A great side trip from Lisbon is the town of Belem, just down the river.
The Monument to the Discoveries was built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. Henry is at the “prow” holding a caravel, an early Portuguese ship. Other figures, representing great people from Portugal’s sea exploration history, line each side.
On this side just to the right of Henry is Vasco da Gama. He discovered a sea route to India. Third down from Vasco is Ferdinand Magellan, the first to circumnavigate the globe (with the circle in his hand).
In the square next to the monument is a world map made of different kinds of marble. It shows the many routes taken by Portuguese explorers.
This is Will pointing out where Seattle is.
The Belem tower, a UNESCO Heritage Site nearby, was built in the early 16th century to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Targus river. Originally it stood on a little island and was surrounded by water. Over time development extended the shoreline and the tower became integrated into the riverbank.
The Monastery of Jeronimos, across from the Monument to the Discoveries, is another UNESCO Heritage Site. It was originally built by Henry the Navigator in the mid 15th century to support pilgrims who travelled in the region. The chapel was in disrepair when Vasco da Gama spent the night here before sailing for the Orient in 1497. Construction of the monastery was begun in 1501 and took 100 years to build. The religious orders were dissolved in 1833 and the building was unoccupied for a time. Now a national monument, it houses religious art and artifacts and serves as an exposition center.
This is the tomb of Vasco da Gama. On our India trip we saw where he was originally buried in Kochi.
The cloisters are decorated with beautiful carvings.
Belem is a lovely place to spend a day, especially when the weather is nice. Henry the Navigator looks great under a blue sky!