Jerónimos Monastery - History and Facts | History Hit

Jerónimos Monastery

Lisbon, Area Metropolitana de Lisboa, Portugal

The Jerónimos Monastery is an iconic 16th century monastery in Lisbon.

Amy Irvine

16 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos), also known as the Hieronymites Monastery, is an iconic 16th century monastery in Lisbon, and along with the nearby Tower of Belém, is one of the most visited sites in Lisbon.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site together with the Tower of Belem (in 1983), the Jerónimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery.

History of Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery replaced the church formerly existing in the same place, which was dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém. In 1502, King Manuel I ordered the Jerónimos Monastery to be built in honour of the successful voyage to India of celebrated Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama. (Da Gama and his crew had spent their last night in Portugal in prayer there before they left). The monastery took around 100 years to build, and is a beautiful example of Portugese late Gothic architecture.

The monastery was originally populated by monks of the Order of Saint Jerome (Hieronymites), whose spiritual job was to give guidance to sailors and pray for the king’s soul. In 1833, the religious orders were dissolved and the monastery was abandoned.

Later, the monastery became the final resting place for members of the Portuguese royal family. Vasco Da Gama and King Manuel are both now buried at the Jerónimos Monastery, along with other prominent figures such as King Sebastião, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.

Jerónimos Monastery today

This building is appreciated for its ornate exterior and stunning Manueline architecture – the finest example of Manueline architecture in Portugal – a style that served to glorify the great ‘discoveries’ of the age. Especially eye-catching are the richly detailed columns carved with maritime symbols and the unique double story cloister design, housing delicately scalloped arches, twisting turrets, gargoyles and columns intertwined with leaves, vines, and knots.

The cloister’s highlight is the vast Refectory hall that served as the dining area for the monks, decorated with beautiful 16th century azulejo panels, and with the Lion Fountain outside, where the monks washed their hands before meals. Outside the spacious church’s interior is a garden which leads to a small park faced by a row of pretty 16th-century houses.

In addition to seeing Jerónimos Monastery itself, visitors can also view the museums to which the monastery is now home, including the National Archaeological Museum and the Maritime Museum.

Small wonder then that it’s one of our picks for Portugal’s top historic sites.

Getting to Jerónimos Monastery

If travelling by train from central Lisbon, head from Cais do Sodré towards Cascais, stopping at Belém station. Alternatively you can take tram 15, or bus lines 727, 28, 729, 714 and 751 to Mosteiro Jerónimos.

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