Tag Archives: unesco world heritage site

Tower of Belem : Lisbon – Portugal

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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….

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Tarxien Temples – Malta

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The Tarxien Temples (Maltese pronunciation: [ˈtarʃi.ɛn]) are an archaeological complex in Tarxien, Malta.

They date to approximately 3150 BC.   

The site was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 along with

the other Megalithic temples on the island of Malta.

See my post on the Hypogeum : https://the-tin-man.com/2013/06/22/hypogeum-of-hal-saflieni-paola-malta/

The Tarxien consist of three separate, but attached, temple structures.

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The main entrance is a reconstruction dating from 1956, when the whole site was restored.

acma-Tarxien-TempleAt the same time, many of the decorated slabs discovered on site were relocated indoors for protection at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

The first temple has been dated to approximately 3100 BC and is the most elaborately decorated of the temples of Malta.

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The middle temple dates to about 3000 BC, and is unique in that, unlike the rest of the Maltese temples, it has three pairs of apses instead of the usual two.

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The east temple is dated at around 3100 BC. The remains of another temple, smaller, and older, having been dated to 3250 BC, are visible further towards the east.

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Of particular interest at the temple site is the rich and intricate stonework, which includes depictions of domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.

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Demonstrative of the skill of the builders is a chamber set into the thickness of the wall between the South and Central temples and containing a relief showing a bull and a sow.

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Excavation of the site reveals that it was used extensively for rituals, which probably involved animal sacrifice.

Especially interesting is that Tarxien provides rare insight into how the megaliths were constructed: stone rollers were left outside the South temple.

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Additionally, evidence of cremation has been found at the center of the South temple, which is an indicator that the site was reused as a Bronze Age cremation cemetery.

The visit was most amazing and I was so taken by the skills and dedication of our predecessors to create something that would last over 5,000 years.

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When we were exiting I saw some archeologists working on a dig….they saw me taking a photograph and bent into the dig and began to yell with excitement and then popped up holding a spoon…..

……love people with a sense of humor!!!

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Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni – Paola, Malta

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The Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world.

We knew that this was a must see place, so several months prior to our trip we went online in search of tickets.  The place is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the atmosphere inside the temple complex is highly regulated.  This allows for only ten people per hour to enter for a very limited time period and only 60 persons per 24 hours.  As you can imagine, tickets are sold out for around a year in advance!  I found two tickets available on a day when we were going to be in Malta!!!  You bet I bought those within seconds of finding them.

The Hypogeum is located within a residential neighborhood and a bus drops you off blocks from the site.  You then wander the streets from small sign to the next hoping you are going in the right direction…

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Hey the place is just another residential doorway…….we went right past it the first time!

Now access is VERY controlled, as I stated, so all personal items are collected…….darn, no secret photos to be had!

Since no photos are allowed the following photos of the interior of the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni are all from Google searches.

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The Hypogeum of Paola, Malta, literally meaning “underground” in Greek, is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase  (3000-2500 BC) in Maltese prehistory.

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Thought to have been originally a sanctuary, it became a necropolis in prehistoric times,  as is proven by the remains of more than 7,000 individuals that have been discovered during the course of the excavation.

The Hypogeum was depicted on a 2 cents 5 mils stamp issued in the Maltese Islands in 1980 to commemorate the acceptance by UNESCO of this unique structure in the World Heritage Site list.

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It was closed to visitors between 1992 and 1996 for restoration works; since it reopened only 60 people per day are allowed entry.

It was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof.   The workers tried to hide the temple at first, but eventually it was found.   The study of the structure was first entrusted to Father Manuel Magri of the Society of Jesus, who directed the excavations on behalf of the Museums Committee.   Magri died in 1907, before the publication of the report.   Following Magri’s sudden death, excavation resumed under Sir Temi Zammit.

The first level is very similar to tombs found in Xemxija in Malta.   Some rooms are natural caves which were later artificially extended.  Remember that these rooms were carved into solid limestone with DEER ANTLERS!!!

This was built in the Neolithic Age.

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The second level was only opened when the original builders found that this level was no longer adequate.   This level is only ten meters below the street level.

The Second level features several apparently important rooms, such as

the Main Room, the Holy of Holies, and the Oracle Room.

The Main Chamber  is roughly circular and carved out from rock. A number of trilithon entrances are represented, some blind, and others leading to another chamber.  Most of the wall surface has received a red wash of ochre.

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It was from this room that the statuettes of the sleeping lady were recovered. Nowadays these figurines are held in the Museum of Archaeology, in Valletta, Malta.

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 The Oracle Room is roughly rectangular and one of the smallest side chambers.   It has the peculiarity of producing a powerful acoustic resonance from any vocalization made inside it.

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This room has an elaborately painted ceiling, consisting of spirals in red ochre with circular blobs.

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 Out of the Oracle’s Room, through the hammer dressed chamber, on the right is another spacious hall, circular, with inward slanting smooth walls, richly decorated in a geometrical pattern.  On the right side wall the entrance is a petrosomatoglyph of a human hand carved into the rock.

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 The second level contains a 2 meters deep pit which could have been used for either keeping snakes or collecting alms.

The focal point of this room is a porthole within a trilithon, which is in turn framed within a larger trilithon and yet another large trilithon.

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  The lower story contained no bones or offerings, only water.   It strongly suggests storage, maybe of grain.

Stories from the Past

There is an account that in the 1940s a British embassy worker, Miss Lois Jessup, went on a tour of the Hypogeum and persuaded a guide to let her explore a 3 ft. square “burial chamber” next to the floor of the lowest room in the last 3rd sub-level.   She claims that after squeezing through this chamber she came into a large room;  where she was standing there was a large cliff with a steep drop and the floor of the cavern could not be seen.   Across the cavern there was a small ledge with an opening in the wall.   According to Ms. Jessup, a number of “humanoid beings” that were covered in white hair and hunched over came out of this opening.   They raised their palms in her direction and a large gust of wind filled the cavern, extinguishing the light of her candle.   She then claimed that she felt something brush past her.   When she went back to the Hypogeum on another occasion, she was told no such tour guide had ever worked on the site.

Sometime after Miss Jessup’s first visit, a group of school children and their teacher visited the Hypogeum on an outing and entered the same burial chamber, which then collapsed while they were inside.   Search parties could not conduct a thorough search for the children or their teacher due to the cave-in.   The parents of the children claimed that, for weeks, they could hear the voices of their young children coming from under the ground in several parts of the island.  source:  http://www.philipcoppens.com/

Many subterranean passageways, including ancient catacombs, now are a part of the island’s fortifications and defense system.   Supplies are kept in many tunnels; others are bomb shelters.   Beneath Valletta some of the underground areas served as homes for the poor.   Prehistoric men built temples and chambers in these vaults.   In a pit beside one sacrificial altar lie thousands of human skeletons.   Years ago one could walk underground from one end of Malta to the other.   The Government closed the entrances to these tunnels after school children and their teachers became lost in the labyrinth while on a study tour and never returned………….  According to National Geographic’s ”Ancient X-Files” there are no local newspaper reports or accounts from residents about the missing children, making it more likely this was an invented story.

Whatever the local lore is about this place, I can tell you that we felt very honored and thankful to have been able to walk these ancient rooms.  To imagine our ancestors toiling for years to construct this grand and beautiful place……….not to mention the marvelous ceremonies and rituals that must have been………..

Pena Palace – Sintra, Portugal

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We decided to take a private guided tour to the town of Sintra in order to visit the many palaces and learn more of this marvelous place.  Our guide was a lovely young Portuguese woman who had a real passion for the history of her country and knew some great places to eat!   Off we went in our minivan to find new and amazing places……….

The palace stands on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon.   It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in the world.

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The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.   It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

The palace’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to ”Our Lady of Pena” was built on the top of the hill above Sintra.  According to tradition, the construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

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In 1493,  King John II, accompanied by his wife Leonor of Viseu, made a pilgrimage to the site to fulfill a vow. His successor, King Manuel I, was also very fond of this sanctuary, and ordered the construction there of a monastery which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome.   For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.

In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning.   However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterwards, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins.   Nonetheless, the chapel (and its magnificent works of marble and alabaster attributed to Nicolau Chanterene) escaped without significant damage.

For many decades the ruins remained untouched, but they still astonished young prince Ferdinand.   In 1838, as King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors

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and a few other estates in the area, including Monserrate Palace..

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The Monserrate Palace is an exotic palatial villa, the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. It was built in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet created visconde de Monserrate by King Luís

and the Convent of the Capuchos…

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of course we cannot forget the home he built for his second wife, The Chalet of the Countess of Edla…

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King Ferdinand then set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.

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The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege.   Eschwege, a German amateur architect,  was much traveled and likely had knowledge of several castles along the Rhine river.   The construction took place between 1842–1854, although it was almost completed in 1847:  King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II intervened decisively on matters of decoration and symbolism.   Among others, the King suggested Vault architecture,  Medieval architecture and Islamic architecture elements be included.

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….., and he also designed an exquisitely ornate window for the main façade inspired by the chapter house window of the Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar

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After the death of Ferdinand the palace passed into the possession of his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla.    The latter then sold the palace to Luís I of Portugal,  who wanted to retrieve it for the royal family, and thereafter the palace was frequently used by the family.   In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.   The last queen of Portugal, Amélie of Orléans,  spent her last night at the palace before leaving the country in exile.

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The palace quickly drew visitors and became one of Portugal’s most visited monuments. Over time the colors of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace was visually identified as being entirely gray.   By the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original colors restored, much to the dismay of many Portuguese who were not aware that the palace had once displayed such chromatic variety.

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In 1995,  the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Pena Palace is so large and so magnificent.    We so enjoyed our visit …………. now off for some food!

Caldo Verde……….delightful……recipe at end of post…….

………followed by one of my favorites……….Roasted Octopus….

what a fantastic day……..oh yeah, here is the Caldo Verde recipe…

  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 6 Potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 quarts Cold Water
  • 6 ounces Linguica Sausage, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  •  1 pound Kale, rinsed and julienned

Directions

 In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil for 3 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more.  Pour in water, bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook sausage until it has released most of its fat, 10 minutes.  Drain.

Mash potatoes or puree the potato mixture with a blender or food processor.  Stir the sausage, salt and pepper into the soup and return to medium heat.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Just before serving, stir kale into soup and simmer, 5 minutes, until kale is tender and jade green.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve at once.