Literature in the Portuguese language first emerged in lyric poetry, the courtly love poems collected in cancioneiros [song books]. The earliest of these, three in number, are the Cancioneiro da Ajuda, da Vaticana, and Colocci-Brancuti, written in the 13th cent. In the early 20th cent. the scholarly work of Carolina Micaëlis de Vasconcelos on the Cancioneiro da Ajuda opened large vistas into the past of Portuguese literature. The early poems were greatly influenced by the Provençal language and literature, but they had the individual flavor and meter of Portuguese and Galician, then a dialect of Portuguese (see Provençal literature). King Dinis, who ruled Portugal in the late 13th and early 14th cent., was an accomplished poet and, like his father, Alfonso III, followed the Provençal custom of encouraging poetic activity in his court.
Prose writing took longer to develop. Religious and historical writings ultimately led to the romances of chivalry, the progenitor of which, Amadis of Gaul, most likely originated in Portugal. Among the greatest achievements of medieval Portuguese prose are the vivid and well-documented chronicles written by Fernão Lopes (c.1380–c.1460) and Gomes Eanes de Zurara (c.1420–c.1474). Portuguese poetry in the 15th cent. was marked by the influence of Spain, which can be seen in Garcia de Resende's collection, Cancioneiro geral (1516).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.