Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
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Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)

The defensive system designed by King João II in the late 15th century incorporated the Fortaleza de Cascais and São Sebastião (or Torre Velho) in Caparica. Yet protection of the Tejo estuary remained incomplete and additional fortification was required. This point of view was upheld by the author Garcia de Resende in his work "Chronicle of João II" and called for a strong fort on the southern margin of the Tejo. It was João's successor King Manuel I who eventually commissioned the construction of the tower in 1513 on the beach in Belém. The master architect was Francisco de Arruda. Construction started in 1516 utilising the same stone as the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.

The tower was completed in 1519, just five years before Manuel's death. The first commander of the tower was Gaspar de Paiva who named the fort Castelo de São Vicente de Belém dedicated to Lisbon's patron Saint. By 1571 it was thought that coastal defences required further strengthening and improvements were made to the rectangular bastion and watchtowers added.
Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
The garrison stationed in the Tower surrendered to Spanish forces under the command of the Duke of Alba in 1580 after only a few hours of battle. During the Philippine Dynasty (1580 - 1640) the dungeons of the Tower served as the state prison. The rectangular two-storey building was constructed over the bastion, giving it it's distinct profile as seen today, with sculpted crosses of the Order of Christ and rounded watchtowers. The tower came under attack by French forces during the Peninsular War and invasion of Lisbon and between 1808 and 1814 troops were based at the tower. Tower later was used as a prison to incarcerate liberal opposition to King Miguel between 1828 - 1834. At the same time serving as a customs control centre for foreign merchant ships entering Lisbon. Various restoration projects took place during the 20th Century but it wasn't until it was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and ownership transferred into the Instituto Português do Património Arquitetónico forerunner of IGESPAR) did a full restoration accrue lasting from February 1997 to January 1998 which saw reinforcing the structure, treating the mortar and structural cleaning.

Yellow Bus Tour

Exterior

As you approach the tower, you'll notice how every corner and elevation is protected by a distinctive Moorish styled bartizan (turret). The bartizan on the northwest corner is a carved rhinoceros. It is thought to represent the gift given to Manuel I from the Sultan of Cambay. Above the northern turrets are two statues: on the right, the Archangel Michael and on the left St. Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon and the tower itself.

Closer inspection of the structure as a whole will reveal its two major parts, the irregular hexagonal bastion with the four-story rectangular tower perched on its northern flank. Mainly Manueline in style which is especially apparent in its elaborate rib vaulting, crosses of the Order of Christ, armillary spheres and twisted rope carvings. King Manuel I was a member of the Order of Christ and the cross of the Order is repeatedly used throughout the structure.

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Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
The bastion juts out to sea and gives the impression of a ship's hull. The galley effect is enhanced with the 17 portholes which point cannons in every conceivable line of fire. The upper tier of the bastion has a low crenellated wall with circular bartizans in strategic places, decorated by rounded shields with the cross of the Order of Christ that circle the platform.

As one ascends the gangway to the drawbridge it's possible to notice plant motifs, surmounted by the Royal coat of arms and flanked by small columns, complemented with armillary spheres symbolising Portugal's nautical explorations. They were used on King Manuel I's banner to represent Portuguese discoveries during his rule. The guillotine gate entrance has a machicolation above the entrance hall through which missiles could be dropped on any assailant.

Belém Tower: Skip the line tickets


Torre de Belém

ONLINE TICKET

With this entrance ticket you can gain entry to the Torre de Belém at your leisure. Book with confidence with FREE CANCELLATION Buy online before you arrive to avoid queues and have the convenience of the e-ticket on your phone…


Mad About Lisbon

• The price includes a single entrance to the venue. Tiqets covers the cost of payment processing and provides you with customer service seven days a week.

• It is strictly forbidden to eat and smoke inside the monastery

October to April, Tuesday to Sunday: 10h00 - 17h30
(last admission at 17h00)

May to September, Tuesday to Sunday: 10h00 - 18h30
(last admission at 18h00)

Mondays, CLOSED

Adult: €9.00, Child 0-12: FREE

Combined Ticket: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém option available

Combined Ticket [ ► ]

About

Torre de Belém Sitemap
Balwark

A & B

Bulwark Nave & Basement

Bulwark Nave
As you pass the ticket office, you enter into the interior of the bulwark, which houses the tower's artillery, 17 cannons pointing out over the estuary housed in their niches. The floor has an incline down from its centre outwards, giving the artillery a secure position and allowing for water to drain off that enters the tower. In the centre, there is a small, cloister-like, open patio, surrounded by Gothic arches. Two archways open to the main cloister on the north and south sides, while six broken arches stretch along with the eastern and western parts of the cloister. The open space served to dispel the smoke from cannon fire. The gun chamber ceiling is supported by masonry pilasters and Gothic rib vaulted spines.

Basement
The chambers under the Bulwark Nave accessed via a stairway on the north side were originally designed as artillery batteries and storage however in later times served as dungeons.





Bulwark Terrace

C

Bulwark Terrace

Back towards the entrance hall is a steep staircase that leads to the bulwark terrace. The bulwark terrace features six bartizans or projected turrets with lookout windows and ribbed cupolas at the vertices of the bulwark's polygonal form. In the terrace's centre, a parapet surrounds the opening into the Bulwark Nave. On the southern portion of the cloister terrace is an image of Virgin and Child. The statue of the Virgin of Belém, also referred to as Nossa Senhora de Bom Successo (Our Lady of Good Success), Nossa Senhora das Uvas (Our Lady of the Grapes) or the Virgem da Boa Viagem (Virgin of Safe Homecoming), is depicted holding a child in her right hand and a bunch of grapes in her left.

Standing on the bulwark terrace looking up the tower's southern and main façade one notices its rich decoration. The second-floor level features a loggia with seven perfect arches and adorned with a delicate openwork balustrade. Above this, we find King Manuel I's royal coat of arms flanked by armillary spheres and above these, a parapet the whole way around the tower decorated with crosses of the Order of Christ. It is through the south façade access is gained into the tower.

Governor's Chamber (Sala do Governador)

D

Governor's Chamber (Sala do Governador)

A narrow flight of stairs takes one to the first room of the tower, an octagonal space that opens into the cistern, while in the north-east and north-west corners there are corridors that link to the bartizans. The ceiling is vaulted and covered in lime mortar. The name of this room most likely comes from the fact that in the 16th century there was a position of Governor of the Tower of Belém, the first Governor being Gaspar de Paiva, appointed in 1521. The office was always one of great prestige and royal distinction.

The Governor represented the monarch and exercised military as well as administrative and judicial powers. A palace was built close to the Tower of Belém as a residence for the successive governors. On the left flank is a winding staircase that leads up to the top of the tower, providing access to the other rooms. Please observe the traffic light system as the spiral staircase is narrow and can only carry one way thoroughfare.






King's Chamber (Sala dos Reis)

E

King's Chamber (Sala dos Reis)

This room leads on to a balcony on the tower's southern façade, which features eight round holes in the floor, known as machicolation, through which the garrison could fend off attacks by shooting or dropping projectiles. In the centre of each of the other three sides of the room doors open onto opulent balcony windows, that reveal graceful Venetian inspiration. In the northwest corner is an exceptional stone fireplace with a mantelpiece adorned with half-spheres and extends upwards to the F. Audience Room (Sala das Audiências) on the third floor. The fourth floor houses the tower's G. Chapel, famed for its vaulted ceiling with niches typical of the Manueline style and a second panoramic terrace.




Tower Terrace

H

Tower Terrace

The top of the tower affords views of the Tagus estuary and riverbanks, as well as Belém and its monuments. With one's back to the river and looking northwards from the terrace one can see the Chapel of St. Jerome (Capela de São Jerónimo) amongst the trees at the top of Avenida da Torre de Belém. It was built in 1514 on land belonging to the Hieronymite monks. To the right lies the Belém Cultural Centre and the Hieronymites Monastery.

When facing the river, one can identify on the other side of the river the ruins of the Old Tower, also known as St. Sebastian's Tower. Commissioned by João II and completed around 1480, this tower was part of the tripartite defence system for the Tejo estuary. Invaders entering the Tagus would thus sail into the crossfire between this tower and the Tower of Belém.

October to April: Tuesday to Sunday: 10h00 - 17h30
(last admission at 17h00)

May to September: Tuesday to Sunday: 10h00 - 18h30
(last admission at 18h00)

Mondays, CLOSED

Adult: €9.00, Child 0-12: FREE

Combined Ticket: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém option available.

ONLINE TICKET | With this entrance ticket you can gain entry to the Belém Tower at your leisure. Buy online before you arrive to avoid queues and have the convenience of the e-ticket on your phone…

Fast Track Ticket [ ► ]

Getting There

714, 727, 729, 751 | 15
Linha Cascais trains stop at the Belém Train Station
Belem River Station: Hop On, Hop Off Boat

Contact Details
Avenida Brasília, 1400-038 Lisbon, Portugal.
38° 41' 29.5"N | 09° 12' 57.9"W | +351 213 620 034
mjeronimos@igespar.pt |  Website

Jardim da Torre de Belém

During the regeneration of the area surrounding the Belém Tower in preparation for the Portuguese World Exhibition of 1940 gas works were cleared to create this green space. As well as lawn being laid trees were planted to create a relaxing space where people now while away the time, have picnics, kick a ball around, practice capoeira or tai chi and generally chill out. Here you'll find kiosks and cabins which serve light lunches and drinks as well as public WC's for your convenience. Also here there's the Monument Gago Coutinho e Sacadura Cabral which celebrates the first crossing of the Atlantic in a seaplane. Nearby is the marina Doca do Bom Sucesso for pleasure boats. Housed within is a Memorial to Combatants to Portugal's Overseas Wars.

Yellow Boat Tour
Jardim da Torre de Belém

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