The Dias Cross
Bartolomeu Dias was another renowned Portuguese explorer and seafarer who sailed the seas around Africa discovering sailing routes, pioneering travel and orientating trade routes between western Europe and Asia. In 1488, Dias was ordered by King John II of Portugal to try and sail to the southern end of Africa (and eventually on to Asia). His Majesty wanted to know how far ships could sail on that route after previous expeditions to the Orient had failed. Eventually he reached the mouth of the Orange River, where a storm blew his ship around what is know today as the Cape of Good Hope.
On the return journey, Dias sailed into the inlet known (today) as Luderitz Bay. In true Portuguese style a padrão was raised, dedicated to São Tiago (St James) and erected on 25 July, (St James's Day) 1488. The stone beacon remained undamaged, less for weathering by the Atlantic winds and surf pounding against the limestone sides, until the early 19th century.
Various recordings in the diaries and records of visiting ships of Her Majesties Royal Navy, have entries of this padrão being mentioned in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1825, entries into the captain's log of the HMS Barracouta, recorded that officers and members of the crew, had found the padrão uprooted and broken. In 1855, a guano merchant seaman, Captain Carew, took the remaining fragments he could find to the South African Museum in Cape Town.
The larger pieces remained on the site until June 1953, when an archaeologist Dr Axel Erikson, found several of them and a number of smaller chips from the original padrão at Dias Point. It was his intention to use a combination of these pieces, plus the fragments of the pieces recovered in 1855, to eventually reconstruct a replica. Unfortunately he passed away in 1956, before his project could be completed.
In 1988 it was decided by the National Monuments Council's Regional Committee for SWA, to instruct a stonemason from Karibib, Mr Paul Petzold, to draw up 'the necessary plans for a replica'.
After much discussion (and some disagreement) a replica padrão fashioned according to Petzold's plans was created. Mr Petzold had relied on an original sketch drawn by Captain Thomas Bolden Thompson,of HMS Nautilus, in 1786.
Paul Petzold was also commissioned to carve a replica of the padrão from Namib dolerite. It was erected on the original site in 1988 and unveiled on the 25th July 1988 as part of the 500th anniversary of the Dias landing. This replica replaced a marble cross that once stood on a cement pedestal and is now housed in the gardens of the Luderitz Museum.
The Site of the Original Dias Cross was declared a national monument of the 12th January 1973.
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