Today we travel to Belém, the most monumental and historical district of Lisbon, to know a jewel of the country. The Belém Tower is declared a World Heritage Site and it is a symbol of the period of greatest splendor of Portugal. A witness building of important historical events in the Portuguese capital. Are you with us to meet her?
The Belem Tower, symbol of the Age of Discoveries
The Belém Tower is located in the neighborhood from which it takes its name, a neighborhood located at the mouth of the Tagus River. Specifically, on the old beach of Restelo, very close to the Jeronimos Monastery.Belém Tower - Samuel Borges Photography
It was built in the 16th century, between 1514 and 1520, as a defensive fortress. It was originally called «Castelo de São Vicente a couple of Belém», as part of the set of fortifications that Manuel I built to defend the Portuguese coast from Cascais to Lisbon. The objective was to protect the entrance to the port of Lisbon and also to pay tribute to the expeditions of Vasco de Gama, a great navigator of the country.
Its construction was in charge of the architect Francisco de Arruda. Arruda had already built several fortresses in the Portuguese territories of Morocco, which is why he reflected some details of Arab influence. These can be seen in the arches, balconies and domes of the tower.
Historically, the Belém Tower was the starting point of many of the discovering expeditions towards the Indies, Asia, Africa and America. Hence its importance in the Age of Discoveries of Portugal. It was restored numerous times and has served as an armory, prison, customs and lighthouse.
«For the traveler who arrives by sea, Lisbon seen this way, from afar, stands as a beautiful vision of dream, standing out against the blue of the sky, which the sun encourages.»
- Fernando Pessoa -
The visit to the Belém Tower
In the architectural complex, two distinct bodies can be distinguished: the medieval kitchenware tower and the modern bastion. The tower is 35 meters high and 5 levels, which house the Governor's Hall, the Audience Hall, the Kings Hall, the Chapel and, finally, the terrace, from which you get magnificent views of Belém.
OutsideBelém Tower - Jule_Berlin
Its exterior decoration is of great beauty. It is built in a Manueline style. It has sculptures of St. Vincent, patron of Lisbon and also has a sculpture of the patron saint of travel.
It has ropes sculpted in the stone, watchtowers, open galleries, the cross of the Order of Christ and other naturalistic elements. Among them one very curious, a gargoyle of a rhinoceros, symbol of the discoveries. They say this sculpture inspired Dürer in his work The rhinoceros.
Its interiorBelém Tower - Matteo Ceruti
The ground floor has 16 windows, each with defensive cannons. In it you can still see the pits and gaps where the prisoners were thrown. The different floors are connected by a small spiral staircase.
Over time, the Belém Tower lost its defensive use. Then It was used as a prison, collection center and lighthouse. It is currently one of the most important and visited tourist spots in Lisbon.
Monastery of los jeronimosJeronimos Monastery - inacio pires
After visiting the Tower of Belem you can go to the Jeronimos Monastery. This imposing construction, It is another symbol that commemorates the era of Portuguese explorations.
It was also built during the 16th century, in Manueline style, to celebrate the return of India from Vasco de Gama. It has a church of special interest, being different from all of its time, and a cloister of great dimensions and enormous beauty. The Museum of Archeology currently operates in an adjoining building.
If you still want to walk, do not miss entering the Belém neighborhood, where these famous jewels of the Era of Portuguese Discovery are located. In fact, mandatory stop is the Monument to the Discoverers, a monument with imposing sculptural set at your feet. If you can, go up to its viewpoint, you will enjoy fascinating views.Monument to the Discoverers - Kemal Taner
Already walking through the neighborhood, you will discover picturesque houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.In its basement you will find restaurants and cafes where you can taste good dishes of the Portuguese cuisine. Be sure to try the Belém cakes, a neighborhood classic worthy of the fame it has.
On your trip to Lisbon Do not hesitate to know the Belém Tower and its surroundings. These monuments, symbol of the Portuguese Era of Discoveries, are full of history and beauty.