The best independent guide to Lisbon
The best independent guide to Lisbon
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is a highly ornate monastery that is situated in the Belem district of western Lisbon. This grand religious building was historically associated with the early sailors as explorers, as it was from here that Vasco da Gama spent his last night before his voyage to the Far East.
The grand Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
For visitors the Monastery of Jeronimos is one of the most decorative churches of Portugal. The southern entrance is a bound by a 32 meter high stone portal that incorporates carvings of the saints, complex shaped pinnacles and other decorative features.
Inside the spindly columns support massive vaulted ceilings and lead to an ornamental alter. The fine stone detail extends into the monastery, which is to the rear of the church and is centered around a unique two level cloister. The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is rightly one of most popular tourist sights of Lisbon.
After the initial construction of the monastery King Manuel I selected the Hieronymites order of monks to reside in the complex. King Manuel I choose this relatively small order as they guaranteed to provide spiritual protection to the king once he died and later on they formed a close spiritual connection with the sailors of the era. The Hieronymites order were dedicated to Saint Jerome, hence name of the monastery, and he was a 5th-century scholar who translated the original bible into Latin.
The original time planned to construct the Monastery of Jeronimos was only eight years, but as the 5% tax on colony imports brought in greater wealth the plans grew, and grew. The monastery was finally inaugurated by Felipe II, the Spanish ruler of the Iberian Union, in 1604, almost a century since the foundations were laid.
When the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was original constructed it was situated on the banks of the River Tagus and overlooked the docks of Belem. Today the waters edge is 300m further south than it was 500 years ago and provides space for the beautiful Praça do Imperio gardens.
The Monastery of Jeronimos is open from 10.00-18.00 (summer) or 10.00-17.00 (winter) but is shut on Sundays. The main chapel is free to enter while the entrance fee for the monastery is €10.00 and free for children under 14. A combined entrance ticket for the monastery and Torre de Belem can be purchased for €13.00.
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is located in the Belem district of Lisbon, which is west of central Lisbon. The recommended means of travel from central Lisbon to Belem is via the number 15 tram.
The site of the church has always had close ties with Portugal’s great explorers. The original Ermida do Restelo hermitage was found by Henry the Navigator in 1450 and was a site in decline when Vasco da Gama spent his fabled last night on land before leaving to discover India (1497).
The church of Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was original constructed to commemorate the safe return of Vasco da Gama and his men. The ground work of the church was constructed during the reign of Manuel I (1515-1520) and it was he who dedicated it to the Hieronymites order.
Sailors of the era were notoriously superstitious and the significance of the church swelled as sailors prayed with the monks in the hope that they would return safely. When gold and riches started to flow into the city on the back of the spice trade money was channeled into funding the extravagant building works of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
The architect Joao de Castilho was able to design elaborate and ways that did not conform to the normality of the time. The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is the only monastery of the era to be constructed around a two tier cloister.The ornately carved grand entrance of Mosteiro dos Jeronimos could rival any of the classical great cathedrals, the stone is intricately carved with the images of saints and patterns with Vasco da Gama atop of the door way.
Due to the clever engineering design of small columns that support the vast roof church, the roof was able to withstand the devastating 1755 earthquake. The majority of Lisbon’s large buildings collapsed while Mosteiro dos Jeronimos had only slight damage.
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos decayed during the abolition of the religious orders brought about by the protracted invasion by Napoleon and the entire church complex, though surviving the earthquake, almost collapsed. In 1983 Mosteiro dos Jeronimos became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and presently is one of the top tourist attractions of Lisbon.
One of the best ways to discover Lisbon and to meet fellow travellers is to join a guided tour. We have worked with Getyourguide.com for the last six years, and some of the best tours of Lisbon include:
Discover more of Lisbon with our most popular guides