Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belém

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Padrão dos Descobrimentos (; lit. Monument to the Discoveries) is a monument on the northern margin of the Tagus River estuary, in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon. Located along the river were ships departed to explore and trade with India and Orient, the monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery (or Age of Exploration) during the 15th and 16th centuries.


It was conceived in 1939 by Portuguese architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo, and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, as a temporary beacon during the Portuguese World Fair opening in June 1940. The Monument to the Discoveries represented a romantized idealization of the Portuguese exploration that was typical of the Estado Novo regime of António de Oliveira Salazar. It was originally constructed as a temporary construction, located in the Praça do Império as part of an urban renewal project favoured by minister Duarte Pacheco, but with the resistance of Cottinelli Telmo. Yet, it was never completely finished until 10 October 1960, being transferred to the responsibility of the Administração Geral do Porto de Lisboa (General Administration of the Port of Lisbon).

Although in 1962, an accord was signed with the Câmara Municipal of Lisbon to transfer its title, between 1960 and 1979 nothing was ever done with this monument.<ref name=SIPA/> A document (Despacho No.57/P/79) published in the municipal journal (No.13260, 5 November 1979), advanced the city's intention to produce a permanent exhibition, but it was only in 1985 that public works completed the cultural centre which inaugurated public access to the top of the structure, in addition to creating spaces for an observation deck, auditorium and hall for exhibitions.

In April 2003, the management of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos was placed in the custody of the public company Gestão de Equipamentos e Animação Cultural (EGEAC, E.E.M.).


The structure is located on the northern bank of the Tagus River, limited by the Belém Marina, Algés and Dafundo Nautical Centre and the Museum of Popular Art , and demarcated by stone pedestals with armillary spheres.<ref name=SIPA/> Opposite the large square, and across the Avenida de Índia-Avenida de Brasília motorway, is the Praça do Império which fronts the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Cultural Center and the green-spaces of the Jardim Vasca do Gama.

The original structure, which Telmo, Barros and Almeida created, was erected in steel and cement, while the 33 statutes was produced in a composite of plaster and tow. Ostensibly a 52 m-high slab standing vertically along the bank of the Tagus, the design takes the form of the prow of a caravel (ship used in the early Portuguese exploration). On either side of the slab are ramps that join at the river's edge, with the figure of Henry the Navigator on its edge. On either side of the Infante, along the ramp, are 16 figures (33 in total) representing figures from the Portuguese Age of Discovery. These great people of the era included monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries. Each idealized figure is designed to show movement towards the front (the unknown sea), projecting a direct or indirect synthesis of their participation in the events after Henry.

The South African government was responsible for gifting the construction of the square in front of the monument: the 50 metre diameter Rosa-dos-Ventos (compass rose), was executed using different types of marble.<ref name=SIPA/><ref name=EGEACp/> Designed by the architect Cristino da Silva, it includes a Mappa mundi that 14 metres wide, showing the routes of Portuguesecarracks and caravels during the Age of Discovery.<ref name=SIPA/><ref name=EGEACp/>

The northern façade flanking the staircase are two inscriptions in metal: on the left, "AO INFANTE D. HENRIQVE E AOS PORTVGVESES QVE DESCOBRIRAM OS CAMINHOS DO MAR" (To Prince Henry and the Portuguese that Discovered the Roads of the Sea) over a metal anchor; and, on the right, the words "NO V CENTENÁRIO DO INFANTE D. HENRIQVE 1460 - 1960" (On the Fifth centennary of Prince Henry 1460-1960), over a crown of laurel.<ref name=SIPA/> The double staircase ascends one level, before the entranceway to the monument, allowing a perspective on the square and the lateral figures.<ref name=SIPA/>

The interior consists of three areas: the auditorium with space for 101 people, a stage of 18 m², with film projection booth; a secondary level with two halls for exhibition; and the last level with four rooms.<ref name=SIPA/> Normally, the auditorium hosts a multimedia exhibition on the history of Lisbon, while the other rooms are used for exhibitions. The top of the monument (reached via an elevator or stairs) offers views of the Tagus river, the Belém neighbourhood and its many attractions, including the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, which date from the Age of Discovery.


In addition to the main statute of Henry the Navigator, holding a model of a carrack, on either side of the ramps of the monument are a total of 33 figures from the history of the Discoveries, specifically (from right to left)<ref name=EGEACp/>:

Western profile
  • Afonso V of Portugal
  • Vasco da Gama (discoverer of the sea route to India)
  • Afonso Gonçalves Baldaia (navigator)
  • Pedro Álvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil)
  • Ferdinand Magellan (first to circumnavigate the globe)
  • Nicolau Coelho (navigator)
  • Gaspar Corte-Real (navigator)
  • Martim Afonso de Sousa (navigator)
  • João de Barros (writer)
  • Estêvão da Gama (sea captain)
  • Bartolomeu Dias (first to cross over the Cape of Good Hope)
  • Diogo Cão (first to arrive to the Congo river)
  • António Abreu (navigator)
  • Afonso de Albuquerque (second viceroy of Portuguese India)
  • Saint Francis Xavier (missionary)
  • Cristóvão da Gama (captain)
Eastern profile
  • Infante Peter, Duke of Coimbra (son of King John I of Portugal)
  • Queen Philippa of Lancaster
  • Fernão Mendes Pinto (explorer and writer)
  • Friar Gonçalo de Carvalho
  • Friar Henrique Carvalho
  • Luís de Camões (renaissance poet who celebrated the navigations in the epic Lusiads)
  • Nuno Gonçalves (painter)
  • Gomes Eanes de Zurara (chronicler)
  • Pêro da Covilhã (traveller)
  • Jácome de Maiorca (cosmographer)
  • Pedro Escobar (navigator)
  • Pedro Nunes (mathematician)
  • Pêro de Alenquer (navigator)
  • Gil Eanes (navigator)
  • João Gonçalves Zarco (navigator)
  • Infante Fernando, the Saint Prince (son of King John I of Portugal)

In Popular Culture

  • The monument was featured in Lisa Stansfield's music video for the single "Change," where she is seen walking up and down the eastern ledge.

See also

  • Age of Discovery
  • Padrão