|Little is known of the life and personality of Pedro Álvares Cabral, even though he was one of the most important figures in the history of the Portuguese Discoveries.
Born in Belmonte in 1467, he was the son of the governor of the castle of Belmonte. In 1478, he joined the Court and became part of the personal guard of the king D. João II. Although nothing is known of any earlier maritime adventures, he was chosen by D. Manuel I to command the fleet that was to undertake the second expedition to India, consisting of 13 ships. The faithful servant was being sent on a diplomatic mission, to propose peace and friendship and to establish a trade route for the spices coming out of Calicut.
After stopping off in the Cape Verde archipelago, he headed in a south-westerly direction and ended up finding land. Although at first he was unsure whether he had reached terra firma or just some island, his navigational data and the contact he made with the local inhabitants were sufficient for him to realise that he had disembarked in an unknown land and he sent a ship back to Lisbon with news of his discovery. Amongst other evidence, the ship carried parrots, macaws and kingwood (pau-brasil). Due to the great abundance of this wood, this latter item gave its name to the territory. He continued on his voyage to the Far East, where, after overcoming some difficulties, he managed to establish a trading post.
On his return in 1501, he settled in Santarém, where he died in 1520. He is buried in a plain grave in the Igreja da Graça at Santarém. The church is in the Largo Pedro Álvares Cabral, where a statue has been erected in homage to this historical figure, made in 1971 by Soares Branco.
Next to the church is the Casa Brasil or the house of Pedro Álvares Cabral, where he lived until his death. It is currently a cultural centre providing support for Portuguese-Brazilian relations, equipped with a library that specialises in the Portuguese Expansion and the Discoveries and has a programme of periodical cultural activities.