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The current Portuguese Civil Code (Portuguese: Código Civil) was approved on 26 November 1966 and entered into force on 1 June 1967. It replaced the previous Portuguese Civil Code of 1868.

Its text was prepared by a Commission of Professors of Law which in its final phase was presided and substantially changed by Professor Antunes Varela reason why it is often referred to as "Varela's Civil Code" as opposed to "Seabra's Civil Code", the previous Civil Code of Portugal which preparation commission was presided over by the Viscount of Seabra and entered into force precisely one century before it was enacted, in 1967.

However, due to Professor Vaz Serra's important contributions, the Portuguese Civil Code is often also referred to as "Vaz Serra's Civil Code", specially by authors from the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon.

This Code adopted the German classification of areas of Civil Law, following the BGB, and is divided into 5 different books:

  1. General Part (Parte Geral)
  2. Law of Obligations (Direito das Obrigações)
  3. Property Law (Direito das Coisas)
  4. Family Law (Direito da Família)
  5. Inheritance Law (Direito das Sucessões)

The Civil Code was subjected to many revisions and changes both in Portugal as well as in some of its former overseas possessions where it still is in force, but the main structure and concepts of it remain untouched since 1867.

The Macau Civil Code of 1999Edit

In the former Portuguese possession of Macau, China, a new Civil Code was approved in 1999. The Macau Civil Code is direct descendant of the Portuguese Code, as it follows the same structure, but with countless developments, changes, simplifications and additions.


  • CARLOS FERREIRA DE ALMEIDA, ASSUNÇÃO CRISTAS and NUNO PIÇARRA (eds.), Portuguese law. An overview, Almedina, Coimbra, 2007.
  • JORGE GODINHO, Macau business law and legal system, LexisNexis, Hong Kong, 2007.
  • JORGE GODINHO, The Macau Civil Code. A partial English translation [1].

See alsoEdit