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Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) Lisbon - Portugal (File:IMG_9876) | by Beto Frota
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Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) Lisbon - Portugal (File:IMG_9876)

Belém Tower (in Portuguese Torre de Belém) or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery) because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be both part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus River and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.


The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. The structure was built from lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and the 30 meter (100 foot), four story tower. It has incorrectly been stated that the tower was built in the middle of the Tagus and now sits near the shore because the river was redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. In fact, the tower was built on a small island in the Tagus River near the Lisbon shore.



In the late 15th century, King John II designed a defense system for the mouth of the Tagus River by building the Fortress of Cascais and the Fortress of São Sebastião of Caparica on the south side of the river. These fortresses did not completely cover the mouth of the river and further protection was required. King John II planned the tower to supplement the defense system and King Manuel I finished the construction of the tower after the death of King John II. Before the completion of the tower, the Grand Nau (Great Ship), a heavily armed, 1000 tonne (1100 ton) ship was used to supplement the defense. The construction of the tower completed the defense system and was finished in the last five years of Manuel's reign.


The tower was constructed between 1515 and 1521 by the military architect, Francisco de Arruda. Diogo de Boitaca, the first architect of the nearby Jerónimos Monastery, also participated in decorating the building. The tower was dedicated to the patron saint of Lisbon, St Vincent, and commemorated the expedition of Vasco de Gama.

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Taken on January 1, 2011