The Monument to the Discoveries memorializes the age of the great geographical discoveries, when Portugal dominated sea trade among the continents. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.
The Monument seen from the Tower of Belem. The Monument was built in 1940 and made permanent on the north bank of the Tagus in 1960.
The monument, 165 feet high, memorializes the period from the 15th Century to the middle of the 17th, when extensive overseas exploration (and exploitation) emerged as a powerful factor in European culture. It started with the Portuguese discoveries of Madeira in 1419 and the Azores in 1427, the coast of Africa after 1434 and the sea route to India in 1498.
The monument is decorated with seafaring and related motifs that recall the age of the great discoveries.
Thirty-four statues decorate the two sides.
The main statue is the one which represents Henry the Navigator, credited with the early development of Portuguese exploration and maritime trade with other continents. He was the official behind Portugal’s systematic exploration of Western Africa, the islands of the Atlantic Ocean and the search for new routes.
Other figures represent poets, explorers, navigators, crusaders and mapmakers, with key figures such as Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Felipa of Lancaster and Camoes, who contributed to Portugal’s reputation during the Age of Discoveries.