#110 Torre de Belém
Belém [Lisbon], Portugal
This is NOT an official Lego site

It was the Age of Discovery - the most important period of power and prestige for the Kingdom of Portugal. Under King João [John] II [1481-1495], known variously as The Perfect Prince and The Tyrant, the global exploration begun by the King's great uncle, Prince Henry the Navigator, was restored. Diogo Cão had discovered the Congo River [1484], Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope [1488], and in 1493 Alvaro Caminha began settlements on São Tomé and Principe Islands. Lisboa [Lisbon] was rapidly becoming a prestigious and cosmopolitan city. King João recognized that protecting the city and its harbor were of the utmost importance. A triad of forts was planned along the estuary of the Tagus River, between the Atlantic Ocean and the port. João died prematurely at age 40, quite possibly poisoned, and he was succeeded by his first cousin, Manuel I. Under King Manuel Vasco de Gama discovered a maritime route to India, Pedro Alvarez Cabral discovered Brazil and Gaspar Corte Real explored Greenland and Newfoundland.
King Manuel [1495-1521] was left with the task of the defense of Lisboa. In 1514 he named Francisco de Arruda to be the Master Builder of the Tower of Belém, with construction completed in 1519. The Tower was built on a basalt island close to the north bank of the Tagus, at Belém, a western suburb of Lisboa [see map below]. Designed with Moroccan influences, but with numerous Christian and royal features, the Torre de Belém remains one of the most beautiful examples of military architecture in the world. The Tower was of military importance for only about 60 years. By the time Philip II of Spain became King of Portugal in 1580, military design was changing and the storerooms at Belém became prison cells. The castle served as a customs checkpoint, telegraph station and a lighthouse over the centuries. The statue of the Virgin and Child was added to the terrace in the 18th century, and the Tower declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.


The deck from the donjon. A decorative balcony
on the tower.
A cupola on the
tower's roof.
Some of the cannon ports that
ring the bastion.
The audience room on the
tower's fourth floor.


A cross-section of the castle. A map of the Tagus estuary showing
the location of the Torre de Belém.


Photos of the Lego Model
Built July, 2006
Here is the southeast view
showing the array of cannon.
The northeast view better
reveals the entrance steps
and drawbridge.
Ths view from the
northwest shows the
modest landside guns.
Finally, the southwest view
emphasizes the beautiful
symmetry of the castle.
Detail of the entrance [Note
the cannonport!]
The "skylight" - now covered
allowed for easy commun-
The staircase leading
to the cannon deck
Detail of the balcony on the third
level of the donjon.
The huge crest, decorative globes
& windows of level 4.
Typical windows of floors
2 through 4.
Details of the donjon's
bartizans and statues.
And atop the donjon, battlements
with decorative merlons and turrets,
plus the royal Portuguese flag.


The Battle
Two modest ships of Spain's Armada, flying the colors of Castile & Leon, attempt to enter Lisbon's harbour,
not realizing that a new fort is in place. Their awakening is a rude one...
The Spanish ships sail near
the elegant "cathedral?"...
...but the Portuguese soldiers
quickly recognize the threat,...
...and fire upon the lead
Spanish ship!
The surprised interlopers return
fire but are unable to demage
the state-of-the-art fort.
The fortress has 3 dozen cannon
that can be brought to bear...
...on enemies of the Kingdom
of Portugal.
The Spanish ships soon
recognize they are outmanned...
...and outgunned - and make haste
to report to their Admiral!


Build Your Own
Lego Plan
South Elevation
East Elevation
North Elevation

Other Belém Tower pages:

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Castles created by Robert Carney
Page designed & maintained by
Robert Carney