Category: Monument to the Discoveries

Monument to the Discoveries – The world’s explorers in stone.

Across from Jeronimos Monastery, reached via an underpass by its gardens, is the Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. 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, the brain of the discoveries. The Monument to the Discoveries was originally built for the 1940 World Exhibition. It celebrated the achievements of explorers during the Age of Discoveries and the creation of Portugal’s empire.  Henry the Navigator on the Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon,  The monument was only built as a temporary structure and it was demolished a couple of years after the closure of the exhibition. The monument we see today is an exact replica of the original one. It was was built in 1960 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death. Henry the Navigator was a driving force behind the overseas exploration and he financed many of the expeditions. The fifty meter (171ft) tall monument, shaped like a ship’s prow, stands at the marina in Belém, the starting point for many of Portugal’s explorers. This is where in 1497 Vasco da Gama embarked on his voyage to India and in 1493 a storm forced Christopher Columbus to anchor here on his way back to Spain after his discovery of the Americas. The monument shows more than thirty statues of people who played an important role in the discoveries. Leading the way is Henry the Navigator who is shown standing on the bow holding a model of a caravel. Behind him are king Afonso V – who supported the exploration and colonization of Africa – and the explorers Vasco da Gama (who found a direct route to India), Pedro Álvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil) and Ferdinand Magellan (the first explorer to circumnavigate the world). They are followed by navigators, writers, missionaries, a mathematician, a cartographer and other figures from the era of the discoveries.


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