Photographer's Note

Today I am posting another B&W conversion essay. The original photo was taken on a clear winter day prior to sunset. All your critiques/comments are welcome. I hope you like it.


The Torre de Belém is a beautiful and original monument, unrivalled in the whole world. Its harmonious and distinctive shape is sharply outlined against the sky and the water of the River Tagus, and the delicate decoration of its stone suggests to those who feast their eyes upon it the appearance of a finely carved jewel. It was, however, seen differently by those living at the time of its construction, for whom the tower was a formidable and fearsome defensive fortress at the entrance to the river estuary, which was the function that its founder D. Manuel I had intended for it.

The Torre de Belém was an essential part of the defensive system for the mouth of the River Tagus, providing crossfire with the fortress of São Sebastião da Caparica on the south bank. It consists of a quadrangular tower reminiscent of the keeps of mediaeval castles and a polygonal bastion, itself a fine example of the period's advanced defensive technology, being designed to support heavy artillery, with embrasures shaped rather like hatchways reaching almost to sea level.

The sentry posts on each corner of the bastion are crowned by melon domes, denoting the influence of the style that was used in fortifications in Morocco, where Francisco de Arruda worked and certainly sought inspiration. Apart from these oriental features, the predominant decoration used in the tower is Manueline, as seen in the stone rope that encircles it, the heraldic motifs and even the famous rhinoceros, the first sculpted stone representation of this animal in Europe. The tower's most decorative side is the one facing south. Along this runs the loggia, with its finely carved limestone balustrade. Above the loggia are the shield of D. Manuel I and the armillary spheres.

Text by the Portuguese Tourist Office

Construction began in 1515 under the supervision of the architect Francisco de Arruda and it was completed in 1521. It remained ever since as one of the world's most beautiful examples of military architecture. In 1983 UNESCO classified it as a World Heritage Site.

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Additional Photos by Antonio Ribeiro (ribeiroantonio) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4685 W: 455 N: 6473] (22730)
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