Sagres or the Promontorium Sacrum. This location evokes the memory of the Infante D. Henrique and the Portuguese discoveries. The southwesternmost point in the European continent, was already referred to in antiquity as the Promontorium Sacrum, encompassing the area from the Ponta da Piedade to the Cape of São Vicente and from the cape to the beach of Arrifana. A buttressed fortress was built in the 15th century by the Infante D. Henrique, who died here in 1460. The presence of this fortress endowed Sagres with a unique role in the history of Portugal, integrating it within the imaginary universe of the Portuguese discoveries and conferring international recognition to the site. In addition to the spectacular panorama over the sea and the Cape of São Vicente it is still possible to recognize constructions such as the cistern tower, a windbreak wall, the former dwellings and a barracks and the old parish church of Nossa Senhora da Graça.One of the main attractions for visitors is the huge compass-rose marked on the ground, measuring 43 metres in diameter. Due to its strategic position on the Portuguese coast, the site has a long history, including the attack by the corsair, Francis Drake in 1587, when the Kingdom of Portugal was under the dominion of King Filipe III of Spain. During the 1990s, the site was subject to an architectural intervention, by the Oporto-based architect, João Carreira, resulting in the creation of a Temporary Exhibitions area, Multimedia Centre, shops and cafetaria.
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights. In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states. Text by Steve Smith.