8 junio, 2024

Alexandrian Line: what it is, historical account and conflict with Portugal

What is the Alexandrian line?

The alexandrian line It is a geographical delimitation proposed by Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, in 1493. It arose as a result of the discovery of the New World, because the Portuguese and the Spanish maintained a strong dispute for years.

The cause was the division of the territories of this “new world”. The geographical demarcation of the Alexandrian line was based on an imaginary line. It was traced from pole to pole, from the Cape Verde archipelagos to the Azores.

Said line granted to Spain all the lands that were 370 leagues to the west of the Azores, and to Portugal a portion of the land that is known today as Brazil.

historical count

After the arrival of the news about the discovery of new lands by Columbus, King Ferdinand of Aragon asked Pope Alexander VI for a domain title. This with the reason that the newly discovered lands became the property of Castilla y León (of which Isabel, his wife, was the queen).

In May 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued four documents, known as the Alexandrian Bulls. With these documents, an imaginary line was drawn from pole to pole.

It was established that all the lands and seas located 100 leagues to the west of the Azores and Cape Verde archipelagos would belong to the crown of Castilla y León.

The imaginary line of which mention is made is known as the Alexandrian line. Its name was derived from Pope Alexander VI, the highest authority of the Christian countries, and also Aragonese, like King Fernando of Spain, and friends since 1472, for having been the papal legate in the peninsula who gave permission for their marriage, Fernando and Isabel being second cousins.

Hence, Alexander VI and the Catholic Monarchs had a close relationship, and they felt confident in getting bulls from the papacy that were favorable to them. Thing that happened.

To prevent any unauthorized passage from trespassing the Alexandrian line, excommunication would be decreed for anyone doing so.

In addition, both parties were strictly prohibited from exploiting in any way the foreign territories that the line has delimited.

conflict with Portugal

Upon learning of the Alexandrian Bulls, the Portuguese crown did not agree. He stated that Columbus had violated the waters of Portuguese territory. In addition, they complained to the Spanish crown for not having been included at the time the bulls were issued.

Due to this conflict that the Portuguese raised, it was decided to sign the famous treaty of Tordesillas. This stipulated that the Alexandrian line be moved 270 leagues further west than the previous treaty had proposed.

Thanks to this new treaty, Portugal had the opportunity to get a piece of land that was rightfully hers. The Alexandrian line went from being 100 leagues to the west of the Azores Islands, to being 370 leagues.

Additionally, it was stipulated that all land and sea that was to the west of the Alexandrian line belonged by right to the crown of Castilla y León. Consequently, everything east of it remained in the hands of the Portuguese.

Finally, Portugal was able to claim the territory that is known today as Brazil. These confusions were mainly due to the fact that there was no certain way to establish geographic longitudes at the time.

Thus, the Portuguese benefited when determining the real limits of the Alexandrian line in American territory.


The Alexandrian Bulls. Retrieved from es.wikipedia.org.
Gonzalo Pinal (2014). Towards a new image of the world. Royal Academy of History.

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