Discoveries monument (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) is a monument that stands on the bank of the Tagus River, about a hundred meters from the Torre de Belém.
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It was built by Salazar (the old dictator) for the great exhibition of the Portuguese world (1940). The architect Cottinelli Telmo was responsible for its architecture and the sculptures were the responsibility of Leopoldo de Almeida. The monument was first conceived as a tribute to Prince Henry the Navigator. The initial project was never realized, and had Sagres (Algarve) as its intended location.
Later, during the preparation of the Portuguese World Exhibition (1940), the initial project was transformed into the Discoveries pattern. It is a tribute to Prince Henry the Navigator and also to those who collaborated with him and those who followed his path. It took 8 months for the monument to be built. Perishable materials were used in the initial construction. For this reason, it had to be removed in 1958 to be rebuilt in the following 2 years. The new version of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos was still made of lioz stone. It was Salazar who decided so 500 years after the Infante was born.
WHERE IS THE DISCOVERIES MONUMENT?
Also called the monument to the discoveries or the monument to the navigators, it is located in Belém in the city of Lisbon.
DISCOVERIES MONUMENT CHARACTERISTICS
Shaped like a caravel, it has 3 large sails that extend on a central, vertical pillar. Over the entrance of the monument is a huge sword. Prince Henry the Navigator stands at the prow of the caravel (of the standard) holding a map in his left hand and a caravel in his right hand.
On each side of the monument, we find a long row of statues. They represent some of the most notable Portuguese who were somehow connected to the discoveries. Among these figures we find navigators, warriors, poets and scientists.
ROSA DOS VENTOS
In front of the entrance to the Monument, a giant (50 meters in diameter) Rose of the Winds is depicted on the ground. This figure was a gift from South Africa in 1960 and was adorned with a mermaid, a fanciful fish, and Neptune riding a sea animal.
VISITING THE MONUMENT OF DISCOVERIES
Divide your visit into 5 DISTINCTED MOMENTS:
1st MOMENT OF THE VISIT – Admire the outside of the monument.
2nd MOMENT OF THE VISIT – Buy the entrance ticket.
DISCOVERIES MONUMENT, PRICES
Visit the discovery pattern calmly and with time so that you can enjoy everything that this beautiful monument has to offer. Here are the different ticket price possibilities.
DISCOVERIES MONUMENT – SCHEDULE
The Discoveries Monument schedule varies according to demand and the time of year.
3rd MOMENT OF THE VISIT – Watch the movie about the Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
It can be seen every day at 3:30 pm. Here is the trailer.
4th MOMENT OF THE VISIT – Visit the exhibition that is on display at the time of your visit (exhibitions are not permanent).
5th MOMENT OF THE VISIT – Climb to the top of the monument to access its incredible viewpoint.
DISCOVERIES MONUMENT, FAMOUS PEOPLE
Many notables are represented on both sides of the “Padrão dos Descobrimentos”. As we have already mentioned, Prince Henry leads a line of illustrious people from the sciences, the arts, and even warriors. In this article, we have chosen to include those we believe to have been the most illustrious among the notables.
HENRY THE NAVIGATOR
In the bow of the caravel (of the standard) is the Infante Dom Henrique (1394-1460). He was the most important figure of the Portuguese maritime discoveries and was known as Infante de Sagres or Navigator. The Infante surrounded himself with wise men and navigators and with them began the glorious era of the Portuguese discoveries. The archipelagos of Madeira and Azores were discovered during his lifetime. It was under his direction that the settlement and development of the archipelagos took place. It is in the monastery of Batalha that we can find the remains of the Navigator.
LUÍS VAZ DE CAMÕES
The greatest poet of the Portuguese language is represented in the pattern of the discoveries on the west side (next to the Belém tower). There are many doubts about the true history of Luís Vaz de Camões. He would have been born in Lisbon in 1579 or 1580, from a small family with some possessions. Nothing is known for sure about his childhood. It is known, however, that he received a thorough education as a teenager. He mastered Latin, literature, and history. Some say he studied at the University of Coimbra, but there are no written records of his time there.
The poet’s many love affairs are generally accepted. A troubled personal life to which he added a taste for the bohemian and bickering life. Some say he lost an eye in battle and some say he lost it in a love affair. He was arrested for wounding a man. He was pardoned and left for the Orient where he was again arrested several times and where he fought for Portugal. In the Orient he wrote the greatest work of national literature, an epic about Portugal: “Os Lusíadas”. Upon his return from the war, he received a small pension which, in his last years of life, was barely enough for him to maintain a dignified life until the end.
VASCO DA GAMA (1469 – 1524)
It is the third statue on the east side of the Padrão do Descobrimentos.
Born in Alentejo (Sines) near the Church of Our Lady of Salvas. Sines was at that time a tiny village with a small fishing community supported by the Port of Sines. There is little information about the first phase of the life of this great name of Portuguese maritime exploration. It is known that he was a profound connoisseur of astronomy and mathematics and is thought to have learned in Evora.
It was Manuel I of Portugal who appointed Vasco da Gama as captain-in-chief of the expedition that, in 1497 left Belém for India. There were 170 men spread over 4 vessels in what was, at the time, the longest sea voyage ever accomplished. The arrival in India (Calicut) takes place on May 20, 1498.
EXHIBITION OF THE PORTUGUESE WORLD
The “Padrão dos descobrimentos” is a result of the Portuguese world exhibition, which took place in Lisbon (Belém) in 1940. The event had as its purpose the commemoration of the foundation of Portugal (1140) and also the celebration of the restoration of Independence (1640) lost to the Spanish. It is noteworthy that the exhibition was timed to coincide with World War II. This grandiose demonstration was also a sign of vitality and consolidation of the New State and of Salazar.
In the photo above, we can see the first version of the pattern of the discoveries and also the famous light fountain of Belém, which also dates from 1940 and is a central element of the Garden of the square of the empire.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO THE DISCOVERIES MONUMENT
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR THE DISCOVERIES MONUMENT?
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is in Belém, the place where I was born, grew up and live. I always found Belém the most beautiful part of the city (although I recognize that the city center is always more appealing to tourists). The beauty and richness of Belém’s heritage is so vast that it’s difficult to suggest 4 attractions near the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. To get to know it well, 2 hours are perfectly enough. If you have time to spare, take the opportunity to visit the following attractions. We have prepared a map for you so that you can plan your tour efficiently.
If your back is turned to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, you will see in front of you the most impressive monastery in Portugal, the majestic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos! It holds the title of World Heritage Site (since 1983) and is one of the most popular tourist sites in Lisbon. A gigantic masterpiece that took almost 100 years to build (1501-1591). This is one of those visits that you can’t miss. Enter the huge nave of the Monastery and enjoy it calmly. I assure you that what you will see will be forever present in your memory, absolutely unmissable!
From the Padrão dos Descobrimentos to the Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium it’s just a five minute walk. I have been going here regularly since I was a kid. If you are curious about the universe (I am very!), you will enjoy watching the various sessions that the planetarium has to show. It was built in 1963 and owes its name to the foundation with the same name. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation donated 7 million escudos (old currency) to help build this magical place for children and adults alike! Besides the large auditorium, the space also has a gallery with several exhibitions and a large thematic library.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos and pasteis de Belém are a 10-minute walk away. Since 1837 the famous pasteis have been made here. The recipe remains secret! The pastries are produced in the “secret workshop” and the confectioners who work there sign a confidentiality agreement. Have you tried them? If you have not had the opportunity to eat a pastel de Belém yet, there is only one problem you should know about: pastries are highly addictive and it is impossible to eat just one! A pittance to keep your body in line!
A short 5-minute stroll separates the Padrão dos Descobrimentos from the imposing Torre de Belém. Be sure to visit one of the symbols of Lisbon and Portugal. A 16th century tower that was once used for the defense of Belém and later as a dungeon and lighthouse! A monument with 5 floors full of points of interest. Its exterior is beautiful, but its interior is not far behind. If you visit the inside of the Tower of Belem, you will find a terrace, a chapel, an audience room, a kings room and the governor’s room.
DISCOVERIES MONUMENT, CONTROVERSIAL
One last paragraph to comment on the words spoken by a deputy of the Socialist Party in the beginning of the year 2021 (Ascenso Simões by name). This deputy suggested the demolition of the Padrão do Descobrimentos. Politically I am situated to the center left. But I find it absolutely sad and regrettable that this gentleman suggested this real aberration. History is not erased. It is there and we must learn from it to avoid mistakes in the present and in the future. My father used to tell me that we should never look at the past with the eyes of the present. It is a sign of ignorance and a mistake in analysis. Ascenso Simões revealed himself to be a true ignorant fool.