The pillar is one of the oldest remaining symbolic Portuguese monuments in Africa. Built in 1498 by Vasco Dagama, the great Portuguese explorer, the pillar was a sign of appreciation for the welcome he received from the Sultan of Malindi. Dagama was said to build this pillar everywhere he visited. The cross sign on the pillar was tested and found to be made of Lisbon limestone, proving that it is the original cross, placed at Malindi in 1498.
According to recorded history, it was in July 1497 that Vasco Da Gama, with a fleet of four vessels and Sao Gabriel, Sao Rafael, The Betrio and a 200 Ton Stor ship sailed from Lisbon, Portugal. He had three interpreters – 2 Arabs and one speaker of several languages. On April 7th, the expedition reached Mombasa and on the 13th anchored at Malindi where he established amicable relations with the Sheikh of Malindi, Ahmed Bin Majid. On 20th May, 1498 Da Gama returned to Calcutta India after 23 days at sea.
He returned to Malindi on the 14th January 1499. Many of his crew died of scurvy at sea. Da Gama decided to burn down Sao Rafael. As a mark of discovery, he created a Padro (Pillar) at the Sheikh’s house made of Libson limestone and bearing the Portugal coat of arms.
In view of the Odium, it was removed and re-erected. When Malindi became Portuguese Northern Headquarters in 1512, the Padro was not mentioned by the Portuguese travellers in mid-16th century. It may have fallen down and then re-erected again with its cone shaped support before the Portuguese moved to Fort Jesus Mombasa 1593.