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Pedro Álvares Cabral (ca. 1468 – ca. 1520; (European) or (Brazilian)) was a Portuguesemarker navigator and explorer. Cabral is generally regarded as the European discoverer of Brazilmarker.

Early life

Cabral is believed to have been born in Belmontemarker, in Portugal's Beira Baixa province. He was the third son of Fernão Cabral (c. 1427-c. 1492), the governor of Beira and Belmonte, and his wife Isabel de Gouveia de Queirós (c. 1433-c. 1483, a descendant of the first King of Portugal, Afonso I), and husband of Isabel de Castro, daughter of Fernão de Noronha (also descendant of King Afonso I). Cabral presumably had training in navigation and experience as a seaman, since King Manuel I of Portugal chose him to continue the work of Vasco da Gama.


Cabral's task was to establish permanent commercial relations and to introduce Christianity wherever he went, using force of arms if necessary. Rich Florentinemarker merchants contributed to equipping the ships, and priests volunteerd to join the expedition. Among the captains of the fleet, which consisted of 13 ships and 1,500 men, were Bartolomeu Dias, Pêro Vaz de Caminha, Sancho de Tovar and Nicolau Coelho, who was the companion of Vasco da Gama. Vasco da Gama himself gave the directions necessary for the course of the voyage.
Cabral's ship in the manuscript Memória das Armadas que de Portugal passaram à Índia

The fleet of thirteen ships left Lisbonmarker on 9 March 1500, and following the course laid down, sought to avoid the calms off the coast of Gulf of Guineamarker. On leaving the Cape Verdemarker Islands, where Luís Pires was forced by a storm to return to Lisbon, they sailed in a decidedly southwesterly direction. On 21 April a mountain was visible, to which the name of Monte Pascoalmarker was given; on 22 April Cabral landed on the coast of Brazil, and on 25 April the entire fleet sailed into the harbor called Porto Seguromarker. Cabral perceived that the new land lay east of the line of demarcation made by Pope Alexander VI (see Treaty of Tordesillas), and at once sent André Gonçalves (according to other authorities Gaspar de Lemos) to Portugal with the important tidings. Believing the newly-discovered land to be an island he gave it the name of Island of the True Cross (or Island of Vera Cruz) and took possession of it by erecting a cross and holding a religious service. The service was celebrated by the Franciscan, Father Henrique de Coimbra, afterwards Bishop of Ceuta. The iron cross used in that service is now in Cathedral Treasuremarker in Braga. It was taken back to Brazilmarker for the inauguration of Brasiliamarker in 1960.

Pedro Cabral resumed his voyage on 3 May 1500. By the end of the month the fleet approached the Cape of Good Hopemarker, where it was struck by a storm in which four vessels, including that of Bartolomeu Dias, were lost. With the ships now reduced to one-half of the original number, Cabral reached Sofalamarker on 16 July and Mozambiquemarker on 20 July. In the latter place he received a cordial greeting. On 26 July he came to Kilwamarker where he was unable to make an agreement with the ruler. On 2 August, he reached Melindemarker; here he had a friendly welcome and obtained a pilot to take him to Indiamarker. On 10 August, the ship commanded by Diogo Dias, separated by weather, discovered an island they named after St Lawrence, later known as Madagascarmarker.

Cabral continued to Indiamarker to trade for pepper and other spices, establishing a factory at Calicutmarker, where he arrived on 13 September 1500. In Cochinmarker and Cannanoremarker Cabral succeeded in making advantageous treaties. After a chain of bad luck, culminating in a two-day bombardment of the city, Cabral started on the return voyage on 16 January 1501. He arrived in Portugal with only 4 of 13 ships on 23 June 1501.


Cigar label depicting Pedro Álvares Cabral.
Cabral died, largely forgotten, around 1520 and was buried in a monastery in Santarém, Portugal.

He has been honored on a number of postage stamps, including one in a set of Brazilian stamps issued 1 January 1900 to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery.

In Brazilmarker, he is depicted on the 1 cent coin, and also on a special edition of the R$10 note.

Further reading

  • The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India (edited and translated by William Brooks Greenlee), London [1939]

See also


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