The Portuguese were prolific explorers. Starting from the early 15th century, under the sponsorship of prince Henry the Navigator, several Portuguese explorers became firsts to undertake journeys that were previously deemed impossible, discover new routes and reach places that were not known to exist. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good Hope and entered the Indian Ocean, the first European to do so. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama led the first fleet around Africa to India and started a maritime route between the countries. In less than twenty years, Ferdinand Magellan would embark on his epic voyage across the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean becoming the first to nearly circumnavigate the globe. Soon after, explorations proceeded to southeast Asia and reached Japan in 1542. In between, scores of brave men joined the expeditions and discovered many remote islands including New Guinea, Saint Helena, Ascension Island and the most remote inhabited island in the world, Tristan da Cunha, to name a few.
The “Padrão dos Descobrimentos” (Monument to the Discoveries in Portuguese) on the banks of Tagus River in the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon, is a monument that celebrates all these men who took part in the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. It represents a three-sailed ship ready to depart, with sculptures of important historical figures such as King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, poet Camões holding verses from The Lusiads, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers, following Prince Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small vessel. The only female is queen Felipa of Lancaster, mother of Henry the navigator. There are 33 figures in all.
Although the sculpture was inaugurated in 1960, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, its idea was conceived more than 20 years ago by Portuguese architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo, and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida as a temporary beacon during the Portuguese World Fair opening in June 1940. The new permanent monument was constructed in cement and rose-tinted stone and the statues sculpted from limestone.
Inside is an exhibition space with temporary exhibits, and an elevator that takes visitors to the top for a panoramic view over the river. Standing 52 meters tall on the bank of the Tagus river, the monument looks particularly impressive in light of the setting sun.
West side of the Monument to the Portuguese Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) in Lisbon, with labels of individuals represented. Photo credit
East side of the Monument to the Portuguese Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) in Lisbon, with labels of individuals represented. Photo credit
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