Portugal’s navigators

The centerpiece of the 1940 Portuguese World Fair was a large plaster sculpture celebrating Portugal’s age of discovery. Two decades later, this sculpture was rebuilt in cement and stone. It has a terrace on top that you can reach by elevator. It is well worth the climb to enjoy the magnificent view of Lisbon.

The monument is shaped like a ship prowl. Both sides are crowded with statues of monarchs, sailors, scientists, missionaries, writers, and artists. They’re all jostling for a good position on the narrow decks, thinking that, if they’re going to stand still until the end of time, they might as well get a nice view of the Tagus river.

Prince Henry the Navigator secured the prime spot. He stands right in front of the monument with a stern look on his face. Some say that he’s thinking about the perils that Portuguese explorers had to endure. But a more popular theory is that he’s simply afraid of being pushed into the river. Despite his nautical fame, Prince Henry never learned to swim.

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