Belém Tower

Belém Tower

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Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém
Santa Maria de Belém
Santa Maria de Belém, or just Belém , whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem, is a civil parish of the municipality of Lisbon, in central Portugal...

 in the municipality of Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

. It is an UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 (along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery
Jerónimos Monastery
The Hieronymites Monastery is located near the shore of the parish of Belém, in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal...

) because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...

 to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus River and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline
Manueline
The Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic, is the sumptuous, composite Portuguese style of architectural ornamentation of the first decades of the 16th century, incorporating maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral...

 style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. The structure was built from lioz limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 and is composed of a bastion
Bastion
A bastion, or a bulwark, is a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification, situated in both corners of a straight wall , facilitating active defence against assaulting troops...

 and the 30 meter (100 foot), four story tower. It has incorrectly been stated that the tower was built in the middle of the Tagus and now sits near the shore because the river was redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake
1755 Lisbon earthquake
The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, was a megathrust earthquake that took place on Saturday 1 November 1755, at around 9:40 in the morning. The earthquake was followed by fires and a tsunami, which almost totally destroyed Lisbon in the Kingdom of Portugal, and...

. In fact, the tower was built on a small island in the Tagus River near the Lisbon shore.

History



In the late 15th century, King John II
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...

 had designed a defense system for the mouth of the Tagus that depended on the Fortresses of Cascais
Cascais
Cascais is a coastal town in Cascais Municipality in Portugal, 30 kilometres west of Lisbon, with about 35,000 residents. It is a cosmopolitan suburb of the Portuguese capital and one of the richest municipalities in Portugal. The former fishing village gained fame as a resort for Portugal's royal...

 and São Sebastião (or Torre Velho) in Caparica
Caparica (Almada)
Caparica is a Portuguese parish, located in the municipality of Almada. It has a population of 19,327 inhabitants and a total area of 10.71 km². Its name of inhabitants are known as Caparicanos.-Name:...

 on the south side of the river. These fortresses did not completely cover the mouth of the river and further protection was required. In the first half of the 16th century, in the "Chronicle of John II
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...

", the author Garcia de Resende, affirmed the monarchs opinion that the defenses of Lisbon were insufficient, and that he had insisted on providing efficient fortifications along the entrance to the Tagus River to supplement the existing defenses. To this end, he ordered the "making of a strong fort", of which Garcia de Resende came to sketch. But the monarch died, before any plans were initiated.
It was King Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

, twenty years later, that revisited the idea, ordering the construction of a military fortification on the southern margin of the Tagus, around the beach in Belém. In 1513, a letter authored by Lourenço Fernandes to his friends, referred to the King's intention to construct a tower in the area of Restelo Velho, having determined it to be necessary.

The beginning of this project developed on a rocky outcropping that was situated some distance from the river, using some of the stones being collected to build the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém
Jerónimos Monastery
The Hieronymites Monastery is located near the shore of the parish of Belém, in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal...

. By 1516, Francisco de Arruda (who was the "Master of the Bastion of Restelo"), was already receiving 763 blocks and 504 stone for the construction, delivered by Diogo Rodrigues, the treasurer and receiver for the project. As construction progressed, the Grand Nau (Great Ship), a heavily armed, 1000 tonne (1100 ton) ship was used to supplement the defenses.

In 1519, the build had concluded (just five years before Manuel's death), and Gaspar de Paiva was temporarily stationed to command the fortress. This commission became permanent on 15 September 1521, when Gaspar de Paiva was appointed the first Captain-General, or alcalde
Alcalde
Alcalde , or Alcalde ordinario, is the traditional Spanish municipal magistrate, who had both judicial and administrative functions. An alcalde was, in the absence of a corregidor, the presiding officer of the Castilian cabildo and judge of first instance of a town...

, who named the fort to the invocation of the city's patron saint, naming the fortress the "Castle of São Vicente" .

Some years later (1571), Francisco d'Holanda advised the monarch that it was necessary to improve the coastal defenses in order to protect the Kingdom's capital. He suggested the construction of a "strong and impregnable" fort that could easily defend Lisbon and that the Belém Tower "should be strengthened, repaired and completed...that it has cost so much without being completed". D'Holanda designed a improved rectangular bastion, dotted with watchtowers.

In 1580, after a few hours of combat, the garrison stationed in the Tower surrendered to Spanish forces under the command of the Duke of Alba. Immediately after this defeat, until 1830 (during the Iberian Union
Iberian Union
The Iberian union was a political unit that governed all of the Iberian Peninsula south of the Pyrenees from 1580–1640, through a dynastic union between the monarchies of Portugal and Spain after the War of the Portuguese Succession...

), the dungeons of the Tower served as the state prison. It was also during the last quarter of the 16th century, that the construction of the Phillipian Barracks began. A rectangular two-storey space, was constructed over the bastion, taking on the visual profile that it has retained through the 20th century, with sculpted crosses of the Order of Christ
Order of Christ (Portugal)
The Military Order of Christ previously the Royal Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the heritage of the Knights Templar in Portugal, after the suppression of the Templars in 1312...

 and rounded watchtowers.

In 1589, Phillip II ordered Italian engineer Friar João Vicenzio Casale to project a powerful fort to be constructed in place of the "useless castle of São Vicente". The engineer presented three proposals, that presupposed that the bastion would be surrounded by another bastion in greater dimensions, a protected that never materialized.

A 1633 codex for the House of Cadaval was inserted into one of the floors, in one of the archs of the barracks, and in four largest arches at the top of the southern façade. Similarly, a reference to 1655 was inscribed on a plaque placed on the northern wall of the cloister, which certified its function as customs control point and for navigation along the Tagus; vessels were obligated pay as they entered in the harbour, which was imposed incrementally.

Between 1780 and 1782, under the reign of Maria I of Portugal
Maria I of Portugal
Maria I was Queen regnant of Portugal and the Algarves from 1777 until her death. Known as Maria the Pious , or Maria the Mad , she was the first undisputed Queen regnant of Portugal...

, General Guilherme de Valleré constructed the Forte of Bom Sucesso, whose battery was connected by a western corridor wall to the Tower.

The French invasion of Lisbon, during the Peninsular Wars, resulted in the quartering of troops in the Tower between 1808 and 1814. After the retreat of French forces, Lord Beresford advised that coastal artillery batteries should be reinforced along the Tagus, and specifically noted that stronger batteries should be placed on the sides of the Tower's bastion, while carts placed to better cover the soldiers, since the walls were very low.

King Miguel I
Miguel of Portugal
Dom Miguel I, sometimes Michael , was the King of Portugal between 1828 and 1834, the seventh child and second son of King John VI and his queen, Charlotte of Spain....

 (1828–1834) used the dungeons to imprison his liberal opponents, while on another level it used as a custom house
Custom House
A custom house or customs house was a building housing the offices for the government officials who processed the paperwork for the import and export of goods into and out of a country. Customs officials also collected customs duty on imported goods....

 for ships, until the tax on foreign ships was abolished in 1833. The tower received military upgrades in 1589 and 1809–14.

During the reign of Maria II, after protests by Almeida Garrett
Almeida Garrett
João Baptista da Silva Leitão de Almeida Garrett, Viscount of Almeida Garrett was a Portuguese poet, playwright, novelist and politician. He is considered to be the introducer of the Romanticism in Portugal, with the epic poem Camões, based on the life of Luís de Camões...

 over the state of the site's degradation and the persuasion of the Duke of Tercira, renovations were initiated by military engineer António de Azevedo e Cunha. He demolished the Phillipian barracks and extended revivalist elements in 1845–1846 (such as the armoured merlens, the baluster
Baluster
A baluster is a moulded shaft, square or of lathe-turned form, one of various forms of spindle in woodwork, made of stone or wood and sometimes of metal, standing on a unifying footing, and supporting the coping of a parapet or the handrail of a staircase. Multiplied in this way, they form a...

s in the veranda along the southern façade, the laced fascia in the cloister and the niche with an image of the Virgin and Child.

For several years (1865–1867) the building began to service new purposes: a beacon was installed on the extreme south-east terrace and a telegraph service was started, while nearby a gas factory was installed, which produced smoke and caused many protests.

The first moves to preserve and rehabilitate the Tower began in the late part of the 20th century. First, the tower was transferred to the Ministry of Finanças in 1940, which undertook small conservation works. The military quarters on the battlements were removed and the inner cloister
Cloister
A cloister is a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth...

 was built. Later, starting in 1953 (and lasting three yeast), the architectural landscaper António Viana Barreto executed a plan to integrate the Tower with the local shore. Various projects were undertaken in 1983, when the site hosted the 17th European Exhibition on Art, Science and Culture, including the covering the cloister with a transparent plastic cupola. In this year, it was also classified by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 as a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

.

In the 1990s (1 June), the property was transferred into the Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico (forerunner of IGESPAR), which began to complete a full restoration of the building. The tower and bastion received maintenance and restoration from February 1997 to January 1998, which included reinforcing the structure, treating the mortar joints and structural cleaning. Structural works included the reinforcement of the south balcony supports with stainless steel rods and epoxy
Epoxy
Epoxy, also known as polyepoxide, is a thermosetting polymer formed from reaction of an epoxide "resin" with polyamine "hardener". Epoxy has a wide range of applications, including fiber-reinforced plastic materials and general purpose adhesives....

 resin. The same treatment also occurred in the statues of SaintVincent of Saragossa
Vincent of Saragossa
Saint Vincent of Saragossa, also known as Vincent Martyr, Vincent of Huesca or Vincent the Deacon, is the patron saint of Lisbon. His feast day is 22 January in the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion and 11 November in the Eastern Orthodox Churches...

 and the Archangel Michael
Michael (archangel)
Michael , Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; , Mikhaḗl; or Míchaël; , Mīkhā'īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael...

. By 1999 the recuperation received an award (Europa Nostra) for the restoration of the exterior. It was also included, on 7 July 2007, on the registry of the Seven Wonders of Portugal
Seven Wonders of Portugal
The Seven Wonders of Portugal is a list of cultural wonders located in Portugal. The creation of the list was supported by the Ministry of Culture and organized by the companies Y&R Brands S.A...

.

Architecture


The Tower is situated on the northern bank of the Tagus River in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém
Santa Maria de Belém
Santa Maria de Belém, or just Belém , whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem, is a civil parish of the municipality of Lisbon, in central Portugal...

, municipality of Lisbon, accessible at the western end of the Avenida de Brasília. Nearby are the Monastery of the Jeronimos
Jerónimos Monastery
The Hieronymites Monastery is located near the shore of the parish of Belém, in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal...

 (to the east) and the Fort of Bom Sucesso (to the west), while to the north are the Tower Governor's residence, the old Governor's residence for the Bom Successo Fort, and the Chapel of São Jerónimo . The Tower itself is accessible via the Avenida de Brasília and by a small bridge that extends over the water to the structure.

The Tower of Belém is isolated along the riverbank, between the dock of Bom Sucesso and Pedrouços, on a basaltic outcropping of rocks from the Lisboa-Mafra Complex. Although, various guides have claimed that the tower was built in the middle of the Tagus, and now sits near the shore after the 1755 earthquake
1755 Lisbon earthquake
The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, was a megathrust earthquake that took place on Saturday 1 November 1755, at around 9:40 in the morning. The earthquake was followed by fires and a tsunami, which almost totally destroyed Lisbon in the Kingdom of Portugal, and...

 redirected the river, the truth is a lot simpler. The Portuguese Ministry of Culture and Institute of Architectural Heritage, indicate that the tower was constructed on a small island near the bank of the Tagus, opposite the beach of Restelo. As development extended the shoreline progressively, more and more of the northern bank crept southwards into the Tagus; the tower becoming integrated into the riverbank overtime.

The Belém Tower was built from lioz limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

, a light colored, rare stone that is local to the Lisbon area. The building is divided into two parts: the bastion
Bastion
A bastion, or a bulwark, is a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification, situated in both corners of a straight wall , facilitating active defence against assaulting troops...

 and the four story tower, located on the north side of the bastion.

The 16th century tower is considered one of the main works of the Portuguese late gothic, Manueline
Manueline
The Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic, is the sumptuous, composite Portuguese style of architectural ornamentation of the first decades of the 16th century, incorporating maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral...

 style. This is especially apparent in its elaborate rib vault
Rib vault
The intersection of two or three barrel vaults produces a rib vault or ribbed vault when they are edged with an armature of piped masonry often carved in decorative patterns; compare groin vault, an older form of vault construction...

ing, crosses of the Order of Christ
Order of Christ (Portugal)
The Military Order of Christ previously the Royal Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the heritage of the Knights Templar in Portugal, after the suppression of the Templars in 1312...

, armillary sphere
Armillary sphere
An armillary sphere is a model of objects in the sky , consisting of a spherical framework of rings, centred on Earth, that represent lines of celestial longitude and latitude and other astronomically important features such as the ecliptic...

s and twisted rope, common with the nautical, organic Manueline style.

Exterior


Its plan is composed of a rectangular tower and an irregular, hexagonal bastion, with elongated flanks, that projects south into the river. It is basically a large articulated vertical space resting on a horizontal mass/slab, covered by exterior enclosures. On the north-east angle of the structure, protected by a protective wall with bartizan
Bartizan
A bartizan or guerite is an overhanging, wall-mounted turret projecting from the walls of medieval fortifications from the early 14th century up to the 16th century. They protect a warder and enable him to see around him...

s, there is a drawbridge to access the bulwark, decorated in plant motifs, surmounted by the Royal coat of arms and flanked by small columns, complimented with armillary sphere
Armillary sphere
An armillary sphere is a model of objects in the sky , consisting of a spherical framework of rings, centred on Earth, that represent lines of celestial longitude and latitude and other astronomically important features such as the ecliptic...

s. The Manueline armillary spheres appear at the tower's entrance, symbolizing Portugal's nautical explorations, and were used on King Manuel I's personal banner to represent Portuguese discoveries during his rule. The decorative carved, twisted rope and elegant knots also point to Portugal's nautical history and are common in the Manueline style.

On the outside of the lower bastion, the walls have spaces for 17 canons with portholes open to the river and an ocular in the north. The upper tier of the bastion is crowned by a small wall with bartizans in strategic places, decorated by rounded shields with the cross of the Order of Christ that circle the platform. King Manuel I
Manuel I of Portugal
Manuel I , the Fortunate , 14th king of Portugal and the Algarves was the son of Infante Ferdinand, Duke of Viseu, , by his wife, Infanta Beatrice of Portugal...

 was a member of the Order of Christ and the cross of the Order of Christ
Order of Christ (Portugal)
The Military Order of Christ previously the Royal Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the heritage of the Knights Templar in Portugal, after the suppression of the Templars in 1312...

 is repeatedly used numerous times on the parapet
Parapet
A parapet is a wall-like barrier at the edge of a roof, terrace, balcony or other structure. Where extending above a roof, it may simply be the portion of an exterior wall that continues above the line of the roof surface, or may be a continuation of a vertical feature beneath the roof such as a...

s. These were a symbol of Manuel's military power, as the knights of the Order of Christ contributed to numerous military conquests in that era. The bartizans, cylindrical watchtowers in the corners are cover in zoomorphic corbels and domes covered with buds. The corners of this platform have turrets (guerites) topped by Moorish-looking cupolas. The base of the turrets have images of beasts, including a rhinoceros. This rhinoceros is considered to be the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art and probably depicts the rhinoceros
Dürer's Rhinoceros
Dürer's Rhinoceros is the name commonly given to a woodcut executed by German painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer in 1515. The image was based on a written description and brief sketch by an unknown artist of an Indian rhinoceros that had arrived in Lisbon earlier that year. Dürer never saw the...

 that Manuel I sent to Pope Leo X in 1515 (which was caged in the tower at one time).

While the tower is prominently Manueline, it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles. The tower was built by the military architect Francisco de Arruda, who had already built several fortresses in Portuguese territories in Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

. The influence of Moorish architecture
Moorish architecture
Moorish architecture is the western term used to describe the articulated Berber-Islamic architecture of North Africa and Al-Andalus.-Characteristic elements:...

 manifests itself in the delicate decorations, the arched windows, the balconies, and the ribbed cupolas of the watchtowers.

The Tower has four storeys, with fenestrations and battlements, with the ground floor occupied by a vaulted cistern. On the first floor, there is a south-facing rectangular door, with arched windows in the east and north, and bartizans in the north-east and north-west corners. The southern part of the second floor is taken-over by a covered veranda with matacães (or loggia
Loggia
Loggia is the name given to an architectural feature, originally of Minoan design. They are often a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall...

), constituted by an arcade of seven arches, resting on large corbels with balusters. It is covered by a lace stonework to form a porch, and its sloped roof ends in a sculpted twisted rope. The eastern, northern and western walls are occupied by double-arch enclosures, with the north-east and north-west corners occupied by statutes of Saint Vincent of Saragossa
Vincent of Saragossa
Saint Vincent of Saragossa, also known as Vincent Martyr, Vincent of Huesca or Vincent the Deacon, is the patron saint of Lisbon. His feast day is 22 January in the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion and 11 November in the Eastern Orthodox Churches...

 and the archangel
Archangel
An archangel is an angel of high rank. Archangels are found in a number of religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Michael and Gabriel are recognized as archangels in Judaism and by most Christians. Michael is the only archangel specifically named in the Protestant Bible...

 Michael
Michael (archangel)
Michael , Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; , Mikhaḗl; or Míchaël; , Mīkhā'īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael...

 in niches. The third floor has twin-windows in the north, east and west façades, with balusters, interspersed by two armillary spheres and large relief with the Royal coat of arms. The final floor is encircled by a terrace with shields of the Order of Christ, and a northern arched door and eastern arched window. The terrace is circled by a low wall with colonnaded pyramidal merlins with bartizans in the four corners. A similar terrace above this floor offers a view of the surrounding landscape.

Interior


The interior part of the bastion cave, with a circular staircase in the north, has two contiguous halls with vaulted ceilings supported by masonry arches, with four lockers and sanitary installations. On the ground-floor bunker, the floor is inclined towards the outside, while the ceilings are supported by masonry pilasters and vaulted spines. Gothic rib vaulting is evident in this casemate
Casemate
A casemate, sometimes rendered casement, is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. originally a vaulted chamber in a fortress.-Origin of the term:...

, the rooms of the tower and the cupolas of the watchtowers on the bastion terrace. Peripheral compartments on the edges of the bunker, allow the individual canons to occupy their own space, with the ceiling designed with several asymmetrical domes of various heights. The ancillary storerooms were later used as prisons.

Two archways open to the main cloister in the north and south, while six broken arches stretch along the eastern and western parts of the cloister, interspersed with square pillars in the bastion cave, with gargoyle facets. The open cloister above the casemate, although decorative, was designed to dispel cannon smoke. The upper level is connected by a railing decorated with crosses of the Order of Christ, while at the terrace the space is guarded by columns topped by armillary spheres. This space could also be used for light-caliber infantry. This was the first Portuguese fortification with a two-level gun emplacement and it marks a new development in military architecture. Some of the decoration dates from the renovation of the 1840s and is neo-Manueline
Neo-Manueline
Neo-Manueline was a revival architecture and decorative arts style developed in Portugal between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century...

, like the decoration of the small cloister on the bastion.

On the southern portion of the cloister terrace is an image of Virgin and Child. The statue of the virgin of Belém, also referred to as Nossa Senhora de Bom Successo (Our Lady of Good Success), Nossa Senhora das Uvas (Our Lady of the Grapes) or the Virgem da Boa Viagem (Virgin of Safe Homecoming) is depicted holding a child in her right hand and a bunch of grapes in her left.

The tower is about 12 metres (39.4 ft) wide and 30 metres (98.4 ft) tall. On the first floor interior of the Tower is the Sala do Governador (Governors Hall), an octagonal space that opens into the cistern, while in the north-east and north-west corners there are corridors that link to the bartizans. A small door provides access via a spiral staircase to the subsequent floors. On the second floor, the Sala dos Reis (King's Hall) opens to the loggia
Loggia
Loggia is the name given to an architectural feature, originally of Minoan design. They are often a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall...

(to overlook the river), while a small corner fireplace extends from this floor to the third floor fireplace in the Sala das Audiências (Audience Hall). All three floor ceilings are covered in hollow concrete slabs. The fourth floor chapel is covered in a vaulted rib ceiling with niches emblematic of the Manueline style, supported by carved corbels.