The, almost, daily rain of the past few weeks finally stopped for a few days and with Lisbon temperatures warm enough to leave my waterproof walking boots, and umbrella indoors, to make the most of the sunshine, I visited Belém. An earlier, temporary version of The Padrão do Descobrimento, (The Monument to the Discoveries) was built in 1940 for the Portuguese World Exhibition. The Monument one sees today was reconstructed in 1960 to mark 500 years since the death of the Infante Dom Henrique (Henry the Navigator). The Monument website provides the following succinct description,
Standing alone in a striking position on the breakwater on the bank of the Tagus, the Monument to the Discoveries evokes the Portuguese overseas expansion, recalls the country’s glorious past and symbolises the enormity of the work carried out by the Infante, the driving force behind the Discoveries.
The Monument looks like a Portuguese caravel sailing out to sea, the caravel was developed around 1451 and was the preferred choice of vessel for Portuguese explorers of the time. Henry the Navigator is on the prow and the other 32 figures, 16 on each side, comprise of royalty, and leading cultural people, such as writers, historians, painters, and colonisers.
Inside the monument provides access to a viewing platform at the top, however the huge queues deterred me from doing this. Either side of the monument are two metal armillary spheres on two parallelepiped platforms. The site also has a fifty meter wide marble map, with carvels marking the main routes and dates, of the 15th and 16th century Portuguese explorers.
Torre de Belém, Belém Tower, is a ten minute walk along the river from the Discoveries Monument, however the tower is actually in the Tagus River. Built in 1515 to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour, it was also a starting point for many of the explorers journeys of discovery. Built in the Manueline Architectural style, a rich and lavish style of architecture, indigenous to Portugal and featuring elements of the sea, nautical and botanical motifs. UNESCO declared the tower a World Heritage Site.
Another example of Manueline Architecture is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, The Jeronimos Monastery, is seen as one of the symbols of a period known as the Age of Discovery. The 16th century monastery was built by King Manuel I, in honor of the successful voyage to India, of the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama. The King invited the Order of St. Jerome, the Hieronymites, to occupy it. The Hieronymites continued to occupy the monastery for 400 years until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1833, when the building became state property. UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site in 1983.
The ornate cloisters of the monastery and the refectory of the chapter house with azulejos tiles from the 17th century.
View inside the Church of Santa Maria showing the six, 25 metre high, octagonal columns.