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Sentinel of Lisbon, the Belém Tower
The Belém Tower is a fortress situated at the mouth of a waterway, in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal; it was built in the early 16th century, in the Portuguese late Gothic style called Manueline, it was erected to commemorate the expedition of Vasco da Gama. The tower was classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is symbolic of the Age of Discovery, when Portugal and Spain’s expeditions into the New World brought in power and new wealth for both countries.
Belém Tower has 2 sections: the bastion, which is constructed in the shape of an irregular hexagon, and the five-storey tower itself, situated on the north side of the bastion; there are openings in the 3.5 metre-thick walls of the bastion for the 17 large-calibre, breech-loading cannons used to defend the tower. The same turrets can be found on the upper platform of the tower, while the higher tower walls have statues of St. Michael and St. Vincent, as well as ornate windows and arches. The tower rises 35 m high, with a terrace that shows a spectacular view of the countryside landscape. The most notable site within Belém Tower is the chapel on the 4th floor, enclosed by a spectacular Manueline rib vault, decorated with the cross of the military Order of Christ.
The function of Belém Tower has changed over time; what used to be sentry and defender of Portugal is now a customs control point, a telegraph station, a lighthouse, and even a political prison. This proud monument of Portugal’s success during the Age of Discoveries is also symbolic of the Old World grandeur of Lisbon.