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Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa
© Nuno Cera

Tower of Belém

  • Original Authors:
  • Francisco de Arruda
  • (1520)

  • Interventions:
  • Várias autorias
  • (séc. XIX e XX)

This monument was built between 1514 and 1519, in the reign of Manuel I of Portugal. However, it was part of the artillery maritime defence system of the Tagus mouth, planned in the reign of King João II. In addition to this tower, which was built later, the system included the towers at S. Sebastião da Caparica and Cascais. This tower is implanted on a basaltic outcrop that was 250 meters into the river by the time of its construction. It combines two distinct architectural models: the tower itself is 30 meters high and has four floors, as a keep; and the bastion, a modern military device with a hexagonal body. In addition to the unique structure of the building, there is its ornamental overload, in the festive form of the late Gothic “Manueline”, that adds artistic value to the monument. The heraldic symbols of D. Manuel I, obsessively present, are mixed with maritime ornamental motifs such as ropes, knots and animal figures, and Moorish elements. On the south facade of the tower, there is a large balcony, a loggia, designed to house ostentatious court ceremonies and parties. In the surroundings of the Torre de Belém, after the demolition of the Belém Gaz Factory in 1950, an urban park was designed by António Viana Barreto in 1953. This tower is celebrated as a symbol of the Portuguese Discoveries and today stands as one of the icons of Lisbon.

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