Did you know that the Lisbon landmark Torre de Belém, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? This site was given its name to honour the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries during the Age of Discoveries (2). It is one of the most visited landmarks in Portugal to this day (1).
The Torre de Belém sits on a tiny island just off of the coast of the Tagus River. It took three years to build; construction beginning in 1515 and ending 1519 (1). It was initially used as a defence mechanism for the Portuguese military, to ensure that no intruders or attacks arrived unannounced through the river (1). Although the building appeared to be mediocre compared to other cities’ defence mechanisms, the Portuguese architects (Arruda, Holanda, Barreto, Azevedo e Cunha (2)) who designed it, did so strategically so that it could have two separate, spacious levels with enough room for cannons and men armed with bows and arrows to defend themselves against oncoming intruders (1). The Torre de Belém survived many battles (as well as the devastatingly destructive Lisbon earthquake of 1755 — more on that in a future post!) through the years, thus becoming very valuable to the Portuguese, as it was a vital part of many successful victories of defence.
Today, the Belém Tower is not so much viewed as a defence mechanism for Lisbon, but rather a historical symbol of perseverance, attracting many tourists and historians. Often times, the Portuguese will even say that the monument itself represents the strength and unity of the nation.
(1) – MONUMENT – Belem Tower. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from https://www.torrebelem.pt/en/index.php?s=white
(2)- Belém Tower. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belém_Tower