Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

A famous Portuguese navigator of the fifteenth century, discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope; died at sea, 29 May, 1500.

Several Portuguese historians state that he was a relative or descendant of João Dias who sailed around Cape Bojador in 1434, and of Diniz Dias who is said to have discovered the Cape Verde Islands. As early as 1481 Bartolomeu Dias had accompanied Diogo d'Azambuja on an expedition to the Gold Coast.

Dias was a cavalier of the royal court, superintendent of the royal warehouses and sailing-master of the man-of-war "San Christovao", when King John (João) II appointed him on 10 October, 1486, as the head of an expedition which was to endeavor to sail around the southern end of Africa. Its chief purpose was to find the country of the Christian African king known as Prester John, concerning whom recent reports had arrived (1486) through João Alfonso d'Aveiro, and with whom the Portuguese wished to enter into friendly relations.

After ten months of preparation Dias left Lisbon the latter part of July or the beginning of August, 1487, with two armed caravels of fifty tons each and one supply-ship. Among his companions were Pero d'Alemquer, who wrote a description of Vasco da Gama's first voyage, Leitao, João Infante, Alvaro Martins, and João Grego. The supply-ship was commanded by Bartolomeu's brother, Pero Dias. There were also two negroes and four negresses on board who were to be set ashore at suitable spots to explain to the natives the purpose of the expedition.

Dias sailed first towards the mouth of the Congo, discovered the year before by Cao and Behaim, then following the African coast, he entered Walfisch Bay, and probably erected the first of his stone columns near the present Angra Pequena. From 29° south latitude (Port Nolloth) he lost sight of the coast and was driven by a violent storm, which lasted thirteen days, far beyond the cape to the south. When calm weather returned he sailed again in an easterly direction and, when no land appeared, turned northward, landing in the Bahia dos Vaqueiros (Mossel Bay). Following the coast he reached Algoa Bay, and then the limit of his exploration, the Great Fish River, which he named after the commander of the accompanying vessel, Rio Infante. It was only on his return voyage that he discovered the Cape, to which, according to Barros, he gave the name of Cabo Tormentoso. King John, in view of the success of the expedition, is said to have proposed the name it has since borne, Cape of Good Hope. In December, 1488, Dias returned to Lisbon after an absence of sixteen months and seventeen days. He had shown the way to Vasco da Gama whom in 1497 he accompanied, but in a subordinate position, as far as the Cape Verde Islands.

In 1500 Dias commanded a ship in the expedition of Cabral ; his vessel, however, was one of those wrecked not far from the Cape of Good Hope, which he had discovered thirteen years before. An official report of the expedition to the cape has not yet been found. Besides the account by Barros there is a note written on the margin of page 13 of a manuscript copy of Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly's "Imago Mundi", which is of importance, as this copy was once the property of Christopher Columbus. Ravenstein has attempted, and not unsuccessfully, by the aid of contemporary charts to reconstruct the entire voyage with the different stopping-points of the route.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
2 rescue me from evil-doers, from men of violence ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-46
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 30th, 2014 Image

St. Peter Chrysologus
July 30: St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter