The “Torre de Belém” (Belém Tower) is located in the Belém district of Lisboa (Lisbon), in Portugal.
It is classified as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO since 1983.
In order to enhance Lisbon’s defense, King João II, in the late 15th century, drew up a defense system for the mouth of the “Tejo” river. It consisted in an triangle formed by three fortresses, the Fortress of Cascais on the right bank, the Fortress of São Sebastião (Caparica) on the left bank and, in the water, the Belém Tower. But the monarch died before any plans were initiated. It was King Manuel I who, twenty years later, ordered the construction of the Belém Tower.
The construction of the Belém Tower that had began in 1515, under the supervision of Francisco de Arruda, was concluded in 1519. The fortress was originally named as “Castelo de São Vicente de Belém” (Castle of São Vicente), in tribute to the patron saint of the city.
Gaspar de Paiva was nominated to command the fortress, being appointed the first Captain-General.
In time, with the construction of new, more modern and more effective defenses, the Belém Tower lost its original defensive role. The building began to serve for new purposes. It was a customs control point, a telegraph station, a lighthouse and even a political prison.
The Belém Tower is one of the world’s most beautiful examples of military architecture. It is composed of a bastion and a 30 meter four story tower, located on the north side of the bastion. The bastion is the defense zone, where the cannons are placed.
The Belém Tower is one of the most representative examples of the Manueline architectural style (also known as Portuguese late Gothic). This is especially apparent in its armillary spheres, on the crosses of the Military Order of Christ, on the twisted rope and on the naturalistic symbols such us the rhinoceros, the first such representation in stone know in Europe.
The architect Francisco de Arruda had previously worked on fortifications in Morocco, for this reason there’s also some Moorish influences in Belém Tower, such as the Moorish-style watchtowers.
October to April: 10.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (last admission at 5.00 p.m.)
May to September: 10.00 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (last admission at 6.00 p.m.)
Closed: Mondays and 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May and 25 December
City bus lines: 727, 28, 729, 714 and 751
Suburban train: Belém Station
Ferry: Belém Ferry station