An Amazing Period of Conquests and Discoveries:
In front of the Monument to the Discoveries is another of Lisbon’s sightseeing attractions, a huge mariner’s compass, cut into the stone pavement.
The compass was a gift from South Africa in 1960 and the central map shows the routes of Portugal’s maritime expeditions and discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Walk around the map and you’ll see images of mermaids, galleons and indication of which direction the trade winds were blowing.
The Age of Discovery
Portugal’s Age of Discovery was an amazing period of conquests and explorations which began in 1415. The capture of Ceuta in North Africa was the springboard to its maritime expeditions into the Atlantic and along the West African coast.
Vast riches were gained from gold, ivory and slaves taken from the Guinea coast.
Portuguese imperialism had its real breakthrough when Vasco da Gama made it round the Cape of Good Hope and reached India in 1498. An eastern capital was established at Goa and from here further inroads were made to the Spice Islands and up to Macau. Portugal soon controlled the Indian Ocean and the very lucrative and exotic spice trade.
Pedro Alvares Cabral’s discovery of Brazil added to Portugal’s supremacy. By now, it’s mercantile superpower was only rivalled by that of Spain.
The mariner’s compass is a popular Lisbon attraction and tour groups frequently stop here to get their briefing of Portugal’s golden period of maritime expeditions. Getting photos of the compass without too many people’s shadows and feet is a challenge, but I manage.