About Lisbon National Archaeology Museum
The Lisbon National Archaeology Museum is devoted to ancient art, and contains artefacts from the prehistoric to the Visigoth periods. The exquisite building in which the National Archaeology Museum is now located is the UNESCO-listed Jeronimos Monastery.
Lisbon National Archaeology Museum history
The Jeronimos Monastery housed monks of the military-religious Order of Christ, known also as the Knights Templar, who provided assistance to seafarers. The Lisbon harbour was an advantageous place for mariners, providing safe anchorage and protection from the wind. The monastery was inaugurated on the order of Manuel I, who petitioned for a new building as the site’s former church, where Vasco de Gama spent a night before departing for the east, was in disrepair.
The monastery’s construction began in 1501, completed 100 years later after resources and funds from the influx of spices and riches from Portugal’s colonial ventures allowed the architects a wide scope for design. Jeronimos was designed in the Manueline style; richly ornate with maritime elements and complex limestone carvings.
When Portuguese Independence was restored in 1640 the monastery also became the royal pantheon. Further work was done in the monastery, including a gold tiled ceiling and after the 1755 earthquake, towers to the east were added. In 1898, Portugal marked the 400th anniversary of Vasco de Gama’s arrival in India and his remains were placed in the southern chapel of the monastery.
The museum itself was founded in 1893 after a legal decree was made to create a National Ethnographic Museum for archaeological research in Portugal. It was housed in the western wing of the Jeronimos Monastery where the monks had their dormitory, officially opening in 1906.
In 2007, the Treaty of Lisbon was signed at the monastery, reforming the European Union.
Lisbon National Archaeology Museum today
Step out of the busy crowds of Lisbon’s bustling city to spend an hour or so exploring the small, peaceful museum of ancient antiquities. Visitors to the museum pay only €5 entry to see Egyptian mummies and precious treasures including Roman gold and silver denari, many of which were found in Lusitania (Portugal’s Roman name). There is also a fascinating exhibit on the dawn of writing, displaying scripts heralding the beginning of historical records.
Getting to Lisbon National Archaeology Museum
The easiest way to travel about Lisbon is using transport. The museum’s closest tram stop is Mosteiro Jeronimos on line 15E, and bus routes 79B and 729. The grand monastery is easily found on foot along the Praca do Imperio, near the park of the same name and a 10 minute walk to the Tagus riverside.