Belém Tower (in Portuguese Torre de Belém, pronounced [ˈtoʁ(ɨ) dɨ bɨˈlɐ̃ȷ̃]) or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery) because of the significant role it played in the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐˈdɾɐ̃w̃ duʃ dɨʃkubɾiˈmẽtuʃ]; lit. Monument to the Discoveries) is a monument that celebrates the Portuguese who took part in the Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration, of the 15th and 16th centuries. It is located on the estuary of the Tagus river in the Belém parish of Lisbon, Portugal, where ships departed to their often unknown destinations.
The monument consists of a 52 metre-high slab of concrete, carved into the shape of the prow of a ship. The side that faces away from the river features a carved sword stretching the full height of the monument. It was conceived by Portuguese artists, architect Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida as a temporary beacon of the Portuguese World Fair in 1940. The Monument to the Discoveries represents a romantic idealisation of the Portuguese past that was typical during Salazar's Estado Novo regime.
The original monument was built with perishable materials, but it was rebuilt in concrete in 1960, in time for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, the sponsor of the Portuguese Discoveries. He is the figure at the tip of the monument, looking out over the river. Behind Henry, on both sides of the monument, are statues of other great people of that era, including explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists and missionaries.
A small space within the monument hosts a multimedia exhibition on the history of Lisbon. The top of the monument (reached via an elevator or stairs) offers wonderful views of the Tagus river, the Belém neighbourhood and its many attractions, including the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, which date from the Age of Discovery.
The pavement in front of the monument features a mosaic decoration showing a world map with the routes of various Portuguese explorers and a wind rose. The mosaic was a gift from South Africa in 1960.