The monument before you honors the Portuguese navigators of the Golden Age of Maritime Exploration, which spanned from the early 1400's to the late 1500's. During this era, Portugal was the forerunner in maritime exploration - both coasts of the United States were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese. Bretton Point was chosen as the site for this monument because it is very reminiscent of Sagres, the point in southern Portugal where Prince Henry founded his School of Navigation in 1419. It was here that the maritime era emanated from the minds of the foremost scholars in mathematics, astronomy, cartography, and those that were experts regarding the compass, the astrolabe, water currents and the wind.
There are eighteen elements in the Portuguese Navigators Monument. The sixteen elements placed in a semicircle are an abstraction of the circular compass base at Sagres, which is all that remains of Prince Henry's School of Navigation today. The elements are placed in a three-quarter sphere, which symbolizes the three-quarters of the world discovered by the Portuguese navigators in the fifteenth century. The large multifaceted stone marker has been designed to evoke the tradition of explorers leaving behind a marker of their presence. The final element represents an armillary sphere, a navigational instrument which is one of Portugal's most significant and enduring symbols. The sphere was added to the Portuguese flag in 1522 to commemorate Magellan's circum-navigation of the globe, and is still included on the country's present day flag.
This monument is a gift from Portugal to the State of Rhode Island. It was inaugurated by the President of Portugal Dr. Mario Soares and the Governor of Rhode Island Edward DiPrete on June 28, 1989.