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Diogo Cão ( ; in old Portuguese: Cam) was a Portuguesemarker explorer and one of the most remarkable navigators of the golden age of the discoveries, who made two voyages sailing along the west coast of Africa in the 1480s.He is well known in Angolamarker, because of him the country was a Portuguese colony & has close ties with Portugalmarker .

He was born in Vila Real (some say in Évora), at the middle of the 15th century, ca. 1450, the illegitimate son of Álvaro Fernandes/Gonçalves Cão, Fidalgo of the Royal Household, himself the illegitimate son of Gonçalo Cão.

He was the first European known to sight and enter the Congo Rivermarker and to explore the West African coast between Cape St. Catherine and Cape Crossmarker almost from the equator to Walvis Baymarker. When King John II of Portugal revived the work of Henry the Navigator, he sent out Cão (about midsummer (?) 1482) to open up the African coast still further beyond the equator. The mouth and estuary of the Congo was now, discovered (perhaps in August 1482), and marked by a Padrão, or stone pillar (still existing, but only in fragments) erected on Shark Point, attesting the sovereignty of Portugalmarker; the great river was also ascended for a short distance, and intercourse was opened with the natives of the Bakongo kingdom. Cão then coasted down along the present Angolamarker (Portuguese West Africa), and erected a second pillar, probably marking the termination of this voyage, at Cape Santa Maria (the Monte Negro of these first visitors). He certainly returned to Lisbon by the beginning of April 1484, when John II ennobled him, made him a cavaleiro (knight) of his household (he was already an escudeiro or esquire in the same), and granted him an annuity and a coat of arms (April 8, 1484 and April 14, 1484). In the return he discovered the Island of Annobónmarker.

That Cão, on his second voyage of 1484-1486, was accompanied by Martin Behaim (as alleged on the latters Nurembergmarker globe of 1492) is very doubtful; but we know that the explorer revisited the Congo and erected two more pillars beyond the furthest of his previous voyage, the first at another Monte Negro, the second at Cape Cross, this last probably marking the end of his progress southward, advancing 1,400 more kilometers. He raised the river Congo which he considered as the access road towards the realm of the priest Jean up to the neighborhood of the site of Matadimarker. There, in October or November, 1485, near the falls of Ielala, he leaves a inscription engraved on the stone which testifies of its passage and that of his men : " Aqui chegaram os navios do esclarecido rei D.João II de Portugalmarker - Diogo Cão, Pero Anes, Pero da Costa." (" Here arrived the ships of king John II of Portugal – Diogo Cão, Pero Anes, Pero da Costa”.
Stone of Ielala, with the inscriptions of Diogo Cão
According to one authority (a legend on the 1489 map of Henricus Martellus Germanus), Cão died off Cape Cross; but João de Barros and others make him return to the Congo, and take thence a native envoy to Portugal. The four pillars set up by Cão on his two voyages have all been discovered in situ, and the inscriptions on two of them from Cape Santa Maria and Cape Cross, dated 1482 and 1485 respectively, are still to be read and have been printed; the Cape Cross padrão is now at Kielmarker (replaced on the spot by a granite facsimile); those from the Congo estuary and the more southerly Monte Negro are in the Museum of the Lisbon Geographical Society.


He married and had four children:
  • Pedro Cão, a Fidalgo of the Royal Household, married to Brites Figueira de Azevedo, daughter of João Figueira, Fidalgo of the Royal Household, and wife Brites de Azevedo de Vila-Lobos, and sister of Francisco Figueira de Azevedo, the parents of:
    • Maria Cão (?), married to Henrique Henriques Pinto, 5th Lord de Ferreiros e Tendais, son of Gonçalo Vaz Pinto, 4th Lord de Ferreiros e Tendais, and wife Violante Henriques, and had issue
    • Juliana Cão, married to Pedro Francisco Varajão, and had issue
  • Manuel Cão, married to Helena Lobo Pinheiro de Lacerda or Helena Lobo Pinheiro, daughter of João Jácome de Melo, Fidalgo of the Royal Household and wife Violante Lobo
  • André Afonso Cão, a Fidalgo of the Royal Household, a General of the Galleys in Portomarker and made the Tercenas de Vila-Nova and lived at Reboleira, where as it was said were his houses in Portomarker, at the Rua da Reboleira in two high towers full of many battlements that have at the walls many rings in iron according to the privileges of that time which were only granted to the great Knights, married to Genebra de Magalhães, daughter of João Fernandes Barbosa and wife Leonor or Genebra de Magalhães, and had issue:
    • Rui de Magalhães, apparently the last male line descendant of Diogo Cão, married to Isabel Baião, daughter of Fernão Álvares Baião and wife Mécia Vaz, and had issue:
      • Isabel de Magalhães, married to Simão Correia
    • Isabel de Magalhães, married to her relative Garcia de Azevedo, son of Diogo de Azevedo and wife Isabel de Magalhães of the Lords da Ponte da Barcamarker, and had issue:
      • Francisco de Azevedo Magalhães, married to Brites da Fonseca, daughter of Azuil Cardoso, Lord of the Honour de Cardoso, and wife Isabel da Fonseca, and had issue, six children of his marriage and a bastard daughter
  • Isabel Cão, married to Baltasar Gonçalves Ferreira (whose twin brother and sister called Adão and Eva were the first children ever born in the Island of Madeiramarker), son of Belchior Gonçalves Ferreira and wife Branca Afonso Drummond, and had issue:
    • Ana Ferreira Drummond, married to Manuel Gonçalves de Braga, son of Fernão Gonçalves da Carreira and wife Maria Gonçalves de Braga, and had issue:
      • Marcos de Braga, married to Isabel Gomes, and had issue (ancestors of Isabel de Herédia)
    • Maria Ferreira, married to João Arrais de Mendonça, and had issue:
      • Gaspar Arrais de Mendonça, married to Andresa Drummond, and had issue:
        • Jacinto de Mendonça Drummond
        • João Arrais de Mendonça
        • Maria de Mendonça
      • Ana Ferreira
      • Francisca ...

Further reading

  • Tim Butcher: Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, 2007. ISBN 0-701-17981-3
  • Barros, João de. Decadas da Asia, Decade i. bk. iii., esp. ch. 3;
  • Ruy de Pina, Chronica d'el Rei D. Jodo II.;
  • Garcia de Resende, Chronica;
  • Luciano Cordeiro, Diogo Cão in Boletim of the Lisbon Geog. Soc., 1892;
  • E; G. Ravenstein, Voyages of Diogo Co, &c., in Geog. Jnl. vol. xvi. (1900), also Geog. Jnl. xxxi. (1908).
  • António da Costa de Albuquerque de Sousa Lara, 2nd Count de Guedes, Vasco de Bettencourt de Faria Machado e Sampaio and Marcelo Olavo Correia de Azevedo, Ascendências Reais de Sua Alteza Real a Senhora Dona Isabel de Herédia Duquesa de Bragança, I, pelos Costados Herédia, Bettencourt e Meneses da Ilha da Madeira" (Universitária Editora, 1999)

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