The traditional shield (escudo) is the prime Portuguese symbol and has been used for more than 800 years. It has appeared in all flags, except the first one.
The five smaller shields are said to represent the wounds of Christ. The story tells that King Afonso prayed for the protection of the Portuguese people before a major battle and a vision of Jesus appeared to him. Afonso won the
battle and in gratitude incorporated Christ's wounds on to the flag.
The castles, which originally numbered nine, are a symbol of the Portuguese victories over their enemies during King Afonso III's rule. The number of castles was reduced to seven at a later date.
The yellow circular design, which replaced the crown in the old monarchist flag, represents the Portuguese explorations throughout the world, a time
when Portugal was considered at the peak of its power.