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11 portugais célèbres dont vous avez entendu parler

11 famous Portuguese people you've heard of

Portugal is a small country of 10 million inhabitants. Like any country, it has its national heroes, but the fame of some of them went beyond the national borders, whether it was in the 15th century with Vasco da Gama or in the 21st century with Cristiano Ronaldo. Let's get to know these 11 illustrious Portuguese.


Henry the Navigator

Henry was born a Portuguese prince, the third son of King John I of Portugal. In 1414, his father entrusted him with the conquest of Ceuta (Morocco) in order to stop the harassment of the Portuguese coast by Moorish pirates. Once the city was taken, Henry discovered all the riches that had arrived in Ceuta from the trade routes of the Sahara.

Back in Portugal, he settled in 1416 on the Sagres peninsula and never stopped concentrating all the maritime knowledge of the time. The port of Lagos was transformed into a shipbuilding center and equipped with an observatory that perfected the sails of caravels and contributed to the progress in the art of navigation.

Appointed Governor of the Order of Christ, the name of the Order of the Temple (Templars) in Portugal in 1420, he now has access to the necessary financial resources. The great explorations can begin and Henry sends his first ships. 

In 1427, Diogo de Silves, one of its captains, discovered the Azores which were quickly colonized.

In 1434, Gil Eanes passed Cape Bodajor which was the furthest point known to Europeans on the African coast.

In 1444, Dinis Dias (father of Bartolomeu Dias) passed Cape Verde and crossed the southern limit of the desert thus bypassing the commercial routes held by the Muslims and offering direct access to slaves and gold from Mauritania.

From 1452, gold arrived in large quantities by this maritime route and the first Portuguese cruzados minted competed with the Italian ducats and became an accepted currency in the Christian and Muslim world.

In 1460, Henri died in Sagres, without descendants, having never sailed and never having made any discoveries by himself. Less than 30 years after his death, benefiting from all the discoveries and techniques developed by Henri, Bartolomeu Dias passed the Cape of Good Hope, Vasco de Gama reached India and Christopher Columbus, influenced by the success of the Portuguese, discovered America.


Bartolomeu Dias

Bartolomeu Dias is the son of Dinis Dias, one of the captains of Henry the navigator who first passed Cape Verde.

As a young man, he studied mathematics and astronomy but very soon, King John 2 of Portugal entrusted him with the task of pursuing explorations along the African coast in order to establish a route to India, as the land routes were now in Turkish hands after the capture of Constantinople.

Bartolomeu Dias


In 1487, he passed the current Namibia, the southernmost point mentioned on the maps of the previous expeditions. Continuing southward, he was caught in a violent storm and wandered in the Atlantic Ocean for 13 days.

Taking advantage of the Antarctic winds and sailing northeast, he reached the coast 800 km east of the Cape of Good Hope, which he passed on the high seas without realizing it.

Wishing to continue his route to India and therefore to the East, he informed the crews of his 3 ships who revolted and demanded the return to Portugal by the West. He thus crossed the Cape of Good Hope from East to West.

Back in Lisbon in 1488, marked by these 13 days of wandering in the Atlantic, he named this cape the Cape of Storms, but King John II named it the Cape of Good Hope, hoping that this discovery would finally open the road to India.

In 1497, Bartolomeu Dias accompanied Vasco de Gama on his voyage of discovery of the Indies. In 1500, he travels with Pedro Alvares Cabral on the famous voyage that will make him take possession of Brazil.

Continuing its route to India, it was again caught in a storm near the Cape of Good Hope and, this time, disappeared at sea.


Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama was born in Sines into the Portuguese nobility. As a young man, he went to Evora to study mathematics, astronomy and navigation. In 1480, he joined his father in the Order of Santlago de l'Epée whose master was the future King of Portugal: John II of Portugal.

Vasco de Gama

In 1492, Vasco de Gama, sent on a mission by the King to Setúbal, seized the French ships moored there in retaliation for exactions committed in Portuguese waters.

In 1497, the king entrusted him with 4 ships and 200 men with the mission of definitively establishing the maritime route to the Indies. He took a course that led him off the coast of Brazil and then reached the African coast following the trading posts established by Bartolomeu Dias. He crossed the Cape of Good Hope and landed in May 1498 on the beach of Kappad in India.

His voyage, if it makes it possible to establish the connection towards India, is a commercial failure. The Zamorin of Calicut (City State of India) refused him the commercial advantages he asked for. He had to leave three months later, taking hostages to guarantee his safety.

On his return, he was nevertheless covered with honors, recognized as the discoverer of the maritime route to India and named Admiral of India by the King.

In 1502, he left Portugal with a fleet of 20 ships full of goods. This expedition will be violent with the assault of ships, the murder of pilgrims traveling to Mecca and the bombardment of the port of Calicut. In spite of this, the Zamorin of Calicut did not submit, the Christians of the Indies promised by Vasco da Gama remained untraceable and the hope of finding the Kingdom of the Priest John disappeared.

This voyage marked the beginning of the Portuguese colonial empire, which displeased King Manuel I who condemned the nobility who favored mercantilism over the Christian mission. Vasco de Gama entered into disgrace.

This disgrace lasted 20 years until the new King of Portugal, John III, appointed him Viceroy of the Indies. In 1524, he undertook his third voyage but died shortly after his arrival.


Ferdinand Magellan

Fernando de Magellan was born in 1480 in Porto, into a family of the Portuguese nobility. At an early age, his father obtained his admission to the court of Queen Eleanor of Viseu where he was taught navigation and astronomy.

Fernand de Magellan


Appointed as a pensioner of the king's household on the fleet of Francisco de Almeida, he left Lisbon in 1505 for the Indies. He took part in various battles and engaged in the pepper trade before returning to Lisbon in 1513.

A few months later, he was sent to Morocco as part of the Portuguese troops in charge of seizing Azemmour. Accused of illegal trade with the Moors, and unhappy that his trade projects were not recognized, he asked his King to release him from his obligations.

He then decided to offer his services to the King of Spain, the young Charles V who was only 18 years old at the time. Magellan proposed to the young King to open the spice route from the West, which would allow him to establish a new trade route without damaging relations with his Portuguese neighbors, who were sailing to the East.

A fleet of 5 ships is entrusted to Magellan. This fleet left Seville on August 10, 1519. The crews were made up of Spaniards but also Portuguese, Italians, Greeks and French.

Of the 237 men who made up these crews, only 35 survived to complete the first world tour.

The main events that take place during these 3 years of expedition are the following:

1519.08.15: The fleet of 5 ships and 237 men of crew leaves the port of Seville.

1519.12.13: After a brief stop in the Canary Islands, the fleet disembarked in the bay of Santa Lucia in Brazil, today known as Rio de Janeiro. 

1520.03.31: In his attempt to bypass South America, surprised by the cold, Magellan decided to winter in Argentina in Puerto San Julián.

1520.04.01: Doubting the existence of a passage to the West and their chances of survival in the southern cold, part of the fleet mutinies. Magelan nevertheless kept control of the situation and after a few fights sentenced 40 sailors to death. The sentence was not carried out because it would have jeopardized the continuation of the voyage.

1520.05.03: Magellan decided to send one of his ships in recognition but the Santiago was wrecked. Three months later, Magellan decided to resume his route towards the south with the 4 remaining ships.

1520.10.21: Magellan saw a Cape which marked the entrance of a passage towards the West: the Cape of the Virgins. It will take him more than one month to cross this passage surrounded by cliffs.

1520.11.08: In the middle of the passage leading to the west, the pilot of the San Antonio rebelled against his Captain, dragged the crew into the mutiny, deserted and made his way to Seville carrying his cargo of food and goods.

1520.11.28: Magellan, at the head of the 3 remaining ships enters the Pacific Ocean. Magellan did not underestimate the immensity of this ocean, on the other hand, to his great surprise, it is empty. In fact, by lack of chance, he will never cross one of the numerous islands which are present there. 

1521.03.06: After 4 months of navigation, reached by the scurvy, close to the famine, the 3 ships reach the Marianas where the crews can disembark and refuel after having been plundered by the natives come to their meeting.

1521.04.27: Magellan moved his 3 ships to the island of Cebu where the King willingly converted to Christianity with his people. His neighbor, the King of the island of Mactan refused to submit. Magellan then undertook an expedition during which he succumbed to a wound caused by a poisoned arrow. 

1521.05.02: It is from now on Juan Sebastian Elcano who commands the expedition but only 113 men are still alive and valid what is insufficient to handle 3 ships. The commander then resigns himself to burn the Concepcion. The 2 other ships take the wide.

1521.11.08: The 2 ships landed on the shores of the Moluccan islands known to the Portuguese for more than 15 years. The ships were loaded with spices but only the Victoria left the anchorage. The Trinidad, victim of a leak, was forced to stay on site for repairs.

1521.09.06: Under the command of Elcano, the Victoria docked in Sanlucar de Barrameda in Spain after crossing the Indian Ocean and rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Only 18 men were on board, the stopovers in the Portuguese trading posts having taken their toll of prisoners.

The Victoria was the first ship to complete a full circumnavigation of the globe, but the expedition was an economic disaster, the political benefits were almost nil and the route to the Indies via the west was abandoned.

It was not until 58 years later and Francis Drake that a second circumnavigation of the globe was carried out using the Strait of Magellan to reach the Pacific Ocean. Only the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914 would bring a satisfactory solution to the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.


Luis de Camões

Luís Vaz de Camões, is a Portuguese poet, born around 1525 and died in 1580 in Lisbon. Camoës is the object of a true cult in Portugal, so much so that the day of his death has become the Portuguese national holiday. The lovers of Letters compare him to Virgil, Dante or Shakspeare.

Luis de Camões - Credit Feeling Portugal


His most famous work is the national epic of the Lusiades (Os Lusíadas) published in 1572. Through the epic of Vasco da Gama to India, Camões takes us on a collective journey of reunion with a past of glories to inspire a future time.

The story of the adventure, the discovery, the opening to knowledge, to the world and to modernity, invites to a deep meditation on the spirit of a people: Who are the Portuguese? How to define the Portuguese people? Does the Portuguese people have a mission in history? What is its singularity?

An undisputed national symbol, Luís Vaz de Camões is honored every year on June 10, the anniversary of his death and a public holiday in Portugal. There are also countless squares, streets, libraries and theaters that bear his name throughout the country.


Fernando Pessoa

Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa was a Portuguese writer, born in 1888 and died in 1935 in Lisbon. A committed writer in an era troubled by war and dictatorships, his poetic prose was one of the main initiators of modernism in Portugal.

Fernando Pessoa - Credit Observador


In 1901, at the age of 13, Fernando Pessoa wrote his first poems in English. In 1903, Fernando Pessoa found himself alone in South Africa and attended the University of Capetown, then returned to Portugal in 1905 where he attended the Faculty of Letters for a while, but soon abandoned it in order to have time to read and write.

In 1912, Fernando Pessoa made his debut as a literary critic and poet, and in 1915, he led the group of mentors of the magazine "Orpheu", which brought together the most famous Portuguese and Brazilian poets. This magazine defends the freedom of expression, at a time when Portugal is going through a period of deep political and social instability.

It was in this magazine that Fernando Pessoa published poems that scandalized the conservative society of the time. The poems "Triumphal Ode" and "Opiário", written under a pseudonym, provoked violent reactions, leading its author to be designated in the streets as a lunatic.

In "Mensagem" (1934), the poet reproduces "Os Lusíadas" by Luís Vaz de Camões in a mystical nationalist perspective. He preaches the return of King D. Sebastião, who died in Africa in 1578, to restore Portugal and the Fifth Empire.

Fernando Pessoa died in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 30, 1935, victim of cirrhosis of the liver.


José Saramago

José de Sousa Saramago is a Portuguese writer and journalist, born in 1922 and died in 2010. He is the only Portuguese-speaking writer to have received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. His book "Blindness" is on the list of the 100 best books of all time established by the prestigious Norwegian Book Circle.

Son of poor peasants, he was quickly forced to abandon his studies begun in Lisbon to make a living from various jobs before embarking on a career in journalism. His first novel, "Land of Sin" (Terra do pecado), dedicated to his native region, was published in 1947, but he had to wait more than 20 years to establish himself in the literary world.

After the fall of the Salazar regime in 1974, he was appointed head of the daily newspaper Diário de Notícias, from which he was fired a year later. The year 1975 marked the beginning of his life as a writer.

From then on, his production remained uninterrupted and abundant until his death. In 1982, "The One-Armed God" (Memorial do convento) brought him, at the age of 60, international fame. Saramago became a successful writer whose books were sold all over the world and translated into 25 languages.

In 1991, he published "The Gospel According to Jesus Christ" (O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo), which was withdrawn from the selection list for European literary prizes for offending religion. In response to this political censorship, Saramago went into exile on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, where he continued his literary work and where he died on June 18, 2010.

In the meantime, in 1998, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for having, "thanks to his parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony, made an elusive reality constantly tangible again in a work of unsuspected depths and in the service of wisdom".


Amália Rodrigues

Amália Rodrigues, born in 1920, is a Portuguese Fado singer who recorded more than 170 albums during her lifetime. Known as the "Queen of Fado" (Rainha do Fado), her reputation went beyond the Portuguese borders and she was a great cultural ambassador of Portugal.

Her fame was considerable between 1950 and 1970, but her links with the regime of the dictator António Salazar caused her to be sidelined for more than 10 years after the Carnation Revolution.

Born in 1920 in a poor family in the Lisbon area, she began to sing at the age of 9, at school which she was forced to leave at the age of 12 to start working in the fields.

At the age of 19, she began to sing in Lisbon. She was quickly noticed by the most prestigious Fado clubs and was recognized among the great Fado singers.

Her international career was launched two years later in Spain, Brazil and all of South America. At the age of 32, she was welcomed as a major artist in New York, London or Paris and she refused the proposals of Hollywood film studios to devote herself to her singing.

In 1974, after the Carnation Revolution, the Portuguese made her pay for her troubled relationship with the dictator Salazar and prevented her from singing. She will remain silent during 11 years.

It was not until 1985, at the age of 65, that she returned to the stage to be decorated and recognized 5 years later by Mario Soares, President of the Portuguese Republic.

Amália Rodrigues died in 1999 at the age of seventy-nine. Her death touched the Portuguese people so much that a national mourning of three days was declared. At her funeral, hundreds of thousands of Lisboners took to the streets to pay their last respects.


Antonio Salazar

António de Oliveira Salazar, born in 1889 and died in 1970, was a Portuguese statesman who was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. He came to power under the National Dictatorship (Ditadura Nacional) and transformed it into the "New State" (Estado novo), a form of corporatist regime that ruled Portugal from 1933 to 1974.

As an economist, Salazar entered political life as Finance Minister for President Óscar Carmona. In only one year he balanced the budget and stabilized the national currency.

Appointed Prime Minister in 1932, he established a civilian administration at a time when the politics of other nations in the world were becoming increasingly militarized. However, Portugal remained largely undeveloped, its population relatively poor and with a low level of education compared to the rest of Europe.

Salazar firmly opposed internationalism, communism, fascism and trade unionism and established a capitalist, conservative and nationalist regime.

This "Estado Novo" allowed Salazar to exercise his political power through censorship and his secret police, the PIDE, which repressed the opposition. He maintained Portugal's neutrality during World War II, while providing aid and assistance to the Allies.

Although it was a dictatorship, Salazar's regime nevertheless participated in the foundation of some international organizations. It was one of the twelve founding members of NATO, the European Free Trade Association and the OECD. This regime was also marked by the beginning of colonial wars.

The Estado Novo collapsed four years after Salazar's death during the Carnation Revolution in 1974.



Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, born in 1942 in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, is a Portuguese international footballer from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. Nicknamed "O pantera negra", Eusébio is considered one of the best soccer players of all time.

Eusébio spent most of his career with Benfica de Lisboa, with whom he won the Club Champions Cup in 1962 and eleven Portuguese championship titles.

In 1965, following a fabulous season, he won the Golden Ball award for the best European soccer player of the year. In 1966, during the World Cup, he scored 9 goals and was awarded the title of top scorer of the competition, allowing the national team to reach the 3rd place.

After finishing his soccer career in North America, Eusébio travels the world as an ambassador of the Benfica Club of Lisbon. He died on January 5, 2014 of a cardiorespiratory arrest. Three days of national mourning were declared by the Portuguese government.

On July 3, 2015, his remains were transferred to the National Pantheon in the presence of the highest figures of the state and Portuguese soccer.


Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, nicknamed CR7, was born in 1985 in Funchal in the Madeira Islands.
He is considered one of the best soccer players in history and is the only one, along with Lionel Messi, to have won the Ballon d'Or 5 times. Author of more than 800 goals in his career, Cristiano Ronaldo is officially the best scorer in the history of soccer.

Born into a family of four children, Cristiano Ronaldo spends most of his time playing soccer in his neighborhood of Santo Antonio in Funchal. He started playing at the age of eight with the club FC Andorinha. In 1995, at the age of 10, he joined the Clube Desportivo Nacional where he stayed for one season before being transferred for 2,200 euros (!!) to Sporting Clube de Portugal. He then joined the training center and played six seasons in the junior club of Sporting Club of Portugal.

He made his debut in the Portuguese professional league on September 29, 2002 with Sporting Clube de Portugal at the age of seventeen in a game where he scored two goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future changed at the age of 18 on August 6, 2003, when Sporting hosted Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo made an exceptional match and Sporting won 3-1. A few days later, Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Manchester United for 15 million euros.

On December 2, 2008, still playing for Manchester United, he won his first Golden Ball, the third Portuguese Golden Ball after Eusebio and Luis Figo. He was also voted FIFA's best player of the year 2008 and won the Club World Cup with his team.

In 2009, after two years of rumors, Real Madrid bought Cristiano Ronaldo for six years and the record sum of 94 million euros. It becomes the most expensive transfer in the history of soccer.

The year 2016 is an exceptional year for CR7. On May 28, he wins his third Champions League and ends the season with more than 50 goals scored for the 6th consecutive time. On July 10, Cristiano and the Portuguese national team win the Euro 2016 at the Stade de France in Paris.

He acquired the reputation of being a real "goal machine" dedicating himself exclusively to his sport, his training and his family. He then played 3 years in Italy, at Juventus of Turin before returning to the club that propelled him: Manchester United.


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