Belém (Lisbon)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Santa Maria de Belém)
Jump to: navigation, search
Coordinates: 38°41′56.78″N 9°12′31.20″W / 38.6991056°N 9.2086667°W / 38.6991056; -9.2086667
Civil Parish (Freguesia)
Inland view in Lisbon from the top of the Monument to the Discoveries.JPG
A view of the Jerónimos Monastery, central to the civil parish , as seen from another monument, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Official name: Freguesia de Belém
Name origin: Belém Portuguese for Bethlehem
Country  Portugal
Region Lisbon
Sub-region Grande Lisboa
District Lisbon
Municipality Lisbon
Landmark Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery
Center Belém
 - elevation 21 m (69 ft)
 - coordinates 38°41′56.78″N 9°12′31.20″W / 38.6991056°N 9.2086667°W / 38.6991056; -9.2086667
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean, Belém, Lisbon
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Length 3.67 km (2 mi), West-East
Width 1.76 km (1 mi), North-South
Area 3.43 km2 (1 sq mi)
Population 9,752 (2001)
Density 2,843.15 / km2 (7,364 / sq mi)
LAU Freguesia/Junta Freguesia
 - location Largo dos Jerónimos, Belém, Lisbon
President Junta Fernando Ribeiro Rosa (PPD-PSD)
President Assembleia Pedro Manuel Portugal Natário Botelho Gaspar (PPD-PSD)
Timezone WET (UTC0)
 - summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
ISO 3166-2 code PT-
Postal Zone 1400-209 Lisboa
Area Code & Prefix (+351) 213 XXX XXX
Demonym Belenense
Patron Saint Santa Maria de Belém
Parish Address Largo dos Jerónimos, 3 R/C
1400-209 Lisboa
Wikimedia Commons: Belém
Statistics from INE (2001); geographic detail from Instituto Geográfico Português (2010)

Belém (Portuguese pronunciation: [bɨˈlɐ̃ȷ̃]), whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem, is the southwesternmost civil parish of the municipality of Lisbon. Until 2012, the area of Belém had its own historic parish, named Santa Maria de Belém. In 2012, the Administrative Reform of Lisbon resulted in the merging of the latter and the parish of São Francisco Xavier, thus creating the new parish of Belém. [1] Located on the mouth of the Tagus River it is located 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) west of the city centre and 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) west of Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge). Many of the nation's distinctive buildings and landmarks are located in this area, including Jerónimos Monastery and the Tower of Belém, and includes the culinary stop at the Portuguese pastry shop, pastéis de Belém


The Belém Tower: a sentry/military outpost to protect the Tagus Estuary from pirates and enemy attacks
The Royal Family embarking for Rio de Janeiro after the French Invasion, from the port of Belém
From one of the varandas in the Palace of Belém, Sidonio Pais reads a telegram from the King of Scotland celebrating Portuguese participation in the Allied victory in World War I
The harbour of Bom Sucesso, showing the rapid industrialization of Belém around the start of the 20th century.

The first settlement of this region dates back to the Paleolithic, from archaeological evidence discovered along margins of the river courses.[2]

Middle Ages[edit]

With the Kingdom of Portugal established, during the reign of Afonso III of Portugal the royal inventory (Portuguese: Inquirições) determined that settlement was dispersed, occupying many of the lowlands lands on the avails of agriculture.[2] The connection of Belém to the neighbouring Lisbon was cemented by a bridge, at Alcântara.

Belém's proximity to the Tagus River also influenced the development of commercial activities in the small village, especially in the Aldeia do Restelo, which attracted marines and seafarers, rather travelling to Lisbon.[2] In the 14th century, settled Moors cultivated the lands and serviced the city; other Moors, both free and slave, would work in the fishing industry. The settlement of Restelo slowly grew towards Lisbon.[2]

It was "to give religious and spiritual support" that the Infante Henrique, as Governor in the Order of Christ moved to construct, near the fishing port, a small church to the invocation of the Santa Maria.[2] In addition, the Infante ordered the construction of a fountain and animal trough to provide water to humans and animals (18 September 1460).[2] The foundation of the Church and Monastery by Manuel I on the site of the older church, resulted in its transfer from the Order of Christ to the Hieronymite monks, at the same time being renamed to the invocation of Santa Maria de Belém.[2][3] The construction of the monastery was a project conceived prior to the arrival of Vasco da Gama's epic voyage (rather than as a homage to it), conceived in 1495 in the courts of Montemor-o-Novo just after Manuel ascended the throne, as a Pantheon to Iberian Kings he believed would follow in his footsteps.[3] In fact, construction was delayed, revised and completed, but never became a dynastic resting-place for Royal families of Portugal.[3]

The same monarch, in the words of Damião de Góis ordered the construction on the rocks deposited in the Tagus a "a tower of four platforms", giving rise to the baluartes of the Torre of Belém.[2]

After these two construction projects, a number of estates started popping-up, both agricultural and summer homes. As the population continued to slowly grow, new convents appeared.[2] The nature of the suburb changed, and even Friar Nicolau de Oliveira (1620) began to indicate that it was within the city limits.[2] Between 1551 and 1591 (as noted by Vieira da Silva) the civil parish of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda was established, consisting of a vast territory, one of its clergy installed in the Monastery of Belém.[2]


The zone became progressively popular after King John V of Portugal acquired estates and properties in the area, in hopes of developing defenses.[2] Carvalho da Costa (in Corografia Portuguesa) noted that "in front of Junqueira is immediately the locality of Belém, so healthy and appreciable, that the naturals and visitors, want to live there; and those for lapse of comfort can not live [there], are continuously competing frequently for that site. In it there are houses, noble estates, nobility, nobles of the first order in the Kingdom; and if the land permitted more palaces, or buildings, there would continue the city until that site".[2]

In 1770, the ecclesiastical parish of São Pedro de Alcântara was established, that included the territory east of the Alcântra River, de-annexing it from Ajuda.[2] Also in the reign of Joseph, the barrio of Belém was officially instituted (judicial and administrative authority), which included the ecclesiastical parish of Ajuda, part of Alcântra and Santa Isabel, as well as the parishes of Benfica, Belas, Barcarena and Carnaxide.[2]

During the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (1 November 1755), Belém and Ajuda were the areas that were least affected by the earthquake and tsunami.[2] In fact, many of the survivors who lost homes were installed in numerous tents and shacks in the region.[2] The King (Joseph of Portugal) and the court transferred the royal household to a shacks located in the Royal estates, in the area that would later be transformed into the Ajuda National Palace.[2] The move of the King and his first Minister, and Secretary of State for the Kingdom's Businesses (the Marquess of Pombal), made the Belém-Ajuda axis during the third quarter of the 18th century, the centre of the bureaucracy and attracting commerce.[2] A military presence was also important; during this time, two regimental infantry barracks, under the Count of Lippe, and a cavalry regiment, under Mecklenburg.[2] These events consolidated the integration of Belém-Ajuda into the city of Lisbon.[2]

During the latter part of the 18th century, the monarchy slowly extricated itself from the zone of Belém-Ajuda.[2] In 1794, the Royal Shack was burned down in a fire in Ajuda, forcing the Royal Family to abandon the location and take-up residency in the Queluz National Palace.[2] But, even the construction of the Ajuda National Palace did not impede the Royal Family's move towards Lisbon, since the lack of moneys delayed its completion and the French Invasion in 1807, resulted in the Royal Family's escape to Rio de Janeiro.[2] But, when they did return (in 1821), King John VI installed the family in the Necessidades and Bemposta Palaces.[2]

Belém then evolved into an industrial zone, attracting factories and merchants, in particular around the zone of Pedrouços and Bom Sucesso, such as tanneries, metal-stampers, glass-makers, earthenware manufacturers, textile-makers and woollenware producers.[2]

On 28 December 1833, the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém was institutionalized, with its seat in the Jerónimos Monastery (that included the parish of Ajuda.[2] The industrialization that started during this period continued throughout the 19th century; an 1881 inquiry, established that 25 factories produced goods in the Alcântara-Belém region, employing 1215 men, 812 women and 432 minors.[2] This growth attract new residents and social housing started to be constructed to support the manufacturing industry.[2] Belém experienced a greater level of autonomy: between 11 September 1852 and 18 June 1885, a municipality of Belém existed, presided by their first President, the historian Alexandre Herculano, that included the parishes of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, Santa Maria de Belém, part of São Pedro de Alcântara, Santa Isabel and São Sebastião da Pedreira, in addition to Nossa Senhora do Amparo de Benfica, São Lourenço de Carnide and Menino Jesus de Odivelas.[2] Equally, the Royal Family, King Louis of Portugal and Queen Maria Pia of Savoy began to reside in the Ajuda National Palace.[2]


Belém was also the location for the development of many urban projects, such as the construction of a landfill, opening of many docks or the opening of a raillink to Cascais, which initially departed from Pedrouços.[2] Socially, the first recreational and cultural organizations were established, and the area was a place for leisure activities. On transitioning into the 20th century, Belém had grown considerably, with the establishment of electrical services within the area and significantly with the 1940 Portuguese exhibition. The 1940 Expo resulted in the demolition of the older nucleus of Belém, the Praça do Império.[2] and the beginning of a phase of monumental constructions which, along with pre-existing historic architecture (such as the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, and Belém Palace) began to occupy the waterfront.[2] This included the iconic Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the modern Centro Cultural de Belém which helped to promote tourist and cultural exploration of the north margin of the Tagus.[2]


Belém - aerial view in 2014

The southwestern limit of Lisbon, Belém is delimited by the Tagus estuary to the south, the margins of the Algés river and the IC17-CRIL highway, to the west, until the northern limit of the A5 highway). In addition, the Alcântara river and the former eastern limits of the parish of São Francisco Xavier, until the Estrada de Queluz (Road of Queluz) reaches the A5 highway.

It is bordered by the parishes of Alcântara in the east, Ajuda in the northeast, and Benfica in the north; and to the west by the municipality of Oeiras (Algés).

In addition to the historical buildings and avenues, Belém is the location of the Jardim do Ultramar (English: Overseas Garden), several blocks of green-spaces that includes the gardens of the Praça do Império (English: Imperial Garden), the Jardim Vasco de Gama (English: Vasco de Gama Garden), Afonso de Albuquerque Square and Jardim Agricola Tropical (English: Tropical Garden Museum). These gardens cover a large portion of the waterfront area, encircling the buildings of the Rua de Belém, and backs onto the gardens of the Palace of Belém. Also in Belém it's located the extreme southwest section of the Monsanto Forest Park.


Street in Belém

Belém is recognized for its concentration of national monuments and public spaces, including a mixture of historical buildings and modern symbols of Portuguese culture. This juxtaposition of famous icons developed from Belém's important military position along the mouth of the Tagus; its role in the exploration in India and the Orient (the Caminho das Índias); and 17th-18th century construction of royal residences and noble estates in the parish following the destruction stemming from the 1755 earthquake and tsunami.

Belém's main street and historical avenue is Rua de Belém, a strip of 160-year buildings that have survived several years of change and modernization. This includes the famous pastry shop Fábrica de Pasteis de Belém known for a specific Portuguese confectionery: pastel de Belém (pl.: pastéis de Belém), an egg tart made with flaky pastry.

In the heart of Belém is the Praça do Império, an avenue of open-spaces and gardens, with a central fountain, which was laid-out during World War II. To the west of the gardens lies the Centro Cultural de Belém, built in 1992 during Portugal's term in the revolving role at the helm of the European Union presidency. It is now an arts complex, containing Belém's Museu Colecção Berardo. To the southeast of the gardens is the Belém Palace (1770), the official residence of the Portuguese President. Five hundred metres to the east of Praça do Império lies Belém's other major square Praça Afonso de Albuquerque.

Belém is home to a number of other museums: Museu da Electricidade (Electricity Museum), Museu do Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau (Macau Cultural Museum), Museu de Arte Popular (Folk Art Museum), Museu Nacional dos Coches (Coach Museum), and Museu da Presidência da República (Presidential Museum).

Belenenses, a renowned sports club from Lisbon is based in Belém.


  • Belém Tower (Portuguese: Torre de Belém) - constructed on the rocky outcropping/island along the northern margin of the Tagus River as part of a defensive system to protect access to the Tagus estuary envisioned by John II of Portugal, it is one of Belém's iconic symbols of the parish. Originally, the Tower of Saint Vincent (Portuguese: Torre de São Vicente), it was elaborated by Manuel I of Portugal (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port at Belém. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water.
  • Monument to the Discoveries (Portuguese: Padrão dos Descobrimentos) - located on the edge of the Tagus' northern bank, this 52 metre-high slab of concrete, was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship's prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry sculpted in base relief. Adjacent to the monument is a calçada square in the form of a map, showing the routes of various Portuguese explorers, during the Age of Discovery.


  • Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) - located along the Praça do Império (Empire Square), across from the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), it was originally built to support pilgrims who travelled in the region by Henry the Navigator; expanded and elaborated from 1501 by architects for King Manuel I of Portugal to serve as a resting-place for members of the House of Aviz; and as a church for seafearing adventurers who embarked during the Age of Discovery, after Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to India. Construction was funded by a tax on eastern spices, and over time came to represent Portuguese historical discoveries, becoming over time a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, housing (in addition to the religious art and furniture from its past) artefacts and exhibitions like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) within its walls.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "List of the new parishes of Lisbon" (pdf). Diário de Noticias newspaper (in Portuguese). Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai Junta Freguesia, ed. (2011), História (in Portuguese), Santa Maria de Belém (Lisbon), Portugal: Junte de Freguesia de Santa Maria de Belém, retrieved 22 June 2011 
  3. ^ a b c Nuno Senos (2003), p.103

External links[edit]

Media related to Belém at Wikimedia Commons