The Mix of Modern and Manueline in Belém

IMG_6197

Belém is the touristy district in Lisbon you cannot miss. 

It’s a 15-minute bus ride from downtown Lisbon, just past the 25th of April bridge. I spent a solid four hours there, fascinated by the juxtaposition of the 15th- and 16th-century buildings there in the Manueline style, with the modern, urban setting and of course the imposing and somewhat out of place 20th-century monument on the banks of the Río Tejo. Belém is an exciting mix of the modern and the historical, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

IMG_6098

First off, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was easily one of the most spectacular religious buildings I’ve visited since coming to Europe this year (right up there, if not more impressive than, the Catedral de Sevilla and some of Granada’s most beautiful churches).

I’d read a bit on the Manueline style of architecture, named after the Portuguese King Manuel I with whose reign the development of this style coincided, but the intricacies and extravagance of this style were so much more breathtaking in person.

IMG_6138

The cloisters (pictured above and below) were probably the most awe-inspiring part of the entire Mosteiro, in my opinion; I couldn’t get over just how detailed everything was.

IMG_6112

The cathedral was also an incredible sight. I was particularly fascinated with the gorgeous, outrageously high ceilings, and the ornate, lavishly decorative columns.

IMG_6152

The stained glass windows were also simply beautiful.

IMG_6162

And it was also really cool to see the tomb of Vasco da Gama, the famous 16th-century Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea.

IMG_6171

Overall, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos left a lasting impression on me, such that it was hard for me to get myself to leave to continue on to the other two Belém monuments.

IMG_6114

But, much to my delight, neither the Padrão dos Descobrimentos nor the Torre de Belém were at all lacking in a “wow” factor.

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos was completed in 1960 to honor Portuguese success in the Age of Discovery (15th-16th centuries). It is a MASSIVE monument, and one of the most unique ones I’ve ever seen.

IMG_6216

IMG_6182

And of course the views from up top were fantastic (and also rewarding, given my choice to climb all 267 of the monument’s steep stairs).

IMG_6185

The top of the Torre de Belém also afforded panoramas of greater Lisbon, the 16th century tower also in the Manueline style that was built as part of a defense system at the mouth of the Río Tejo and as a ceremonial gateway into Lisbon.

IMG_6217

There wasn’t much on the inside besides cannons and the places on the ground floor where it is believed prisoners were held, but still, the Manueline style was awesome and unmistakable.

IMG_6222

What capped off my whirlwind four-hour tour in Belém, though, was a scrumptious pastel de nata, a warm, creamy custard tart with cinnamon and powdered sugar sprinkled on top, from the famous café Pastéis de Belém. Absolute HEAVEN.

IMG_6243

Suffice it to say I am extremely glad I got the chance to visit Belém; it made my overall experience of Lisbon that much richer.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s