Lisbon’s Belém Tower: A Symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries
The History of Belém Tower
The Belém Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, is a historical fortress located in Lisbon, Portugal. It stands as a symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, a period of great maritime exploration and expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Age of Discoveries
The Age of Discoveries was a time when Portuguese explorers set sail to find new trade routes, discover new lands, and expand the influence of Portugal across the globe. Led by explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan, Portugal played a significant role in shaping the modern world through its maritime expeditions.
Construction of the Tower
The construction of Belém Tower began in 1514 under the orders of King Manuel I, who wanted to strengthen the defense of the city and honor the achievements of the Portuguese explorers. The tower was designed by Francisco de Arruda, a renowned Portuguese architect of the Manueline style.
Belém Tower was strategically positioned at the mouth of the Tagus River, providing protection for the city of Lisbon from potential invaders. It served as a defensive fortress, a ceremonial gateway, and a symbol of Portugal’s naval power.
Architectural Marvels of Belém Tower
The architectural style of Belém Tower is known as Manueline, named after King Manuel I. This style is characterized by intricate decorations, maritime motifs, and a fusion of Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish influences. The tower showcases the mastery of Portuguese craftsmen in stone carving and sculptural details.
Symbolism in the Tower’s Design
The design of Belém Tower incorporates various symbols related to Portugal’s maritime exploits. The tower features carvings of the Cross of the Order of Christ, the royal coat of arms, and sculptures depicting sea monsters and maritime elements. These symbols represent the country’s exploration, conquest, and Christian faith.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Historical Connection to Discoveries
Belém Tower has a strong historical connection to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, making it a significant cultural site. Its association with the maritime expeditions and the architectural grandeur of the Manueline style led to its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Preservation of Belém Tower
Efforts have been made to preserve and restore Belém Tower over the centuries, ensuring its historical and architectural integrity. The tower underwent major restoration works in the 19th and 20th centuries, allowing visitors to experience its original splendor.
Visiting Belém Tower Today
Travelling to Belém
Belém Tower is easily accessible from the city center of Lisbon. Visitors can take public transportation or join guided tours to reach the tower. The surrounding area offers stunning views of the river and is a popular spot for leisurely walks.
Exploring the Tower
Visitors can explore the different levels of Belém Tower, including the bastions, the governor’s room, and the Chapel of St. Vincent. The tower provides panoramic views of the river and the city, giving visitors a glimpse into Portugal’s glorious past.
Other Nearby Attractions
Belém Tower is located in the historic district of Belém, which is home to several other notable attractions. Visitors can also visit the nearby Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Belém Cultural Center. These attractions offer further insights into Portugal’s rich history and cultural heritage.