Belem Tower / Torre de Belem - Lisboa
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Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member manchanegra
N 38° 41.525 W 009° 12.930
29S E 481258 N 4282629
Quick Description: Belém Tower, or Torre de Belém, is a fortified tower located in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal.
Location: Lisboa, Portugal
Date Posted: 10/20/2006 3:18:49 PM
Waymark Code: WMVV9
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Tervas
Views: 439

Long Description:
Belém Tower, or Torre de Belém, is a fortified tower located in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal.
It was built in the early 16th century in the Portuguese late gothic style, the manueline, and is one of the symbols of the city. It is classified, together with the nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Belém Tower was built as part of a defence system of the entrance of the Tagus river, which was necessary to protect Lisbon. The system was initiated by King John II (1455-1495), who built the Fortress of Cascais and the Fortress of Sao Sebastiao of Caparica. The banks of Belém were protected by a ship, the Grande Nau, replaced by the Tower of Belém during the reign of King Manuel I.

The Tower was constructed between 1515 and 1521 by military architect Francisco de Arruda, who had already built several fortresses in Portuguese possessions in Morocco. Diogo de Boitaca, first architect of the nearby Monastery of the Jerónimos, probably also participated in decorating the building. Originally, the Tower stood on an little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water. Opposite the beach at Restelo, but, with the progressive southward creeping of the shore over the years, it is now practically moored to the bank itself. It was dedicated to the patron saint of Lisbon, St Vincent.

Renaissance loggia on the first floor of Belém Tower.In 1580, when Lisbon was invaded by Spanish troops in the course of a struggle for the Portuguese throne, the Tower fought and surrended to the Duke of Alba. In the following centuries the Tower was mainly used as prison and customs. Indeed, given its height and lack of dissimulation in the landscape, some historians believe the Tower was mostly intended to serve as a customs outpost.

In the 1840s, under the impulse of romantic writer Almeida Garrett, the Tower of Belém was restored by King Ferdinand II. At this point many neo-manueline decorative elements were added to the building. It was declared a National Monument in 1910.

Art and architecture
The Tower of Belém is considered one of the main works of the Portuguese late gothic, the manueline style. Indeed, the tower is decorated with several typical manueline motifs like the armillary sphere (the symbol of Manuel I), the cross of the Order of Christ (to which Manuel I belonged), twisted ropes, elaborate rib vaulting and other features. However, some of the decoration dates from the renovation of the 1840s, like the shields that decorate the crenellations of the walls and the decoration of the small cloister of the bastion.

The Tower of Belém can be divided into two parts, the bastion, with the shape of an irregular hexagon, and the five-storey tower itself, located on the north side of bastion. The whole ensemble looks like a stone ship.

Casemate of the bastion of Belém Tower.The bastion has a vaulted chamber (the casemate), with openings for the cannons. The corners of the bastion terrace have delicate turrets (guerites) topped by oriental-looking cupolas. The base of the turrets have images of beasts, including a rhinoceros, considered to the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art. This rhinoceros probably depicts the one that Manuel I sent to the Pope in 1515.

The entrance to the Tower is done through a portal decorated with many manueline motifs, including Manuel I's badge of honour (an armillary sphere). The whole Tower is also decorated with stone twisted ropes, which even tie a knot at the north façade of the building. The upper corners of the Tower walls have statues of St Vincent and St Michael, as well as many fine windows with arches. The renaissance-style loggia on the south side of the first floor of the tower is particularly delicate. The many shields that decorate the merlons are neo-manueline.

The tower itself, 35 metres high, has four storeys and a terrace that offers wonderful views of the surround landscape. Of the tower floors, the most interesting is the chapel of the fourth floor, with a magnificent manueline rib vault decorated with the armillary sphere and the cross of the military Order of Christ, who participated in many Portuguese conquests.
The given coordinates are from the shore. You have to cross a wooden bridge to get to the tower gate.
Type: Monument

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