It may not be its official name, but Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Monastery of the Hieronymites) is one of the greatest monuments ever built during the former Portuguese Empire. Powered by the spice trade and the ambition of a King looking for an architectural legacy to leave behind, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a tribute to the influx of wealth that Portugal experienced during the 15th and 16th centuries. Don’t forget to pay it a visit during your next Lisbon vacations.
This large building (its facade is over 300 meters long) started to come to life in 1502. Still standing today, it survived the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and tsunami but was damaged during the Napoleonic Wars. As magnificent in the inside as in the outside, this Monastery was chosen both as one of Seven Wonders of Portugal and by UNESCO to be part of its World Heritage.
The church of the Monastery was built as a hall church, or hallekirche; the cloister was built in a square shape and mixes both medieval mythology (such as imaginary beasts) and religious symbols. In the cloister, visitors can see the tombs of poet Fernando Pessoa, King Sebastião, Vasco da Gama, and last but not least, the national poet Luís de Camões.
It was also in the cloister that the monks of Saint Jerónimo had to perform the holy sacrament of confession to sailors and pilgrims in an unusual fashion: the penitent could not enter the cloister, so had to stay inside the church and would communicate his sinful actions to his confessor, who had to remain in the cloister, through an iron gate. 12 of these confessionals still exist today.
The centerpiece of the Main Chapel is a massive silver tabernacle, made to order to celebrate the 1665 Portuguese Restoration of Independence. It is a unique example of the technical skill that Portuguese jewelry-making had achieved in the 17th century. The sacristy holds another fine example of Portuguese art: a series of oil panels from the late 16th, early 17th century depicting scenes from Saint Jerónimo’s life.
In this day and age, the Monastery has tried to tell a different piece of its story according to the interests of its visitors, which is why you have the chance of picking between one of the several thematic visits available: Saint Jerónimo’s life, the nativity, heroes and poets and a review of all the architects that contributed with their word to this great building.
If this empire state monument becomes overwhelming during your visit, be assured that there is much more to see in the Belém area. Among the many Lisbon attractions, you can take a look at the National Archeology Museum, the Navy Museum and the Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium, all three right next to the Monastery. After spending your time discovering these attractions you must spare a few minutes to enjoy the world-renowned Pastéis de Nata (also referred to by some as Pastéis de Belém), something no one can miss while traveling in Portugal.
Curious about the wonders of this imperial monument? Don’t just take a virtual tour, use the expertise of our travel agents in Lisbon and book your visit today!