The country secured freedom from Spanish rule in the twelfth century, when her independent political and ecclesiastical history can be said to begin. Though at first in bondage to the papacy, the nation under King Sanche I vigorously asserted its autonomy even against,* the most powerful of popes. Disputes continued throughout the thirteenth century, the Friars and the widespread anti-Spanish sentiment helping the pope to maintain his authority. Under Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugal began in the later fifteenth century to build up her overseas empire, embarking on a policy of subjugation and conversion of the native peoples. During the first half of the seventeenth century she was again absorbed into Spain, but recovered her independence between 1640 and 1668, when the papacy was actively allied with Spain. Thereafter, as in Spain, the Catholic Church fell into a torpor from which it has never really recovered.
With the irruption of liberal and anticlerical movements into the country following the French Revolution, the history of Portugal closely resembles that of Spain. After the republican revolution of 1910 the church was disestablished and its power curtailed, but Dr. Salazar's New Constitution of 1933 and Concordat of 1940 restored harmonious relations between church and state. Since 1917 popular devotion in the country has been enormously strengthened by the cult of Our Lady of Fatima. This, which is now the hallmark of Portuguese Catholicism, began in a small town in the middle of the country in May 1917, when three poor children were alleged to have seen a vision of the Virgin on six occasions. The cult and the accompanying miraculous cures were at first frowned on by the church, but after 1930 were officially favored; Our Lady of Fatima is now identified, unofficially at least, as the queen of Portugal.
Portugal was immune to the Reformation, due to its isolation, the absence of pre-Reformation movements such as the Hussites, the complete hold of church and government over the common people, the feeling of national self-confidence in this particularly buoyant phase of expansion which discouraged expressions of dissent, and the Inquisition* (established 1536). Protestantism did not effectively reach Portugal till 1845 when meetings were commenced simultaneously in Lisbon and Oporto. Since then a large variety of missionary agencies has been active, and the progress of the Reformed faith has been similar to that in Spain, with English Methodism playing a more active role. The chief denominations are the Lusitanian Church (episcopal and Anglican in origin), the(Congregational Presbyterian), the Baptists, Brethren, Methodists, and Pentecostalists who first arrived from Sweden in 1930. Persecution has never been as fierce as in Spain, and as a minority the Protestant population which now numbers about 33,000 is proportionately larger.
F. de Almeida, Historía de igreja em Portugal (4 vols., 1910-22); J.C. Branner (tr.), History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal (1926); E. Moreira, The Significance of Portugal: A Study of Evangelical Progress (1933); C.E. Nowell, A History of Portugal (1952); H.V. Livermore, A New History of Portugal (1966).