Conquer and transformation
D. John I of Portugal had come to the Portuguese throne in 1385 after winning the Battle of Aljubarrota founding the House of Aviz. After stabilizing his kingdom and pacifying its borders he would seek new horizons. The Reconquest of the peninsula was completed and then he focused on Ceuta.
The conquest, after a careful military and diplomatic preparation is carried out, results in Bulas de Cruzada (Papal Bull) of August 21, 1415.
From that moment, the Portuguese monarchy transformed the Islamic city into a Western civilization: It will be the proclamation of the city by Corona with the endorsement of the Holy See, who will grant its own bishopric rank of Prelate. It will be a stronghold with a Captain General at its command, the first being D. Pedro de Meneses, and will include a Municipal House with broad powers.
Symbols and Portuguese roots
The period of Portuguese dominance of Ceuta has had great influence on their institutions, symbols and idiosyncrasy of its inhabitants until today. Much of our autonomic system is based on provincial privileges granted at that time, which have been transformed since.
The same applies to the flag which is the one of San Vicente, which also Lisbon used: the shield, with slight modifications is the kingdom of Portugal; staff of commander, symbol of local government with which the governors take office, or Real Flag, sent by Philip II and I of Portugal, in 1580, to replace, with the arms of Spain and Portugal, brought by Juan I.
Indeed, we must offer devotions to this king for one of our most precious art treasures: the Virgin of Valle, who accompanied him in the expedition of 1415 and to his son, Prince Henry, the Virgin of Africa, who sent his knights to put the city under his protection.
The defensive transformation
When the Portuguese troops came to Ceuta, they found a well-walled city, but with certain ruined points. Naturally, the progress of artillery demanded updating of the fortification.
Among the first walls which were rebuilt, were the Paseo de las Palmeras, with their small windows of orb and cross, or orb and stick. However, the biggest reformation was the one made in the early sixteenth century, reducing the population to the space between the north and south walls, towards the sea, and defending east and west by two moats, the first dry and second waterway.
The project was held by the engineers Miguel Arruda and Benedict Ravenna, conducted between 1541 and 1549, who would continue completing a port at the end of the century with the engineer William Guillisástegui, and then in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, different advanced fortifications were made. This group of buildings fortified the Monument of the Royal Walls of Ceuta.
House of Habsburg of Portugal
Upon the death of King Sebastian of Portugal, and after the brief reign of Cardinal Henry, Philip II acceded to the throne as Philip I of Portugal. In this capacity, he took possession of Ceuta in 1580, sending the Royal Flag to the city with the arms of Spain and Portugal.
Ceuta remained within the great crown of the Habsburgs of Portugal, but it was aware of the enormous advantages of belonging to a larger and closer kingdom, which gave him a more effective and rapid defence and much better supplies in terms of quality and quantity.
When in 1640 the Duke of Braganza was proclaimed king by the name of John IV, Ceuta chose to remain faithful to Philip IV and after secession, requested to join the Crown of Castile with all its rights and privileges. Thus, it was recognized by Philip IV and his successors, giving the City the titles: Always Noble, Loyal and Faithful, which it continues to flaunt proudly.