Belem Tower - Torre de Belém
(Local Name: Torre de Belém) The Torré de Belém is certainly Lisbon's most famous construction and at the same time most well known symbol. It stands surrounded by lawns on the bank of the Tagus to the west of the Monastery of Jeronimos. At this point the Tagus widens into a large bay.
Originally conceived as a lighthouse and simultaneously a defensive fortress for the port of Restelo, Manuel I had the tower built in 1515 on a small island off the river bank. Many old views of the city show the Torré de Belém at a distance from the mainland surrounded by the waters of the Tagus. A former, older tower on the opposite bank and Belém's fortress tower were supposed to afford maximum protection for the harbour. A general shift in the location of the river bank has resulted in the tower now standing on the mainland right on the water's edge: a footbridge leads across an artificial basin to the entrance to the tower.
Francisco de Arruda began the construction in 1515. De Arruda came from Alentejo and was one of the most famous architects to use the Manueline style. He had studied with his older brother Diogo de Arruda, had then worked for some time in north Africa and was thus acquainted with the elements of the Arabic style - one of the reasons for the obvious Moorish influences in his work.
The Torré de Belém has been the setting for many historical events. These included the onset of Spain's 60 year rule of Portugal after the conquest of the tower in 1580. After Lisbon was taken by Napoleonic troops in 1807 the two upper stories of the tower were destroyed and wooden houses built in their place. In 1845 Minister Terceira had the tower restored to its original state.