The iconic Belém Tower

The iconic Belém Tower is located on the north shore of the river Tagus. It is one of the landmarks of the city of Lisbon and it is visited by thousands every year. In 1983 it was classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. Its beautiful architecture is the delight of those who visit it, but its history may tell a different story.

When it was built

The Belém Tower was built in the 16th century, between 1514 and 1521. The architect responsible for its build was Francisco Arruda. He was a very famous military architect and sculptor, who was also responsible for other important buildings in Portugal and abroad. It was built on a basalt island situated close to the north shore of the river. Over the years, the river has changed it’s course and the Tower was almost swollen by the riverbank at one point. Today it sits close to the river bank and it is accessible through a small bridge.

It’s architectonic style

The Belém Tower was commissioned by King Manuel I, in Manueline Style. This architectural style was named after the king but it is sometimes known as Portuguese late Gothic, due to its resemblance to the Gothic Style. However, the Manueline style incorporates influences and elements from Africa and Índia, brought by the discoveries. You will find many other examples of this style, such as the neighbouring Jerónimos Monastery.

Its purpose

This magnificent example of Manueline Architecture was built to protect the entrance of the river Tagus. Together with São Sebastião Tower, also known as Forte de São Sebastião da Caparica, situated on the northern shore, in what is today Monte da Caparica. These two buildings protected the entrance of the river. For those entering the Tagus, it must have been a frightening sight, far from the beauty we contemplate today.

You can visit this beautiful monument from Tuesday to Sunday. From October to April it opens from 10am to 5.30pm. From May to September it opens from 10am to 6.30pm. Last visitors allowed half an hour before closure.

If you are visiting Lisbon, this is certainly a place not to miss.

Source: Visit Portugal
Photo: Cila Neves