15 May 2008 • 1,199 views
Monument to the Discoveries / Padrão dos descobrimentos
Standing on the north bank of the Tagus at Belém, near Lisbon, this astonishing monument was originally built of concrete in 1940 for the World Fair / Exposição do Mundo Português. It was rebuilt in stone in 1960, to commemorate and celebrate the life of Henry the Navigator who died five hundred years earlier, in 1460.
The structure was designed by Cottinelli Telmo and Leopoldo de Almeida. It was never intended to be permanent, but it struck a chord and has become a major tourist attraction in its' own right. It stands at 52 metres (approx 170 ft) tall, I'm not sure of the other dimensions, but it's quite narrow.
Inside there are displays showing Portuguese history, with some very nice reproductions of paintings, also an activity and education area for children. A lift takes visitors to a fairly small viewing platform which gives superb views of Belém and the Tagus, also a huge mosaic pavement portraying a world map surrounded by a compass rose, which was presented to the city by South Africa in 1960.
What you see here is the prow of a stylised ship. Prince Henry is at the front holding a model caravel - sailing ship - same as the one on the building in Cascais that I showed yesterday. Behind him are lined up thirty men and women who contributed in their various ways to Portuguese culture and exploration, both before and after Henry's death - fifteen people on each side of the building. It's been criticised as being over-romantic, but it's a wonderful structure, and what's wrong with singing the praises of your own countrymen and their achievements?
This shows part of the west face. Immediately behind Prince Henry are (King) Dom Afonso V (1432-81) and Vasco da Gama (1469-1524). Camoes, the poet, (1524-1580) is at the lower edge of the picture holding an open scroll - the latter two are buried in the Monastery over the road.
There's a full list of individuals in - Wikipedia -
. I did, once, see something online that had a mouse-over to show who's who, but unfortunately I didn't save the link and can't find it again. I'll keep looking..