Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches was born on July 19th 1885 in Cabanas de Viriato near Viseu. Son of Maria Angelina Ribeiro de Abranches and the judge José de Sousa Mendes, he went to the University of Coimbra in 1902 to study Law, along with his twin brother César, and he graduated in 1907, when he was 22 years-old. He was one of the six best students of his graduation. The University of Coimbra in the beginning of the 20th century was the stage of the vibrant opposition between absolutists and republicans. Traditionally, the University of Coimbra has always been a spot of demonstration against established power. Aristides de Sousa Mendes studied in Coimbra from 1902 to 1907 and on October 5th 1910 Republic was implemented in Portugal.
In fact, in 1910, at the dawn of Republic, Aristides de Sousa Mendes specialised in Diplomacy, along with his twin brother César. It was by all means the most prestigious Law Faculty in the country and at the same time a place of freedom of speech and thought, where students could express their views on politics and ideology.
The University was, according to Berbardino Machado (former President of the Portuguese Republic), contemporary of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who also graduated at the University of Coimbra, “a University must be above all a school of freedom”.
This general open-minded mood that one could feel at the University of Coimbra has certainly influenced Aristides de Sousa Mendes on his life later on.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes lived in Coimbra from 1902 to 1904 in Rua de Sobre Ripas. After graduating in Law in 1907 he was a Law trainee, defending several cases in the beginning of his career as a lawyer.
Photo credits: University of CoimbraAUC Processos de carta de curso (SR) – (Direito, 1909 )- cota AUC-IV-2.ªD-13-4-14