"The Monument of the Discoveries" Portugal Things to Do Tip by traveldave

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The Monument of the Discoveries was commissioned by the Salazar regime to honor Portugal's Age of Discoveries in which much of the world was discovered, explored, and charted during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The monument was completed in 1960 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese prince who sponsored many of the voyages of discovery. It was built on a site on the Tagus riverfront where many of the ships departed into the unknown on their epic journies.

The designers of the Monument of the Discoveries were architect Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida. Their design was of a stylized caravel with Henry the Navigator at the bow. Along the sloping lines on each side are 33 sculptures of Portuguese explorers, mariners, crusaders, cartographers, cosmographers, poets, missionaries, and royal patrons responsible for Portugal's Age of Discoveries. Some of the most notable historical figures in addition to Henry the Navigator include King Manuel I carrying an armillary sphere, King Alfonso V (an early sponsor of voyages and conqueror of North Africa), Vasco da Gama (who discovered and opened a trade route to India), Ferdinand Magellan (the first to circumnavigate the globe), Pedro Álvares Cabral (the discoverer of Brazil), and Luís de Camões, whose epic poem, the Lusiades, celebrates the epic voyages.

The pavement in front of the monument is decorated with a mosaic representing a compass with a map of the world charting the routes taken by Portuguese explorers. It was donated by the government of South Africa in 1960.

The interior of the 171-foot (52-meter) monument contains exhibition spaces for temporary exhibits, a room where a short film about Lisbon is shown, and an elevator to the top where visitors can get a panoramic view of the monuments of the Belém district and the mouth of the Tagus River.

Directions: The Monument of the Discoveries is located on the Praça da Boa Esperança, just off Avenida de Brasília.

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  • Updated Nov 18, 2010
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