There are few words that can express the magnitude and impact of the legacy and work of Professor José Mattoso. Master and intellectual, his work proved to be – and remains – an unavoidable milestone, both for our understanding of the Portuguese medieval past and the construction of the country that we are, and for the affirmation of a new paradigm of making and understanding History, free from the legitimizing features of the present and open to new fields and knowledge and their understanding in broader contexts and dynamics. Reading his work, reflecting on it, and questioning it is an unavoidable obligation for all those who wish to get closer to this medieval past. Not because it is eternal – that attribute does not belong to us – but because it is certainly fruitful and challenging.
Researcher and teacher, José Mattoso was also indelibly linked to the founding of the Institute of Medieval Studies, together with Luís Krus and his first group of researchers. During these more than 20 years, he never ceased to intervene, encourage and accompany the life of the Institute, contributing to its assertion as a space of excellence in the investigation, production, and dissemination of medieval studies, in the fruitful dialogue of knowledge and methodologies, in order to a richer and problematizing understanding of the past. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of Medievalista, the IEM’s online magazine, founded by Luís Krus in 2005, and whose direction he assumed between 2008 and 2015. Until the end of his life, he always followed this initiative, continuing to contribute articles or reviews and, above all, with your attention and support.
Constantly demanding a deeper understanding of the past, he always valued discussion and debate around the issues he considered essential for the advancement of his knowledge, including his own interpretative hypotheses. Refusing any homage books, he ended up accepting with pleasure the proposal to hold the “José Mattoso Seminars”, as spaces intended precisely for debate and reflection around themes and clues left by his research. Initiated in 2004 by Luís Krus, these seminars have already had six editions, which the Professor has always accompanied to the extent of his possibilities, IEM intends to continue them as a way of revisiting, giving visibility and an even greater fecundity to his historiographical legacy, encouraging new approaches, questions, and concerns and promoting emerging areas within the scope of medieval studies.
In the same way, we remember how Professor José Mattoso closely followed and was present in many other scientific initiatives promoted by the IEM, and he showed himself to be truly interested in accompanying young and less young researchers, in knowing what was being done again, what projects were moving forward and what books had been published in the meantime. Many of our researchers can testify to this personally, as well as supporting many of the books of his disciples and friends, with prefaces in which he always sought to highlight what was new, added to knowledge, and other perspectives of questioning and understanding the past.
Far from deification or absolutization, which he always denounced as forms of power and dehumanization, we want above all to evoke this dear master – and with him, also Luís Krus – in what he(s) can inspire us in this tireless, beautiful, rigorous, creative, seeking to understand the past. Knowing that the search itself obliges one to redo, rebuild, question, open to collaboration, listen to others, to a critical and attentive look, always profoundly free. As Professor José Mattoso taught us, until the end.