The bull Manifestis Probatum confirmed D. Afonso Henriques as king of Portugal and placed the new kingdom under the direct protection of the Pope. For the Portuguese it was the crown of years of diplomatic efforts.
On May 23, 1179, Pope Alexander III issued a bull dedicated to the Portuguese king D. Afonso Henriques and his heirs, in which he reaffirmed the protection of the Holy See and contained the following statement: “we grant and confirm by apostolic authority to yours the kingdom of Portugal excels dominance with full kingdom honors and the dignity that belongs to kings, as well as all the places that with the help of heavenly grace you have conquered from the hands of the Saracens and in which the neighboring Christian princes cannot claim rights ”.
Thus, and for the first time, the pope unequivocally declared the recognition of Portugal as a kingdom and D. Afonso Henriques as king, and safeguarded the territories acquired in the war as being an integral part of Portugal. It was a decisive step towards the independence of Portugal and for D. Afonso Henriques, then very close to the age of 70, who finally saw his dignity and the title of king recognized.
Wasn’t Portugal already independent, since the Treaty of Zamora?
Under the terms of the Zamora Treaty, in 1143, Afonso VII de Leão e Castela recognized Portugal as a kingdom and D. Afonso Henriques as king, but that was not enough. The king of Castile and Leon called himself an emperor and, therefore, calling his cousin king was even a way of increasing his own prestige.
The strategy of D. Afonso Henriques and his men, namely D. João Peculiar, archbishop of Braga, aimed to obtain direct recognition from the Pope, due to the importance that he had in European Christianity at the time. He declared himself a vassal of the Holy See and maneuvered through diplomatic intricacies to obtain the separation and primacy of the archbishopric of Braga over Toledo and Santiago de Compostela.
This position was naturally part of a broader diplomatic strategy, with other kingdoms in Europe, to accentuate the distinction and autonomy of Portugal as a sovereign and independent kingdom. But the Holy See still lacked recognition. After almost 40 years, Pope Alexander III finally granted him the desired status.
Why did this recognition take so long?
The process was naturally slow because it depended on a change in the international situation. The recognition of Portugal’s independence did not, of course, please the kings of Castile-Leon. But the death of Emperor Afonso VII and the separation of these two kingdoms in 1157, as well as the definitive emancipation of Aragon, facilitated the claims of D. Afonso Henriques.
On the other hand, the authority of the papacy was weakened throughout the 12th century, with the involvement in quarrels with the Holy Roman Empire and the emergence of several anti-Popes.
The election of Alexander III, in 1159, changed this scenario. Alexandre III was an energetic character, who intended to play an intervening role on the international political scene again.
In the same year in which he issued the Manifestis Probatum bull, Alexander III convened the 3rd Lateran Council, in which the Holy See reaffirmed itself as the arbiter of Europe. The recognition of Portugal and D. Afonso Henriques was, therefore, a sign of affirmation of his own authority.