It took me less than five minutes to start remembering High School World History class and the contributions the Portuguese made during the Age of Discovery; all those explorers and dates. I was on a Viking River Cruise excursion and visiting Lisbon’s Maritime Museum.
Walking in the front door we were greeted with a large statue of Henry the Navigator. Behind the statue is a wall-size map illustrating the many voyages and discoveries the Portuguese made. Priceless artifacts pave the way of understanding how important Portugal was in the eventual discovery of the New World.
We listened to our guide’s narrative about the country's history as we perused the showcases with everything from models of the explorers’ ships, relics, tools, plates and cups, and documents. Paintings line the walls illustrating the ships, the lives of the explorers and important events.
Globes, sea charts, arms and armor, and various nautical instruments such as astrolabes and telescopes offer even more insight into this world of brave men setting out into the unknown. Another amazing artifact is an anchor from the ship Nina that was part of the flotilla that went on Columbus' first voyage to America.
With a collection of more than 1,700 pieces, you can easily spend an entire day here and not see it all.
The oldest exhibit here is a wooden figure representing the Archangel Raphael that accompanied Vasco da Gama on his voyage to India. A 1645 terrestrial globe made by the most famous globe maker of all time, Willem Jansz Blaeu, is displayed. In the Far East Room there is porcelain, Asiatic ships and 15th century Japanese armor.
The last vast room features two richly decorated royal barges, dating from the 18th century. One of the barges was built for Queen Maria I in 1780 and remained operational for almost two hundred years.
Our tour was far too short to take in everything, but we got a great overview of Portuguese history and the Age of Discovery.