Portugal’s enduring maritime legacy

NRP Sagres III training ship

It is believed that the Portuguese navy is the oldest established, currently active navy in the world.

During the reign of King Denis I, the Conservatória dos Rios, Lagos e Barças was formed which monitored coastal defence and maritime operations.

King Dinis I was the sixth king of Portugal, reigning from 1279 until his death in 1325. He was a charismatic king and responsible for initiatives that became foundational aspects of the country.

Formally existing from 1317, the historical legacy of the Portuguese Navy is extensive, playing a crucial role in global exploration, colonisation, and naval warfare.

During the Age of Discovery, notable Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan sailed under its banner, charting new routes to India and circumnavigating the globe.

Countries like England, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands would commission or requisition ships for military purposes on a case-by-case basis, until they formed their navies. England formally founded their Navy in 1546, France in 1624, Denmark in 1510 and the Netherlands in 1488.

Until the Age of Discovery, the Portuguese were limited to coastal navigation but this altered with the development of the caravel.

The first Admiral of Portugal was Genoese Manuel Pessanha (Emanuele Pessagno). He reached an agreement with King Dinis I where a royal charter made the role of First Admiral of the Portuguese Navy a hereditary one.

His three sons succeeded him with the third murdered at the Castle of Beja and, with no male heirs, the title passed through the family’s female lineage.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Portuguese ships is the training ship NRP Sagres III.

She is a steel-built three masted barque built in Hamburg, Germany, and has sailed under the Portuguese flag since 1962.

In 2010, under the command of CMG Pedro Proença Mendes, Sagres embarked on its most extensive journey, circumnavigating the globe and covering an approximate distance of 56,330 kilometres.

Departing from Lisbon on January 19 and returning on December 24, the ship participated in Velas Sudamerica 2010, a Latin American tour involving eleven tall ships commemorating the bicentennial of the first national governments of Argentina and Chile.

Additionally, NRP Sagres III played a role in Expo Shanghai and engaged in many other events throughout the year.

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