Gil Eannes Ship
Museum in Viana do Castelo
The Navio Hospital Gil Eannes, also known as the Gil Eannes Hospital Ship, stands prominently along the waterfront in Viana do Castelo.
Originally built in the town in 1955, the ship played a crucial role in the cod fleet off the coasts of Newfoundland and Greenland. It served not only as a floating infirmary but also as a flagship, supply and support ship, mail carrier, tugboat, and even icebreaker. The Gil Eannes supplied smaller cod fishing boats with nets, bait, food, and fuel.
After being used briefly as a cargo vessel, the ship was decommissioned in the 1980s and left to decay in Lisbon until it was brought back to its hometown and meticulously restored in 1998. The Gil Eannes Foundation now manages and maintains the ship.
Visitors can explore the vessel, which is divided into two parts. The smaller, free Centro do Mar, located in the stern, has exhibits (in Portuguese and English) that provide insights into Viana do Castelo’s history as a fishing port and shipbuilding center. It also houses displays on the history of the Gil Eannes, including fishing nets, ropes, navigational instruments, and temporary exhibitions of paintings and photography related to the local area. The rest of the ship is accessible for a small entrance fee.
Upon arrival, a video (in Portuguese) provides an overview of the ship’s history and mission. Visitors can tour the ship’s bridge, cabins of officers and sailors, engine room, kitchen, mess room, rudimentary treatment rooms, and operating theatre. The ship also includes a bakery, a barber’s, a chapel, a communications room, a pharmacy, and a radiology (X-ray) room. Life-sized mannequins help bring the atmosphere of life on board the boat to life, and glass cabinets display medical equipment, model ships, and other naval instruments. The interior is spacious, but visitors must navigate steep stairs and ladders to get around. The ship’s original photographs and documents are also on display, offering a glimpse into the everyday life of those who served on board.