhas Adjacentes, Madeira,
Porto e Açores.
§ 2.° - Na África Occidental, Bissau e Cacheu; na
Costa da Mina, o Forte de S. João Baptista de Ajudá, Angola, Benguela, e suas
dependências, Cabinda e Molembo, as Ilhas de Cabo Verde, e as de S. Tomé e
Principe, e suas dependências; na Costa Oriental, Moçambique, Rio Sena,
Sofala, Inhambane, Quelimane, e as Ilhas de Cabo Delagado.
§ 3.° - Na Ásia,
Salsete, Bardez, Goa, Dão, Diu e os Estabelecimentos de Macau e das Ilhas
Solor e Timor.
Which were briefly defined in the constitution of 1911 as the Portuguese
territory at at the date of the procla-mation of the Republic:
O território da Nação Portuguese é o existente à data de proclamção da República.
though the Portuguese empire gradually lost all its overseas territories in the
20th century, the last part – Macao - was lost in 1999, this had no
consequences for the arms of state in which the Portuguese arms and the
symbol for the overseas territories continued to form a whole.
© Hubert de Vries 2019-03-11
 Ascribing the arms
with the cross to Henry originates from
Faria i Sousa: Epitome de las historias portuguesas. Madrid 1628, p. 348.
With the tradition about the coat of arms of the Portuguese rulers was
lengthened by about eighty years up to the first autonomous Portuguese ruler.
The circumstance that Portugal had been occupied by Spain for 48 years in 1628
should certainly have a connection with this innovation.
) Faria i Sousa,
op.cit. 1628, p. 365. Both chields are extensively treated by Pinoteau, Hervé:
Un difficile probleme, celui d l'origine des armes de Portugal. In: XV Congreso
internacional Geneologia y Heraldica pp. 377-406, on which this passage is
mainly based. The idea of the shields of thenshilds in the monastery of the
Holy Cross in Coimbra is copied from
Caetano de Sousa: Historia general da casa real portugues. 1735, who gives
pictures of the shields of which even every appearance of authenticity is
avoided. The shields have continued to haunt in the literature about the
emergence of Portugal's arms, with the authors uncritically copying each other.
) Seal of Sancho I on a document confirming the
gift to the Alcobaça monastery, dd. 1 maart 1195. Coleccao Especial, c. 28 no
7, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Lisboa.
) This drawn stamp
("sinai rodado") is treated by Mattos, Armando de: Evoluçao historica
das armas nacionais portuguesas. Porto, 1939, p 47.. Pinoteau concludes from
this that the document, dated February 1183 and which concerns a gift to the monastery Alcobaça, is a
forgery made by the scriptorium of the monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra
and must date from after 6 April 1211 .
) Seal of Alfonso II on a document confriming the gift of Alfonso I to Bernardo, abbot of Claraval. 1211. Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Lisboa.
 This was in the same time that the number of fleurs
de lis of the coat of arms of France was reduced to three to symbolize the holy
) Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Chartes, 1891, pp. 499, 516: two
manuscripts preserved in the Vatican Library and cited by Gama Barros in his
Historia da Administracoa Publica. Dl. III, p. 873,
) In Penguin Classics op p. 86 translated as : “The triumphant Portuguese gathered in the
spoils and trophies, and Afonso tarried for the customary three days on the
field. It was there that, in token of the victory, he proudly adorned his white
buckler with the design of five shields in bright blue, signifying the five
kings he had vanquished. And within the five shields, disposed in the form of
a cross, he commemorated further the divine help he had been vouchsafed by
depicting in a different colour the thirty pieces of silver for which Christ
was betrayed, five in each shield, the shield in the centre counting twice.”
) I.c. by Faria de Sousa op.cit. 1628 en Caetano de Sousa, op.cit.
) Seal on the will of Sancho II dd. Toledo, 3 March 1248. Arms: five
eschutcheons strewn with besants cross wise the two on the side with points
inwards. (Coleção Especial, c. 28, no 54, Arquivo
Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Lisboa).
) Seal of Alfonso III dd. 2 juli 1259: Arms: Five escutcheons
crosswise strewn with besants and a bordure charged with eight castles (Colecção Especial, c. 29, no 51, Arquivo
Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Lisboa); and a round seal on his will dd. 1271:
Arms: Five escutcheosn cross wise charged with 6 besants 2,1,2,1 and a bordure with 12 castles.
(Colecção Especial, c. 29, no 51, Arquivo Especial da Torre do Tombo, Lisboa).
) See the articles about Artois, Poitou and Anjou.
) Brault, G.J. op.cit. C 18, Cl 126, Cd 137: Red, strewn with golden
towers a blue label. The blasoning of
the two other versions not really different.
) Adam-Even, Paul & Léon Jéquier: Un Armorial français du XIIIe
siecle, l'armorial Wijnbergen. impr. Lausanne, 1955 (print from Archives
Héraldiques Suisses, 1951-'54, p. 74, no 1264. le Roy.de portigal. – D’argent
à 5 écus d’azur en sautoir appointés en abîme, chargé de besants d’or; à la
bordure de gueules chargée de 14 châteaux à 3 tours d’or. On every
escutcheon 10 besants 3,2,3,2.
) Gritzner, M.: Handbuch der
Ritter- und Verdienstorden. Leipzig, 1893.
) Brussel K.B. Ms. 15652-56 fol. 167.
)That this is so is proved by a more accurate consideration of the image at Gelre. Here the bordure of the coat of arms on which the castle stands as a crest, is clearly later painted over with the lilies of the cross of Avis which, to our knowledge, can only have been introduced by John I. Stamps of Peter I and Ferdinand I with the castle as crests are not known. It is unlikely that with the arms the arms of John of Castile is meant. At that time he was King of Castile and his arms are depicted elsewhere in Gelre
er I en Ferdinand I met het
kasteel als helmteken zijn niet bekend. Het is onwaarschijnlijk dat met het
wapen het wapen van Jan van Castilië is bedoeld. Hij was toendertijd Koning van
Castilië en zijn wapen staat elders bij Gelre afgebeeld.
) Manuel I, knight no. 144 (1516), John III, knight no. 168 (1531).