Portugal is a country that has no coast along the Mediterranean Sea so the country’s advances in worldwide exploration centuries ago comes at no surprise. However, it was the passion and goals of Prince Henry who truly moved Portuguese exploration forward.
Prince Henry was born in 1394 as the third son of King John of Portugal. At the age of 21, Prince Henry commanded a military force that captured the Muslim outpost of Ceuta, located on the south side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Three years later, Prince Henry founded his institute at Sagres on the southwestern-most point of Portugal, Cape Saint Vincent, a place ancient geographers referred to as the western edge of the earth. The institute, best described as a fifteenth century research and development facility, included libraries, an astronomical observatory, ship-building facilities, a chapel, and housing for staff. The institute was designed to teach navigational techniques to Portuguese sailors, to collect and disseminate geographical information about the world, to invent and improve navigational and seafaring equipment, to sponsor expeditions, and to spread Christianity around the world.
Prince Henry was also a very devout man, and was Governor of the Order of Christ from 1420 until his death in 1460.