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 [[Innocent III]],* 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.