Exploration of the African Coast

Portugal became, in the 15th century, due in substantial part to its Muslim and Jewish heritages, expert in cartography and navigation and that, along with other factors, enabled the country to launch itself in the Age of Discoveries.

The motivations for the expansion overseas were varied. To the social and economic reasons one must add the fight against the “infidels” as well as the desire to spread the Christian faith among the pagans. The expansion was seen as a way of increasing the national patrimony and the treasury, but also as means to improve individual fortunes. In the beginning of the 15th century, as a result of the crisis felt through all of Europe during the 14th century, Portugal was dealing with serious economical problems. It was urgent to find new resources.


Ceiling from the monastery of Batalha, one of the masterpieces of the Portuguese gothic,
commemorating the battle of Aljubarrota (1385), in which the Portuguese reaffirmed their independence.
A new phase began – Portugal was free to explore new worlds.(APH photo).


The Infante D. Henrique, one of D. João I sons, with the vast resources at his disposal (the income from the Order of Christ), promoted several voyages of exploration and discovery:

  • The Atlantic islands were discovered: Madeira (1418); Azores (1427);
  • The Bojador Cape was overcome in 1434;
  • The western African coast was explored up to Sierra Lione until 1460 (the Infante died in the same year);


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