It is situated within Brenton Point State Park on the southern tip of Aquidneck Island with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean, this monument on Ocean Drive dedicated to Portuguese maritime navigators. Brenton Point was a strategic military defensive location during the Revolutionary War and World War II. The State of Rhode Island designated the area as a State Park in 1976. In 1988 a site was set aside for a monument, a concept advanced by the Portuguese Cultural Foundation and the Portuguese Federation. Funded jointly by the State of Rhode Island and the Portuguese government, the Point was selected as it is reminiscent of Sagres in southern Portugal, the location of Henry the Navigator’s nautical school founded in 1419. Designed by Charters de Almeida and carved in Portugal, sixteen sandstone bollards ranging in height from five to eight feet were organized into a semicircle mimicking the historic pebble compass rose at Sagres Point. In the center, an eight-foot-diameter sandstone sphere representing a Portuguese navigational instrument and a twenty-foot-tall obelisk inscribed with names of explorers.
Besides Prince Henry, the explorers honored at the monument include: Vasco da Gama, discoverer of the sea route to India; Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brazil; Ferdinand Magellan, leader of the first expedition to circumnavigate the world; Diogo Cão, first to arrive at the Congo River; Joao Vaz Corte-Real, who discovered Greenland; Bartolomeu Dias, the first to navigate around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.
The exposed location of Brenton Point eroded the sandstone, and the monument slowly fell into disrepair. In 2012 the Landscape Architecture Division of BETA Group was commissioned to reinterpret de Almeida’s design. Rededicated in 2014, the expanded version of the original is carved from granite and includes interpretive panels and lines of the compass inset into the ground. The monument, Occupying less than one acre, is set into a grassy lawn on a promontory extending into the sea.
The monument is worth a visit. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and there are great views of where Narragansett Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Besides all the vast mansions on Ocean Drive, depending on which way you drive, you can visit Castle Hill Lighthouse, or in the opposite direction, you can visit Ocean Drive Historic District.