Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator (* March 4, 1394 in Porto, † November 13, 1460 in Sagres, Portuguese Infante Dom Henrique de Avis ) was an important client of expeditions in the 15th century. He initiated discovery trips along the West African coast founded the Portuguese maritime and colonial power and make the beginning of European expansion dar.


Henry was the fourth son of the Portuguese King John I and his wife, Philippa of Lancaster, brother of Ferdinand the Saint and the Portuguese King Edward I in 1415 captured a fleet under his leadership, the North African city and fortress of Ceuta. For this he was appointed Duke of Viseu. From 1420 he was a ( secular ) Administrator of the Order of Christ. Royal lineage and its offices helped him to considerable financial resources, which he used to promote the maritime. In 1437 he commanded an expedition again to snatch the Moors of Tangier, but this time without success. In the Maritime Academy, founded by him ( escola náutica ) is an invention of later centuries, no longer represented the Portuguese historians for some time.

In the years 1427 to 1432 the Azores were discovered and colonized by the ships of Henry. Afterwards, Henry set out to bring the Canary Islands in Portuguese possession. To this end, he first went to the diplomatic path by the demand placed on Castile, Portugal granted the right to occupy this island group. As this is not fertilized - Castile persisted in his sovereignty over the islands - in 1433 he turned directly to the Pope and this corresponded, apparently in ignorance of the Castilian claims, Henry's request. Then he received from his brother Duarte, who had climbed as a successor to the late August John I to the throne, far-reaching rights of disposal of the Canary Islands.

Henry himself made ​​no discovery. His nickname is due to its use as a promoter of seafaring. He was very well read and knew the records of early explorer to Asia such as Marco Polo, William of Rubruk or the Arab world traveler Ibn Battuta. The Arabic Travelogue of the latter, however, was known in the 19th century in Europe.

The voyages of discovery

As governor of the Algarve initiated Heinrich from 1418 an ambitious program for the development of a sea route to India.

The prince led numerous expeditions along the African coast with a specially developed sailing ship, the caravel. The knowledge gained in navigation, mapping and shipbuilding were essential for all subsequent Portuguese voyages of discovery. From the beginning, the Portuguese pilots and captains were obliged to bear all experience and knowledge in secret logbooks, the Roteiros collected on their travels and significant for navigation noted. In the second half of the 15th century, the Portuguese also used already the quadrant to determine the latitude by measuring the altitude of Polaris and calculate. Until the death of the Infante more than 2000 nautical miles West African coastal waters have been traveled and mapped.

The motivations of Henry the Navigator were diverse in nature. For one, it was hoped that the Arabs in trade with pepper, gold, ivory and slaves off or getting around, on the other hand it was the Prince to the promotion and propagation of the Christian faith. It was sought after the legendary Christian priest-king John, who was suspected even before the time of Henry the Navigator times in Asia you are in Africa. With its help, they wanted to push back Islam. These ideas gave way during his lifetime commercial point of view. 38 years after Henry's death led his intermediate inputs to the discovery of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, to open up the sea route around Africa to India and back so that the world power of Portugal.

Casa da Índia

The Casa da Índia was both the central authority for managing all overseas territories of the Portuguese kingdom and the central trade hub or clearinghouse for all aspects of overseas trade. As an economic organization, it worked here as a trading post or a commercial establishment.

The forerunner of the Casa da Índia emerged in the wake of the Portuguese expeditions along the African coast and the associated trade opportunities. Already in 1434 the Casa de Ceuta was founded in Lisbon. However, it was not very successful, as the Muslims laid by the Portuguese conquest of Ceuta in 1415 associated with the city trade routes and flows of goods in other places. About 1445 followed in Lagos in the Algarve, the foundations of the Casa de Arguim or de Guiné, both, also known as Companhia de Lagos, served to develop the Portuguese trade in West Africa. After the death of Henry the Navigator, both houses were moved to Lisbon and there Guiné e da Mina later merged in the Casa in the sixties of the 15th century.

Important discovery performance under Henry the Navigator

In land-grabbing on their voyages of discovery, the captains were obliged to prepare the ship to the so-called Padrão ( a stone pillar with the arms of the King of Portugal and inscriptions ). On striking newly discovered points such as capes or estuaries, the captains had to chisel still name and date into the stone under the Cross of Christ and the coat of arms of Portugal.


His statue is seen in Padrão dos Descobrimentos at Lisbon; this was built 500 years after his death. On the Praça da República (Republic Square, and Praca do Infante Henrique called ) in Lagos since 1960, is a monument to Henry. In Dili, the capital of East Timor, located in front of the government palace is also a monument to him.