200 Escudos

Sailings to the West, Navegacoes Para Ocidente, Portugal


The Portuguese Role in Exploring and Mapping the New World –

Portugal took the principal role during most of the fifteenth century in searching for a route to Asia by sailing south around Africa. In the process, the Portuguese accumulated a wealth of knowledge about navigation and the geography of the Atlantic Ocean.

In the last decade of the fifteenth century, Christopher Columbus set out on a westerly course across the Atlantic Ocean searching for an alternative route to the Indies but inadvertently “discovered” a new continent. Although neither Portuguese-born nor sponsored, Columbus was Portuguese trained. He went to Lisbon in 1476 and remained there for several years, seeking the support of the Portuguese king and gathering nautical and geographic intelligence from the returning sailors. He married a Portuguese woman; obtained navigation charts and related information from his father-in-law, Bartholomew Perestrelo, who was the governor of the island of Porto Santo in Madeira; and was employed by João II as a navigator.

After Columbus voyages to the New World, the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English began the active exploration (and exploitation) of the newly discovered land in the Americas.

Y.Doten: The reverse depicts a stylized ship with three sailors holding the tiller, an astrolabe, a chart and a sword with a cross, sailing west over Toscanelli’s six-sided map of 1474 that shows a direct sea route between Europe and Asia. The ship design with the sailors and the cross is based on the oil painting The Navigators (1991) by Paulo Guilherme d’Eça Leal. The obverse features the same hexagonal map by Toscanelli. The coin marks the Portuguese pre-Columbian voyages westward between 1452 and 1486 which were part of a long, continuous undertaking and could have provided clues regarding the existence of islands in the Western Atlantic Ocean, even though their whereabouts were uncertain. This information may have reached the ears of Columbus when he lived in Portugal and may have been used by him to set out his plan to reach India by sailing west. He first presented his plan to the king of Portugal in 1484 but was turned down and left for Spain. This coin (and the next two) are part of the third series in the 15-year “Coins of Discovery” program that commemorates Portugal’s landmark sea voyages of exploration and discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. This series is titled “Discovery of America.”