The Ducal Palace was built between 1420 and 1433 for the Counts of Barcelos – Afonso and Constança – who came to be Dukes of Bragança (1442). It stood tall over the old village of Guimarães and it was only surpassed by the even higher Guimarães Castle.
The constructions were set over the old wall which surrounded the “upper village” and the Palace served as a symbol of the new times and of the influence of Afonso, a master of vast domains and the natural son of King João.
Even today it is a source of admiration, its quasi-square plan, with four turrets (one at each angle), leads one to suppose the existence of a well-defined architectural program. It is not known who was the author of the trace but, it is evident that the architectural resemblance between the Paço in Guimarães and the one of the Kings of Majorca, in Perpignan (France).
There are doubts as to whether the construction was completed and for how long the Palace has been inhabited. It is only known that Constança of Noronha, the first Duchess of Bragança, lived here on 1480.
By 1666 the Palace was already in ruins, and Capuchin Monks planned on removing stone for the construction of their Convent. Was this partial destruction consummate? It is unknown. Nonetheless, it is known that the People of Guimarães insurged on the delapidation of this patrimony of which they were so proud.
After the Philippine Occupation, also in the 17th century, the Palace became property of the Queen’s Household (until its extinction in 1834) and it was used as a barn.
In the 19th century the Palace became a military barracks. Some architectural projects were made to adapt the building to the needs of the army but they weren’t executed. It was at this time that elements in the courtyard and that the galleries were destroyed so that the barracks could have its place-of-arms.
A 1816 drawing by an Irishman, John Synge, allows one to observe the courtyard and to prove the existence of a passageway with a lower gallery, through which the connection was established at the level of the second floor between the Chapel (east wing) and the west wing, in which is located the great entrance.
Already in the 20th century, the Ducal Palace was included in a national plan for the re-qualification of monuments. The rebuilding works occurred between 1937 and 1959. The initial project was made by the Architect Rogério de Azevedo with the local collaboration of Mr. Alfredo Guimarães, the director of the Alberto Sampaio Museum.
During the works there were several functions pointed out for the building: Museum, Library, Archive, Town Hall. Almost by the end of the project there was still no decision on the use to be given to the building.
In 1959 it was declared a National Monument and it opened to public on August 26. The museum objects were gathered from other Museums or bought by a “Furniture Commission” that has been assembled in 1955.
Nowadays the Ducal Palace is part of the Portuguese Museum Network (R.P.M.) and it is one of the most visited monuments in the the country.