Conquering the Green Sea of Darkness: Henry the Navigator

The Monument to the Discoveries or Padrão dos Descobrimentos was built in 1960 to celebrate Portugal’s contributions during the Age of Discovery in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Originally designed in 1940, it stands overlooking the Tagus River in Belém, Lisbon. Henry the Navigator (1394 –1460) is at the forefront of the concrete vessel holding a model of a caravel. He was the Portuguese prince that encouraged explorations in a time when sailors feared the “green sea of darkness”. The mariners believed the uncharted waters held deadly sea serpents and boiling water that turned the skin black. Henry was able to employ scholars, navigators and cartographers to establish Portugal as a maritime power. He created the caravel ship, an elegant and efficient design that was also used by the Spanish as shown in the Caravel Pendant from the late sixteenth century. The story of the discoveries was depicted in the children’s book Spice and the Devil's Cave by Agnes Danforth Hewes (1874 1963) and illustrated by the American artist Lynd Ward (1905-1985).