Paulo Alexandre Loução

“And saw the whole earth, suddenly arise round, from the deep blue.” Fernando Pessoa
After the Templar´s were imprisoned on October 13th, 1307 the Portuguese King D. Dinis did not accept the guilt of the Knights of Solomon and began a long diplomatic process that created the Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as is stated in the Papal bull Ad ea ex-quibus Pope John XXII. In general, all Templar´s and their goods were transferred to this new monastic military order. Only the First master of the order, Gil Martins, came from the Order of Avis.
A century later, the Master of the Order of Christ ceases to be elected by chapter and happens to be appointed by the king. Thus, Henry, son of King João I, became governor of the Order of Christ with the papal authorization required for that purpose.
Portugal begins its maritime expansion with the conquest of Ceuta in 1415 and, from 1420, the Infante Enrique spends much of his time in the former Templar town of Tomar, headquarters of the Order of Christ, building their manors and working with his team on a project that would cause a geopolitical and geographical revolution worldwide.
The first output of this project was the creation of the archetypal knight-browser. The new Grail quest will now take place by sea and the warriors courage would be tested by marine elements. Simultaneously, emerges a methodology of scientific nature that will be the cornerstone of the complex system that allowed the completion of the work. “Science was the soul and Boldness the body” brilliantly synthesized Fernando Pessoa.

Scientific pioneering

“A Crass error was to assume until today that the Portuguese discoveries and conquests did not exceed one case, still unheard of collective bravery. Neither spears, armor, ships bombards and the fury to move them, but the regiments, charts, astrolabes, the method, the discipline, in the end, the culture and the organizing spirit, who triumphed.“( Jaime Cortesão, Influência dos Descobrimentos Portugueses na História da Civilização, INCM, Lisboa, 1993, p. 82.)

Hegel affirmed:

“the so-called restoration of the sciences, the flourishing of the arts, the discovery of America and the route to the East Indies, are comparable to the dawn that after long storms announces again, for the first time, a new day. This day is the day of universality that bursts, finally, after the long and terrifying night of the Middle Ages (…)”.

And the political economist Adam Smith,

“The discovery of America and the passage to the East Indies via the Cape of Good Hope, are the two largest and most important events that recalls the history of mankind.”

However, what Hegel and Adam Smith did not understand (as happens in the majority of cultural centers of the world) is that both, the discovery of America and the road to the East Indies were the result of a methodical work through eight decades, performed by the Portuguese. This work was initiated by Infante D. Enrique and the Order of Christ in the second decade of the XV century, long before the so-called restoration of the sciences, starred by Kepler, Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, etc. In 1419 Zarco rediscovered Madeira, in 1519 Fernando de Magallanes started the first sailing trip around the world and, in a century, the total geographical revolution.
The Portuguese work in R&D (research and development) began giving consecutive fruits.
Since then, the simplification of the quadrant to measure latitude by the North Star and the simplification of the astrolabe transforming it into a nautical astrolabe. With it, it was possible “despite the sun” at noon, this is, to recognize the latitude based on the angle captured by the astrolabe and the support of the tables of decline. With the medeclina of the Astrolabe it was read the zenith distance (the angle z), and to this value it was added the decline for that day (angle d); latitude (?) is the sum of the two: ? = z + d.
The pilot was taking note of all important navigation data and, during the return, handed them to the cartographer to be integrated in the “navigation charts”. Whenever it was necessary international experts were recalled, as did Infante D. Enrique by recurring to Jácome de Mayorca for the maps making.
The Celestial navigation, by day and night, was one of the great contributions of the Portuguese to science. As affirmed by Pedro Nunes, Portuguese mathematician who invented the Vernier,

“it is clear that these findings were not made at random but our browsers departed very well trained and provided with tools and rules of astrology [astronomy] and geometry.”

In the Route voyage of Vasco de Gama, attributed to Alvaro Velho, its described a Sun weight. Simultaneously, it was necessary to refine the concept and construction of ships. That´s how emerged the Portuguese caravel with lateen (triangular) sails. Very agile and able to row against the current, it became the ideal boat for discovery and exploration activities. Later, when necessary vessels of larger size were needed for the race to the Indies, the nau and the galleon were devised.

vasco buena

The route of the voyage of Vasco de Gama: the back along the southern Atlantic underlined.

Sailing on the Atlantic, increasingly more to the south, established a new nautical science. New wind patterns and ocean currents were detected and, by this, the Portuguese discovered the route Coming from the mine and, later, the round around in the South Atlantic, absolutely essential for larger vessels in size that could circumnavigate Africa. So, when they reached Cabo Verde they set towards West with the aim of bypassing the trade winds and ocean currents, reversing the direction eastward by Brazil latitude. This discovery was critical to the creation of the RACE to the INDIES. And Brazil, duly protected by the Portuguese King John II in the Treaty of Tordesillas, was essential for the ships to do scale (watery) and prevent scurvy.

One of the great monuments of the Portuguese discoveries is the planisphere of Cantino. In 1502 the Duke of Ferrara asks his spy in Lisbon, Alberto Cantino, to get a world map drawn by a Portuguese cartographer. This was completely banned by the policy of secrecy. But Cantino was able to corrupt a cartographer who drew up a map that is, as today, one of the greatest scientific monuments of the Portuguese epic. In it you can see a thorough and patient documentation held in the fifteenth century, of the more than ten thousand kilometers from the West African coast. Any previous map of the world can match this.

The medieval maps do not conform to reality, as stated by the French historian Geneviève Bouchon:




Cantino planisphere extract. See the rigor of the representation of the West African coast for decades mapped by the Portuguese.

“The Cantino planisphere, which is now located at the Biblioteca Estense in Modena, marks a break with ancient and medieval traditions. For the first time, the limits of the Indian Ocean are recognized. We certainly must separate what was the direct experience from the mere conjecture. Very clear is the difference between the correcting drawing of those viewed and observed seacoasts by the Portuguese and imperfect sketch of the other regions, probably delineated from Arab Sea maps coasts. If the northern coast of Brazil appear disproportionate, the African ones and the entrance to the Red Sea are almost adjusted to reality, which opposes to the slightest trace of a barely sketched although in place Asia. The coast of India appears still clipped fanciful, and the Malay Peninsula, without form and without measure. It seems that this route of the world had been suspended, ready to be perfected every time the Portuguese got new certainties in their different advanced “. (Geneviève Bouchon, Afonso de Albuquerque – O Leão dos Mares da Ásia, Quetzal, Lisboa, 2000, pp. 30-31. Underline by the author.)




Map of the cartographer Henricus Martellus. See how Africa is completely misadjusted and how they had to tweak the junction of the Atlantic with the Indic after the Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Dias, who rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. The large size of Africa on the map is the result of the disinformation policy by the Portuguese King D. Juan II.

By 1505 Duarte Pacheco Pereira wrote his magnum opus Esmeraldo Situ Orbis. It establishes the value of the terrestrial degree to 106.560 km, when the actual value is 111 km; i.e. just an error of 4%. An estimate that was only surpassed in the second half of the XVIII century!



The figure of Infante D. Enrique

Gomes Eanes de Zurara, in the Chronicle of Guiné, perforsm the following portrait of his master, Infante D. Enrique:

“However, I want here to write how yet, by suffering11 of natural influence,( The original word was “pungimiento” not able to found an equivalent. Translator note.) this honest prince leans to these things. And this because his Ascendant is Aries, which is the house of Mars and the exaltation of the Sun and his lord is in the XI house, accompanied by the sun. And because Mars is in Aquarius, which is the house of Saturn, the house of hope, it means that this man must work on high and strong conquests, especially to look for things that were hidden and secret from other men, according to the quality of Saturn, in whose house he is. And by being accompanied from the sun, as I said, and the sun being at home in Jupiter, means that all dealings and conquests are faithfully carried out to pleasure of his king and lord.”

It is also recorded in this chronicle the five major, specific objectives of the initial phase of the Portuguese discoveries, of political, scientific, cultural and religious characters. And ends with a sixth root of others:

“But on these five reasons, I have the sixth, which seems to be the root from which all others are from: that is, inclination of the celestial wheel, as I wrote not many days ago in a letter I sent to lord King, because it is written that the knowing man lord of the stars will be, and that planets courses, as by the good estimate of the holy doctors, cannot prevent a good man; It is clear, however, that are bodies arranged in the mystery of our Lord God, and run by some measures and to already delirious purposes, disclosed to men by his grace, through whose influences the lower bodies are inclined to certain passions. “

An important event in his leadership the pass through Cape Bojador by Portuguese boats.
In 1433 Gil Eanes attempts to pass Cape Bojador, but fails to go beyond the Canaries. Superstitions on the dark sea and the fear of the ocean were a medieval reality. The infant insists with Gil Eanes, he had to believe in the art of navigating the Portuguese and do not accept the superstitions of the time. The Lusitanian browser tries out the next year and got to pass the cape after a journey of nearly three thousand kilometers. The medieval legends faded and the Portuguese nautical science gained weight.
Historians such as Joaquín de Carvalho wonder: where did the conviction, the certainty of the Infante to convince his men of such an endevoaur?
We have no answers, but knowing that the African coast had already been covered in ancient times, as recorded in the journey of Hanno, the suspicion remains that perhaps in the previous century the Templar´s had brought to the West old maps that served as a compass to the Portuguese discoveries. Let´s not forget also that the Templars had a fleet and legends about their voyages to America.
The truth is that a character like Ramón Llull advised in 1288, in the Çiber de Acquisitione Terræ Sanctæ that Christians circumnavigate Africa to reach India, something that the Portuguese accomplished two centuries later with the arrival of Vasco de Gama in Calcutta. In the matter 154 of Quaestiones per artem demostrativam seu inventivam solubles, Llull wrote:

“The earth is spherical and the sea is also spherical (…). (…) It is necessary a land opposed to British shores; There is, thena continent we do not know”.

The same question arises. How is that Ramon Lull was sure it was possible to circumnavigate Africa and the existence of the American continent?
The logic leads us to set the hypothesis that certain knowledge of antiquity had reached the elites of medieval Europe, among which were the Templar´s. See, for example, the fragment of the antique Sailor story, Pytheas of Marseilles, which mentions four observations of latitude; therefore, there was the concept of celestial navigation.

Systems Thinking in the Portuguese discoveries
To our knowledge, the realization of the Portuguese epic as alchemical work of a nation was made possible by a group of leaders who, based on the ever-present triad of value-mystical-science values, were able to create a systemic thinking based on five vectors :

1 – Science
2 – commercial activity and geo-economic analysis
3 – diplomacy, military strategy and military power
4 – meeting of cultures and mixture
5 – mythical tradition and spirituality

If one of the five had failed, the depiction of the project would not have been possible for a nation that had a population of just over a million soul.
In the field of military power, we cite as an example an innovation that was crucial. D. Juan II, ( This King D. Juan II, to who Isabel the Catholic called “The Man”, was the leader of the second stage of Portuguese discoveries and he was who lead ingeniously the process that, years later after his death , allow the Discovery of the sea route to India and the oficial Discovery of Brasil. Cristóbal Colón, who learned the art of sailing from the Portuguese, estimated in much to this King and when he returned from his first voyage, in which he supposedly had reached Asia, first met with D.Juan II in Portugal and then continue his trip to the south of Spain), still prince, sent to open portholes on the hulls of ships to allow the mouths of fire to be mounted on the front deck, near water level. This important innovation was recorded by the chronicler Garcia de Resende:

[D. Juan II] ordered that in small caravels were set very large bombards and were so flush that were almost touching water; and it was he who invented this (…)”.(Crónica de D. João II, cap. CLXXXI.)
Having Portuguese the best artillery –helping themselves with the most advanced technology of the time, the expertise of German craftsmen and making in Portugal the improvements needed-,with this innovation they had the secret weapon to dominate the seas, and in many cases avoid the approach and the inevitable body to body combat, that interested to avoid because the constant outnumbered inferiority of the Portuguese.

anteúltima buena
This systemic thinking began to wane in the late XV century and in the XVI, the country was already feeling orphan of leadership circles with Templar inspiration. The land came round from the deep blue but it had the feeling that something was missing to accomplish. In the XX century, Fernando Pessoa wrote that it remained to be discoverede the spiritual Indies, which are made of the same stuff as dreams.