Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

The Belém Tower is one of Lisbon’s most iconic buildings

Marija Georgievska

Belém Tower, or the Tower of St Vincent, is a fortified tower in Lisbon and is the most famous landmark in Portugal. It is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage Site.

The Belém Tower.Photo Credit

The Belém Tower.Photo Credit

The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. He ordered the “making of a strong fort”, but died before any plans were drawn. After 20 years, King Manuel I of Portugal revisited the proposal and ordered the construction of a military fortification on the northern margin of the Tagus River at Belém.

The tower was designed by military architect Francisco de Arruda. Photo Credit

The tower was designed by military architect Francisco de Arruda. Photo Credit

The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. It was built from lioz limestone and it combines a traditional medieval keep with a more recent bulwark housing a casemate to store the first devices designed to resist artillery fire. The tower is isolated along the riverbank, between the dock of Bom Sucesso and Pedroucos, on a basaltic outcropping of rocks belonging to the geomorphological volcanic complex of Lisboa-Mafra.

The building is divided into two parts the bastion and the four story tower located on the north side of the bastion. Photo Credit

The building is divided into two parts the bastion and the four-story tower located on the north side of the bastion. Photo Credit

Constructed on a hexagonal floor plan, the four-story tower was created in the shape of a ship’s bow jutting into the water. On the northeast angle of the structure, protected by a defensive wall with bartizans, is a drawbridge to access the bulwark, decorated in plant motifs, surrounded by the royal coat of arms and flanked by small columns, complemented with armillary spheres. These spheres appear at the tower’s entrance, symbolizing Portugal’s nautical explorations, and were used on King Manuel I’s personal banner to represent Portuguese discoveries during his rule.

A small door provides access via a spiral staircase to the subsequent floors. Photo Credit

A small door provides access via a spiral staircase to the subsequent floors. Photo Credit

The upper tier of the bastion is crowned by a small wall with bartizans in strategic places, decorated by rounded  shields with the cross of the Order of Christ encircling the platform. The lower walls of the bastion have spaces for 17 cannons with embrasures affording a view of the river.

The Belém Tower is today one of the most popular sightseeing attractions in Lisbon. Photo Credit

The Belém Tower is today one of the most popular sightseeing attractions in Lisbon. Photo Credit

The interior of the bastion has two contiguous halls with vaulted ceilings supported by masonry arches, as well as four storage lockers and sanitary spines.

The tower was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and included in the registry of the Seven Wonders of Portugal in 2007. Photo Credit

The tower was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and included in the registry of the Seven Wonders of Portugal in 2007. Photo Credit

The most interesting part of the architecture is the rhinoceros head below the west tower facing the land.

Here is another similar story from us -The Chindia Tower is a monument and is linked to legendary figure, Vlad the Impaler

It is said to commemorate the first rhino in Europe given to Manuel I as a present from India.