DESTINATION PORTUGAL : Belém Tower, Lisbon
The Belém Tower or the Torré de Belém as it is referred to, is one of the most visited places in the beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal. The Portuguese Word Belém is derived word from an English word called Bethlehem. This landmark was constructed in the year 1515, during Manuel I of Portugal’s rule.
If one takes a closer look at the tower, it is but evident that the same was built as a defensive system to guard the entrance of the city and to protect the access to the Tagus estuary which could be attacked by John II of Portugal. Today the tower is used as a symbol to incorporate and display to the world the maritime elements and symbols of discoveries done by prominent voyagers like Vasco de Gama and Pedro Cabral.
The tower was erected by the architect Francisco de Arruda on a small island on the right side of the river of Tagus surrounded by water on three sides. Built with the Manueline style, it includes many stonework motifs of the Discoveries, sculptures depicting historical figures. It has a roofed balcony on three sides which can be seen from the riverbank. Each balcony has the Cross of the Knights of Christ while below the altar is the Our lady of Good Fortune – a Gothic statue of Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso. It is also believed that the statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming’s statue was a symbol of protection for sailors on their voyages.
Belém Tower is a world Heritage site declared by UNESCO and very precisely it summarised the entire well-being of this tower as "It is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world."
FACTS TO KNOW:
The tower was erected on a small island on the riverbank of Tagus surrounded by water on three sides but however due to the shift in the river bank location, today the tower is present on the mainland.
Another interesting fact is that the architecture has a rhinoceros head facing the land below the west tower. It is said that this is the first rhino in Europe given to Manuel I as a present from India
The place is crowded so carefull about your belongings, especially handbags and passports.