This fortress is not auspicious, or dainty, or even portentous. But it IS a wonderful landmark and a part of a trio of defenses, it was also built to mark the expedition of Vasco da Gama, and a quiet reminder of the enormous contribution Portugal made to the maritime progress of the world.
King John II (João), who also built the CasCais fortress and the Fortress of São Sebastião, the other components of the protective “triangle”, was a great leader of Portugal as he brought a great measure of integrity to the throne. However, he wasn’t a very popular man amongst his family, cousins, or other noblemen, for his insistence on immunity of the throne from influence.
What I found very interesting, were the beauty of Moorish details in the architecture. Its lovely arched windows, cupolas on the towers, dentil detail, and balconies, are all reminiscent of similar attention paid to the nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. A story persists that Diogo de Boitaca, the chief architect of the Monastery, worked together with Francisco de Arruda, the chief designer of the tower, and a military architect, on the decorations.
However the structure came to completion, it is a wonderful example of early 16th century design.
One gains an understanding of the quality of workmanship from the stair stepped entrances endowed lavishly of Manueline symbols, through the arched bastion below the main floor, to the fifth floor of the tower, and you wonder if the prickles in your back, are the touches of past spirits attempting to cross time itself, to tutor you in the history of building of this nearly intact landmark.
All through the magnificent stone building are carvings of beasts, with a beautiful centerpiece of the Madonna of Belém with Child, holding grapes in her left hand.
I stepped with care, admiration and love through this lovely example of old and wonderfully appellated building, Torre de Belém.
I’ve imagined a young pair of lovers, in the last embraces of kisses, whilst the drum beats of cannons, and stench of gunpowder, mingle with and distract the young man.
For my part, long live love!