- Nuno Álvares Pereira
Saint Nuno of Saint Mary Born June 24, 1360
Cernache do Bonjardim, Portugal
Died November 1, 1431
Convent of the Carmelites, Portugal
Honored in Roman Catholic Church Beatified January 23, 1918, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XV Canonized April 26, 2009, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI Feast November 6
Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, O. Carm. (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈnunu ˈaɫvɐɾɨʃ pɨˈɾɐjɾɐ]; June 24, 1360 – April 1, 1431), also spelled Nun'Álvares Pereira, was a Portuguese general of great success who had a decisive role in the 1383-1385 Crisis that assured Portugal's independence from Castile. He later became a mystic, was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1918 and was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
Nuno Álvares Pereira was born in Flor da Rosa, near Crato, central Portugal. His parents were Dom Álvaro Gonçalves Pereira, Prior of Crato and Iria Gonçalves do Carvalhal. His grandfather was Dom Gonçalo (Gonçalves) Pereira, 97th Archbishop of Braga (1326–1349). He descended from the oldest Portuguese and Galician nobility. At age 17, he married Leonor de Alvim, daughter of João Pires de Alvim and wife Branca Pires Coelho and childless widow of Vasco Gonçalves Barroso.
Nuno started a military career very early. He was in the army when he was only 13, in 1373, and helped stopping a Castilian invasion. However, according to his own words, his first military campaigns were no more than skirmishes on the borders of Portugal. He was an impetuous and brave young man who soon showed himself to be an excellent leader.
Later on, when king Fernando I of Portugal died in 1383, with no heir besides Beatrice married to king John I of Castile, the Portuguese independence was again very fragile. Nuno was one of the first nobles to support the claim of king Fernando's brother John, Master of Aviz to the throne. True that John was a natural son of Peter I of Portugal, but, like many others, it was a better option than the loss of independence. After his first victory over the Castilians, in the Battle of Atoleiros (April 1384), João of Aviz named Nuno Álvares Pereira Protector and 2nd Constable of Portugal (Condestável do Reino), in practice supreme commander of Portugal’s armies and 3rd Count of Ourém. He was only 23 years old.
In April 1385, João of Aviz was recognized and accepted as king by the kingdom assembly (the Cortes) as John I. This strong Portuguese position for independence triggered an invasion of the country by Juan I of Castile, willing to defend his wife's rights to the throne. Nuno Álvares Pereira engaged in a pursuit against the cities loyal to the Castilians, namely in the North of the country. In August, he was the mastermind of the Portuguese victory in the Battle of Aljubarrota, after which the threat of annexation was over. After the 1383-1385 Crisis, Álvares Pereira received from John I the titles of 2nd Count of Arraiolos and 7th Count of Barcelos, which along with the previous one were the only three Countdoms existing at the time and which had been taken from Noblemen who took part for Castile. He was also made the 38th Mordomo-Mór (Major Majordomo) of the Realm.
Not wanting to give the enemy room to manoeuvre, John I and his supreme general took the offensive and raided several Castilian towns, defeating once again a much larger Castilian army at the Battle of Valverde. He continued to watch out for Juan I of Castile, until his death in 1390. The final peace and the recognition from Castile came only later on October 30, 1411, with the signature of the Treaty of Ayllón.
Nuno Álvares Pereira sired only one daughter by his marriage to Leonor de Alvim, Beatriz Pereira de Alvim, who was to become the wife of Afonso, Count of Barcelos (natural son of John I of Portugal) and first Duke of Braganza. Therefore, Nuno Álvares Pereira was, through the female line, the ancestor of the House of Braganza which became the Portuguese Royal House in the 17th century, ruling the Kingdom of Portugal (1640–1910), the Kingdom of Brazil (1815–1822) and the Empire of Brazil (1822–1889).
After the death of his wife, he became a Carmelite (he joined the Order in 1423) at the Carmo Convent (Lisbon) which he had founded in fulfilment of a vow, and took the name of Friar Nuno of Saint Mary (in Portuguese: Irmão Nuno de Santa Maria). There he lived until his death on Easter Sunday of 1431. He was noted for his prayer, his practise of penance and his filial devotion to the Mother of God.
During the last year of his life, King John I went to visit and embrace him for the last time. He wept, for he considered Nuno Álvares Pereira his closest friend, the one who had put him on the throne and saved his country's independence.
Nuno Álvares Pereira's tomb was lost in the famous 1755 Lisbon earthquake. His epitaph read:"Here lies that famous Nuno, the Constable, founder of the House of Bragança, excellent general, blessed monk, who during his life on earth so ardently desired the Kingdom of Heaven that after his death, he merited the eternal company of the Saints. His worldly honors were countless, but he turned his back on them. He was a great Prince, but he made himself a humble monk. He founded, built and endowed this church in which his body rests."
He had been on the point of being canonized by decree in 1940 by Pope Pius XII. According to a recent statement by the Postulator General of the Carmelite Order, his canonisation was postponed for diplomatic reasons (the Portuguese government itself raised some difficulties), and thus did not initially take place.
On July 3, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI signed two decrees in Rome, promulgating the heroic virtues of Nuno and the authenticity of a miracle that had already been previously confirmed as such by medical and theological Commissions. By this act, the Pope formally canonised Saint Friar Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira. The public celebration of his canonisation took place on April 26, 2009 in Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican City. Saint Nuno's Feast Day is celebrated on April 1 except in Portugal where it is celebrated on November 6. A petition has been submitted to change the date universally to November 6.
you called Saint Nuno Álvares Pereira
to put aside his sword and follow Christ
under the Patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Through his prayers may we too deny ourselves,
and devote ourselves to you with all our hearts.
We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.
- Cultural Center Nuno Álvares Pereira (Portuguese)
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