In 1496, King Manuel I asked the Pope for permission to build a Monastery dedicated to “Santa Maria de Belém” (St. Mary of Belém). The construction of the “Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Belém”, as the Jerónimos Monastery was originally called, began on 1501 and it was finished almost one century later.
Its construction took place on the banks of the “Rio Tejo” Tagus river, replacing a chapel dedicated to St. Mary of Belém built by order of “Infante Henrique o Navegador” ( Prince Henry the Navigator), the great impeller of the Portuguese Discoveries. This may have been the place where Vasco da Gama, the discoverer of the Maritime Way to India, and his crew spent the night, in prayer, before they began their voyage to India.
King Manuel I invited the Order of St. Jerome (Hieronymites, or “dos Jerónimos”) to occupy it.
The Hieronymites monks were expected to pray for the King’s soul and to provide spiritual guidance to navigators and sailors who departed from Belém (beach of Restelo, at that time) to discover the world.
Jerónimos Monastery is a prime example of Manueline architecture, an exclusive Portuguese style that predominated on the first decades of the 16th century, during the reign of D. Manuel I. This style is characterized by elaborate sculptural details and maritime motifs.
The Manueline stlyle isn’t the only architectural style observed in the Monastery, elements typical of other styles, such as Renaissance architecture, are also present.
Diogo de Boitaca was the architect who first design the monastery. He was followed by other architects such as Juan de Castillo, Nicolau Chanterene, Diogo de Torralva and Jerónimo de Ruão.
Looking at the Jerónimos Monastery, the South Portal, designed by Juan de Castillo, catches most of our attention. The main figure of this portal is our Lady of Belém with the Child. At the bottom, between the two doors, there’s a statue that represents the Prince Henry the Navigator.
Despite its splendor, the main entrance isn’t the South Portal, but the West Portal. The main portal, built by Nicolau Chanterene, is a good example of the transition from the Gotic style to Renaissance. It exhibits the statues of King D. Manuel I and his wife, Queen D. Maria, protected by St. Jerome and St. John the Baptist, respectively.
The West Portal leads into St. Mary of Belém Church, a three-aisled church with five bays under a single vault, built under the direction of Diogo de Boitaca and Juan de Castillo (after 1517).
The two-storey Cloister, designed by Diogo de Boitaca and finished by Diogo de Torralva, represents the apex of Manueline architecture. Other architecural styles can be observed in the Cloister. Juan de Castillo, also responsible for its construction, included Plateresque style ornamentation on the columns. And the round arches are in line with the Renaissance style.
A highly original feature of this Cloister is that its corners are cut at an oblique angle, instead of the usual right angle.
We find the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões, author of the epic “Os Lusíadas” (The Lusiads), at the entrance of St. Mary of Belém Church.
Other great figures emtombed in the Monastery are King D. Sebastião, the poet Fernando Pessoa, the writer-historian Alexandre Herculano, the poet and playwright Almeida Garret and the former Presidents Teófilo Braga and Óscar Carmona.
The Western wing of the Jerónimos Monastery, which used to be the dormitory of the monks, is, since 1903, occupied by the “Museu Nacional de Arqueologia” (National Archaeology Museum
Part of the Western wing is also occupied by the “Museu da Marinha” (Navy Museum).
In this game we navigate the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, discovering new land and trading spices. We can contribute to the construction of the Jerónimos Monastery by donating some of the profit from selling some of the our spices.
October to April: 10.oo a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (last admission at 5.00 p.m.)
May to September: 10.oo a.m. to 6.30 p.m. (last admission at 6.00 p.m.)
Closed:Mondays and 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May and 25 December
City bus lines: 727, 28, 729, 714, 751
Suburban train: Belém Station
Ferry:Belém Ferry station