João Soares de Paiva
Trovador medieval

Nationality: Portuguesa

Biographical Note:

Portuguese troubadour, born around the fourth decade of the 12th century, João Soares de Paiva is the oldest author with work preserved in the medieval galician-portuguese songbooks. The son of Dom Soeiro Pais, known as “o Mouro” (the moor), and Urraca Mendes de Bragança, whose union took place right after the battle of Ourique (where the first husband of Dona Urraca died), João Soares came from a lineage established on the shores of river Paiva, south of Douro. He’s documented in Portugal in 1169 and 1170, a date from which he should have left the country, in all appearances definitely, or at least for a very prolonged time. In fact, his only preserved song, which may be dated to the final years of the 12th century, tells us that he was, at the time, in the lands he owned in the Navarra-Castille-Aragonese border.
We ignore the motives that may have led him to leave Portugal but, as José Mattoso suggests1, it´s not impossible that this departure was related to the loss of Badajoz by King Afonso Henriques, an hypothesis that José António Souto Cabo reinforces2, highlighting the close relations that his maternal lineage, the Braganções, held with the kingdom of Leon, being the most salient case that of his maternal uncle, Mendo Mendes de Bragança, documented as alferes of Fernando II (the winner in Badajoz) in 1152. José Carlos Miranda3, in turn, proposed that in a given moment João Soares put himself at the service of Rui Dias de los Cameros, a powerful lord of Navarrian origin and also troubadour (although his work, mentioned in the Colocci index, was unfortunately lost), and whose lordship was situated exactly in the confluence of the kingdoms of Navarra, Castilla and Aragon, which seems to match the theme of João Soares de Paiva’s satirical song. Moreover, it should also be him the João de Paiva that, later in 1182, confirms a sale made in Villafranca de Bierzo, in the border of Leon with Galicia, a location that this researcher explains as being the zone of origin of Rui Dias’s mother, a Galician lady from the powerful Trava’s lineage. Souto Cabo, however, in the aforementioned article, rectifyinf the Trava's zone of origin (northwest and southwest of Galicia), disagrees with this connection between João Soares and the lord of Cameros, suggesting that this Villafranca document, a location which had as lieutenant, at the time, the count of Catalan origin Armengol VII de Urgell, nephew of the powerful Pôncio II Geraldo de Cabrera (grandfather of the troubadour João Velaz), anyway, this Vilafranca document, as we were saying, would instead confirm the connections between the troubadour, through the Braganções, and the Cabrera-Velaz (connections between lineages also attested by the Books of Lineages), therefore constructing another credible context to João Soares’s satirical song. Be that as it may, what’s certain is that we know nothing else of the path of João Soares de Paiva, including the date of his passing.
He married, at an equally undetermined date, with Maria Anes de Riba de Vizela, with whom he had five children (that appear to have lived in Portugal, given that one of them was a nun at the monastery of Lorvão). It should be added, however, that these informations (namely his wife’s name), supplied by the lineage books in several moments (LD 6M6, LC 26C3, LC42W6), are regarded with some scepticism by José Carlos Miranda, who believes they may reflect some confusion with an homonym, since Maria Anes seems to belong, in fact, to the generation that followed. Unless João Soares de Paiva did in fact return to Portugal and married late.
It should be added that, besides his preserved satirical song, the songbooks also included a further six love songs by this troubadour, as it’s stated in the Colocci index, songs that haven’t reached us since they were in the initial folios of the “Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional”, nowadays lost


1 Mattoso, José (2000), "A nobreza medieval portuguesa no contexto peninsular", in Naquele Tempo. Ensaios de História Medieval , Lisboa, Círculo de Leitores, p. 329.

2 Souto Cabo, José António (2012), Os cavaleiros que fizeram as cantigas. Aproximação às origens socioculturais da lírica galego-portuguesa, Niterói, Editora UFF, p. 57-70.
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3 Miranda, José Carlos (2004), Aurs mezclatz ab argen. Sobre a primeira geração de trovadores galego-portugueses, Porto, Edições Guarecer, pp. 15-43.

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