Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal.
The Tower was originally built on a small island in the Tagus River and now sits on the shore due to the river being redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries.
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.
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.
The structure was built from lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and the 100 foot four story tower.
On the outside of the lower bastion, the walls have spaces for 17 canons with portholes open to the river and an ocular in the north.
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 that circle the platform.
King Manuel I was a member of the Order of Christ and the cross of the Order of Christ is repeatedly used numerous times on the parapets.
These were a symbol of Manuel’s military power, as the knights of the Order of Christ contributed to numerous military conquests in that era.
The bartizans, cylindrical watchtowers, in the corners are cover in zoomorphic corbels and domes covered with buds. The corners of this platform have turrets topped by Moorish-looking cupolas.
The base of the turrets have images of beasts, including a rhinoceros.
This rhinoceros is considered to be the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art and probably depicts the rhinoceros that Manuel I sent to Pope Leo X in 1515 which was caged in the tower at one time.
This is the same rhinoceros that is mentioned in my post about Marseille : CLICK HERE to see that story….
As you walk about the area you realize you are surrounded by all sorts of wonders…
Like this bridge….. Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge)
If you have been to San Francisco, California, and this bridge looks familiar……well it should……
It was built by the same company (American Bridge Company) that constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate, also explaining its similarity in design.
Until 1974, the bridge was named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar). The name “25 de Abril” commemorates the Carnation Revolution. It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999.
Also nearby is the Monument to the Discoveries located on the edge of the Tagus’ northern bank, it was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.
The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry sculpted in base relief.
As we were enjoying all the marvelous sights, a submarine suddenly appeared….
Then, just across the road, is Jerónimos Monastery located along the Praça do Império (Empire Square), it was originally built to support pilgrims who travelled in the region by Henry the Navigator; expanded and elaborated from 1501 by architects for King Manuel I of Portugal to serve as a resting-place for members of the House of Aviz; and as a church for seafaring adventurers who embarked during the Age of Discovery, after Vasco da Gama‘s successful voyage to India.
Construction was funded by a tax on eastern spices, and over time came to represent Portuguese historical discoveries, becoming over time a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, housing artifacts and exhibitions like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) within its walls.
Just amazing………all these beautiful historical sites nestled together!
Well you know the Tin Man…….an appetite has been worked up and we are off to Restaurante Triperio
Oh the delights begin………
Marvelous Olives, Famous Portuguese Bread and the Cheese…..France, you best beware….this is good!
Then the Soups…….on the left a wonderful Bean Soup and on the right an OVER THE TOP Garlic and Bread Soup…
Then the most amazing Pork and Clams in a Traditional Broth with Olives and Vegetables….
But Alas, it is time to bid farewell to Belem…I do hope you enjoyed visiting this most wondrous of places with me….