Belém Tower in Lisboa - Portugal's most popular attraction
Location show on map
Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal
Date of build
1514 - 1520
The Belem Tower was built in 1515 as a fortress protecting the entrance to the port of Lisbon, it was the starting point for many exploration trips, and for sailors it was the last view of their homeland.
Once King Jan II ordered a ship to defend the bay permanently on this shore. This ship remained here throughout his kingdom, then his concept was repeated by his successor, King Manuel I. It wasn't until the 15th century that Manuel decided to build a permanent tower, which was more economically profitable than owning a ship on water all the time. This is how the construction of the Belem Tower began.
When construction began, it was still on a small island halfway down the river. The situation changed after a great earthquake that shook this city in 1755. Then the river changed its course, moving the island closer to the mainland, and eventually connecting it with the shore.
The building, located in the Lisbon district of Belém, was made of limestone and consists of a bastion and a four-storey tower 12 meters wide and 30 meters high.
Built in the Manueline style, it contains many stonework motifs of Explorers, including sculptures depicting historical figures such as St. Wincent and the exotic rhino that inspired the drawing of the Dürer beast.
Originally planned as a lighthouse, finally built as a defensive fortress on the orders of King Manuel I.
The main facade of the fortress overlooks the sea and offers a completely different impression of the tower than the one that can be admired along the river bank. Opposite the river are arcaded windows, delicate Venetian-style loggias and a monument to Our Lady of Safe Return to Home, a symbol of protection for sailors during their journey.
Divided into several levels, the interior of the bastion, along with the round stairs at the northern end, has two adjacent halls with vaulted ceilings supported on vaulted arches, as well as four storage spaces and sanitary rooms.
The first level is the Governor's Hall (Sala do Governador), the second is the Sala dos Reis (King's Hall), the third level is filled by the Auditorium (Sala das Audłatyas). The ceilings of all three floors are covered with empty concrete slabs. The Thursday floor contains a chapel, has a rib vault with niches characteristic of the Manueline style and is supported by carved brackets.
On the lower level of the bastion on the walls you can find space for 17 cannons with shooting ranges providing a view of the river. The upper level of the bastion is crowned by a small wall with bartyzans in strategic places, decorated with rounded shields with the cross of the Order of Christ surrounding the platform.
One of the main attractions is the rhinoceros head under the west tower facing the land. It is said to commemorate the first rhino in Europe, given to Manuel I as a gift from India.
The monument was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.
Belém Tower is today one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lisbon, which is visited by over 500,000 people every year.
The Belem Tower is also one of the "7 wonders of Portugal", which also includes the Castle of Guimarães, Castle of Óbidos, Monastery of Batalha, Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, Monastery of Alcobaça and National Palace in Sintra.
Official website: http://www.torrebelem.pt