Old Lisbon: Torre de Belém

by Lisboeta

Every week we at TraveltoLisbon will dive deep into the city archives to show you old Lisbon. How the city used to be, how the people used to be and much more!

This week we travel to Torre de Belém. Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) officialy named Torre de São Vicente (Tower of Saint Vincent) is a 16th-century fortification located in Lisbon that served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

Built during the renaissance era, construction started in 1514 on a basalt islet and it was completed in 1519.

At first, the Belem Tower was an important defense bulwark of the river with 16 cannon mouths, but from the Philippine dynasty era it began to serve as a dungeon. The prisoners were on the lower floor which, because it was so low, that it did not allowed an adult to stand. It also served as a telegraph signaling station and even a lighthouse.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, it is a jewel of Manueline architecture, with various decorative elements associated with the Discoveries, such as royal weapons, ropes, the armillary sphere or the Cross of the order of Christ.

The Belem Tower is divided into five main areas: Governor’s Room (with a fireplace and a balcony overlooking the Tejo/Tagus), Audience Room, Hall of Kings, Chapel and Tower Terrace.

Photos from 1855, 1865 and 1950. Source.

Torre de Belém today.
Carlos Luis M C da Cruz

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