Alexandre Herculano: one of the greatest defenders of national heritage

28 de March, 2024

Portuguese writer, historian, journalist and poet, Alexandre Herculano was born on 28 March 1810. He is the author of the poem “Tristezas do Desterro” (Sorrows of exile), which inspired António Soares dos Reis to create “O Desterrado” (The Exiled), the most prominent sculpture in the collection of the Soares dos Reis National Museum.


He is represented in the sculpture collection of the Soares dos Reis National Museum by a plaster bust by Anatole C. Calmels, dated 1879.


Alexandre Herculano was one of the greatest defenders of national heritage and is therefore the patron saint of National Historic Centres Day, which was created in 1993 and is celebrated annually on the 28th of March. The date is intended to recall the importance of historic centres as elements of culture and heritage with a high historical value.

He is considered the father of Portuguese historiography and his poems and novels make him a key figure in romanticism. Hetook part and founded several cultural and news magazines and newspapers.


Herculano learnt the rudiments of historical research outside the academic circuit, which he was forced to abandon for economic reasons. Due to his opposition to Miguelism, he was forced into exile, first in England and then in France, where he came into contact with the artworks of the foreign historians, novelists and poets who would have a great influence on his future oeuvre. In 1832, he landed in Mindelo with the liberal troops and participated in the defence of Porto.


The most significant part of Alexandre Herculano’s literary work is concentrated in six prose texts, mainly dedicated to the genre known as historical narrative. This type of narrative combines the erudition of the historian, necessary for the meticulous reconstitution of the environments and customs of past eras, with the imagination of the literary writer, who creates or expands plots to compose his storylines.