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The make-up of the Portuguese secular clergy was similar to that of the Spanish, though the data available give conflicting results as to their numerical presence. Foreign travellers, generalizing from the situation observed in the cities, speak of a superabundance of clerics. But just as in Spain, the lower clergy was unevenly distributed. Not only were they concentrated in the urban centres of medium-to-large towns, but they were also more widespread in the north of the country than in areas of large estates in the south. It seems likely that the number of clergy in Portugal was reduced in the 1780s, as a result of the reformist activities of the minister Pombal. But these reforms did not directly affect the organization of the seculars. Their principal aim was the transformation of the religious orders, rather than the ecclesiastical society of the parishes. Thus, the Pombaline policies were more closely allied with those of the Spanish than with the reforms pursued by the Habsburgs.

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