Fernão Pais de Tamalhancos
Trovador medieval

Nationality: Galega

Biographical Note:

Galician troubadour from the first half of the 13th century, therefore belonging to initial stages of implantation of the Galician-Portuguese lyric. Resende de Oliveira1, confirming data put forward by Carolina de Michaelis, presented the central traits of his biography. Born most probably in the second half of the 12th century, he would be an adult by 1204, according to a document of that year where he shows up as a witness. More assuredly, he is documented as the lieutenant of Búbal district (where the village of Tamalhancos is located), in the Ourense region, between the years of 1216 and 1242. He should be, however, relatively old by this last date since, according to the Nobiliaries (LD 20C3-4), his daughter Sancha Fernandes married with a nephew of João Fernandes de Lima, mordomo-mor of Sancho I between 1186 and 1208. By this measure, it’s possible that he died shortly after the last year he is documented (1242). Very recently (2011), José António Souto Cabo2 completed this general picture with new informations, allowing us to better draw the profile and the path of the troubadour. Thus, and from the various names by which the lieutenant of Búval is mentioned (Fernando Pais, Fernando Varela e Fernando Pais de Tamallancos) this researcher identifies him with the knight to whom the Nobiliaries call Fernão Pais de Capelo (LL 76A1), a nickname explained by an episode that occurred during the battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212) (capelo is a sort of military hood), and to whom they ascribe the origin of the Varelas’ lineage. In fact, Souto Cabo demonstrates that this lineage is documented up to three prior generations, its founder being Dom Varela, grandfather of the author and an important figure of the leonese court, where he is documented between the years 1152 and 1178. Paio Moniz Varela, one of his sons and father of the troubadour, also performed important roles, having been alferes and mordomo of Afonso IX of Leon, being documented in those posts in 1197. Fernão Pais himself is equally documented as royal ensign that same year. This identification of the Lord of Tamalhancos as Fernão Pais Varela, or Capelo, also allows us to add to the troubadour’s biography the remaining data transmitted by the Book of Lineages regarding this knight, namely that he was married to Teresa Lopes de Ulhoa (the lady to whom, later on and already a widow, Afonso Soares Sarraça adresses a well-known satirical song), marriage that resulted in at least two sons: Gonçalo and João Fernandes Varela (LL 76A1, or João and Pedro in LD 20C3-4). Souto Cabo located, meanwhile, in a document from the monastery of Carrizo (Leon), two other daughters of the troubadour, Orfresa and Elvira Fernandes, nuns in that monastery, already deceased in 1275, when the monastery establishes a sharing deal with Sancha Fernandes Varela (the other aforementioned daughter of the troubadour) regarding the properties of the three sisters’ family inheritance. Given the fact that both Orfresa and Elvira are not mentioned in the Nobiliaries (equally silent regarding the name of Sancha’s mother), Souto Cabo believes that they would be the fruits of a first marriage of the troubadour, possibly with a lady of Catalan origin, whose name might equally be Orfresa. Regardless of the wife’s name, this first marriage seems, in fact, probable, since Fernão Pais de Tamalhancos should be relatively old at the time of his marriage with Teresa de Ulhoa, as may be inferred in the mentioned song adressed at her by Afonso Soares Sarraça and where he draws a picture of a relatively young widow longing to marry (and Lady Teresa had, in fact, children of a second marriage). In what concerns the family name of Fernão Pais, it should be also added that, being certain that the songbooks hesitate between Tamalancos and Talamancos, we kept the first, since it corresponds to the name of the Galician village (current Tamalhancos) where he had his origins.


1 Oliveira, António Resende de (1994), Depois do espectáculo trovadoresco. A estrutura dos cancioneiros peninsulares e as recolhas dos séculos XIII e XIV, Lisboa, Edições Colibri.

2 Souto Cabo, José António (2011), "Fernando Pais de Tamalhancos, trovador e cavaleiro", Revista de Literatura Medieval, nº, 23, Alcalá de Henáres.
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