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Francisco de Arruda († 1547), who designed and built the Tower of Belém, was one of a long line of illustrious architects based in Évora. He was master builder for the Alentejo region, a royal surveyor and builder of the Royal Palace at Évora. He was commissioned with the repair of the fortifications of Moura, Mourão and Portel, his most important intervention being in the latter town. In addition to repairing the wall there he added semi-circular towers to the castle, marking the transition from neuroballistic to pyroballistic weaponry (i.e. from catapulted or hurled projectiles to artillery using gunpowder). For Jaime, Duke of Braganza, he built the palace at Portel Castle, today in ruins, and the Chapel of São João Baptista (St. John the Baptist, which is also largely in ruins. The chapel features two voluminous flying buttresses on the back wall which are cylindrical at the base and octogonal from the base upwards and crowned by twisted conical pinnacles preceded by rope framing.
Francisco de Arruda accompanied his brother Diogo to North Africa (Safi and El Jadida) and also worked on the fort in Azemmour, where he was influenced by the architecture of the region. He returned to Lisbon in 1514 to work on the Jerónimos Monastery. In 1516 he signed a document appointing him master builder of the Restelo Bulwark (Tower of Belém). In the Tower, influences of North African architecture blend with solutions inspired by Italian architecture of the period in the tradition of mediaeval fortifications and naval architecture.
In 1520 Francisco and Diogo Arruda intensified the scale of their work in Évora and the surrounding area, designing the Monastery of St. Francis and remodelling the Royal Palace in the city. The design of Elvas Cathedral, from the same period, can also be attributed to Francisco de Arruda. It shares a typological feature with the Parish Church of Olivença - a large central tower. After the disappearance of Diogo de Arruda in 1531, Francisco gradually diversified and converted gradually to the humanist culture. Indeed, his later works show a level of erudition that is more Renaissance-influenced, as reflected in the Casa dos Bicos in Lisbon (attributed to him) and the Palace at Quinta da Bacalhoa in its initial phase (1530?).
Bibl.: Paulo Pereira, Torre de Belém, Publicações Scala, 2005