Europe

Curiosities of the Torre de Belém in Lisbon

It is one of the monuments with which Lisbon is identified. Something understandable when discovering the history of this tower that stands on the same waters of the Tagus River. That history and some curiosities of the Torre de Belém is what we are going to tell you next. I’m sure you’re interested.

The Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos

Belém Tower – Jule_Berlin

Actually, the Torre de Belém today is part of the great Portuguese capital, but what is currently the neighborhood of Belém was originally almost another town.

Something not surprising, since there is a considerable distance to the center of Lisbon, if we have, for example, the Praça do Comercio as a reference. Although now access from the heart of the city is very fast thanks to public transportespecially the tram.

By the way, since you take this tram from the center of Lisbon, take the opportunity not only to visit the beautiful Torre de Belém. A short distance away you can visit the Jerónimos Monasteryraised at the same time as the tower.

Y You should also visit the Monument to the Discoveries, the Marine Museum and the sweetest institution in all of Lisbon: the Pasteis de Belém patisserie.

 

“Traveling makes you realize that no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn.”

-Nyssa P. Chopra-

The origins of the Torre de Belém

portumen

The Torre de Belém was built between 1516 and 1520. It was built by order of King Manuel I in the middle of the Age of Discovery.

The monarch commissioned Francisco de Arruda, as an expert in defensive constructions, and to Diego de Boitaca, his most trusted architect, since at that time he directed the works of the Jerónimos Monastery, the most splendid work of the Manueline style. A unique artistic style of this moment and that only occurred in Portugal.

It is very curious, because the Manueline style is characterized by its abundant ornamental profusion, something that perhaps does not fit very well with the spirit of a defense tower. As that was originally the Torre de Belém, a defensive tower designed to control maritime traffic at the mouth of the Tagus River in the Atlantic Ocean.

Curiosities of the Tower of Belém

Now that we know a little more about its history, we are going to discover a few curiosities about the Torre de Belém. Some may surprise you.

A very ornate tower

Rhino Gargoyle – Puzzling World / Flickr.com

As we have already said, this is a Manueline construction and, therefore, very ornate. You can see many sculptural details, from armillary spheres to heraldic shields.

But Among so many ornaments, one stands out: the famous carved rhinoceros on its west façade.. This figure evokes a rhinoceros that was a gift to the Portuguese king and that came from India. It was quite an event to see that animal in Europe, and for this reason they did not hesitate to record it in this construction.

The old beach of Restelo

Nicholas Courtney

Today, to access the interior of the Torre de Belém, one of the most visited monuments in Lisbon and in all of Portugal, it is enough to cross a footbridge. Nevertheless, originally the tower would be completely surrounded by water.

Very close to it would be the old beach of Restelo and a port from which the ships departed for the overseas colonies that once made Portugal a maritime power.

Other uses of the Torre de Belém

Belem Tower by Matteo Ceruti

Another of the curiosities of the Torre de Belém is the use that has been made of it over time. It is clear that it was born with a defensive vocation, hence its bastions and its sentry boxes where there were cannons. But the tower also came to fulfill other functions over time.

One of them was to serve as a beacon for sailors, but also it was a tax collection center. And in its lower part, prisoners were locked up, since the 16th century itself.

However, today it no longer has any of those uses, and it is only a monument that must be visited during a trip to Lisbon. And it is that in the end Belém Tower is a treasure of Portuguese history and from all over the world, since it is a monument cataloged as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

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