There is no shortage to history and importance of Portugal’s seafaring prowess in centuries gone-by along the Tagus. By Jerónimos Monastery on the banks of the river is Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a very large and imposing monument dedicated to that gilded golden age of Portugal.
A Brief History
The massive monument was created in 1940 as a temporary structure for the Portuguese World’s Fair. It was demolished in 1943 and after much delegation, was rebuilt and dedicated in 1960 on the fifth centennial anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. While everything looks like a beautiful white stone or marble, it’s all made of steel, concrete, and plaster.
You can visit inside the monument and ascend its stairs to get a marvelous view of the Tagus. If you don’t feel like venturing inside, there’s still much to see on the outside.
Monument to the Discoveries
There’s a lot going on here. On our way from some delicious pastries towards the monastery, we realized we had some time to spare. So, we crossed under the busy roads and ended up in a lovely park. Just outside the park, we saw a large monolith with an imposing sword carved into it. Curious, we crossed a beautiful stone compass rose (A gift from South Africa/Union of South Africa to Portugal: Beige, black, and red limestone). As we came closer, we could see there were carvings on either side of the monolith. Turns out, there was a vast number of figures all climbing their way up the sides towards where the river lead intrepid explorers to the Atlantic to begin their voyages.
I could go through and list all the explorers, but that’s why you check Wikipedia. I couldn’t have told you half of the men on that monument. There were explorers, seamen, missionaries, poets, and royalty all carved in glorious white stone. It was imposing and awe-inspiring: very appropriate for its intended purpose of extolling the greatness of explorations past. Leading the charge into the unknown at the top of the monument is Henry himself, the inspiration for those who followed his sails.
If you’re in the neighborhood and visiting the monastery, the tower, or Pasteis de Belem, it’s well worth the price of free to go check out some mighty impressive craftsmanship!