Facts about Portugal

Templar Convento de Cristo in Tomar

Portugal may be considered small, with a population of around 10 million and the mainland covering just over 89,000km2 however, it has some big statistics connected to it and some very interesting facts.

Portuguese language

Portuguese, spoken by around 250 million people globally, ranks as the sixth most widely spoken first language and holds official status in nine nations.

Evolving from Latin, the Portuguese language has absorbed influences from various cultures, evident in the inclusion of Arabic-origin words in spoken Portuguese. It even has some Celtic influence. With Portuguese speakers dispersed across diverse regions, the linguistic diversity of the language is greatly enhanced.

In addition to its territorial expansions, Portugal has left a lasting linguistic imprint on its past colonies. Nations such as Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, and East Timor continue to recognize Portuguese as an official language.

It’s interesting to note that the Portuguese language is one of the fastest growing languages in the world – in the last century it has a growth of 297% in speaker numbers.

Largest cork forest

Portugal has the largest cork forest in the world, predominantly situated in the Alentejo, the region north of the Algarve.

These extensive woodlands play a crucial role in Portugal’s economic landscape, representing more than half of the world’s cork supply.

These trees, exclusive to southwestern Europe, possess an extraordinary capability to renew their bark, ensuring the sustainability of cork production.

From wine stoppers to fashion accessories, the adaptable cork is utilised in a myriad of products that are exported worldwide. Click here to learn more about nature’s natural leather.

Knights Templar

Portugal’s Age of Discovery has been well documented historically but something that seems to have been skipped over is the country’s links with the Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military order established in the early 12th century.

Recognisable by their distinctive white mantles featuring a red cross, symbolising their dedication to safeguarding Christian pilgrims during the Crusades, the Templars played a crucial role in the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula and more specifically, in Portugal.

In recognition of their service during the Reconquista, a series of battles of many years to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors, King Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, granted the Templars extensive lands in central Portugal. These became the headquarters of the order, marked by castles and fortresses, including the UNESCO protected Convent of Christ in Tomar.

Beyond their military contributions, the Templars significantly impacted Portugal’s development by introducing advanced agricultural techniques, promoting trade, and influencing the country’s administrative and judicial systems. Despite their growing wealth and power, they faced suspicion and envy from other European powers.

Although the Templars were dissolved in the early 14th century, their legacy endured in Portugal. King Dinis strategically protected their assets and members, reconstituting them into a new order known as the Order of Christ.

This reformed order later sponsored Portugal’s Age of Discovery voyages, including those led by Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias.

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