Jeronimos Monastery

Azulejo 22Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) is one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal and a prime example of Manueline architecture. Sitting opposite the Discoveries Monument, it is one of Lisbon’s ‘must see’ attractions regardless of spiritual persuasion. In 1983, the monastery was given the classification of a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Commissioned by King Manuel 1st, the building began construction on the 6th January 1501. Originally the site was home to the Hieronymite religious order and to monks who aided visiting pilgrims. The chapel that existed there was dedicated to  Santa Maria de Belém. The small beach of praia do restelo provided a safe harbour for tall ships sailing along the river. It was in the hermitage of the old building that Vasco de Gama and his shipmates stayed the night before setting out on their first voyage. It is here too that the remains of Vasco de Gama are interred along with other famous figures from Portuguese history.

The Hieronymite order were allowed to stay in the monastery. Their role was to pray for the kings soul and for the souls of the brave sailors whose voyages were increasing the riches of Portugal. Much of the construction was paid for with a tax on commercial endeavours from overseas trade.

Jeronimos Monastery - ExteriorThis vast building has two entrances – the South Gate and the main entrance which is the Axial Portal. Before you go in, take a moment to study the exquisite carvings that decorate both. On the South Gate you’ll find the figure of Santa Maria de Belém, Saint Jerome (after whom the monastery is named) and the Archangel Michael, the protective angel of Portugal. Images of Saint Jerome appear throughout the building and you can recognise him by the fact he is normally accompanied by two lions.

The smaller but no less impressive main entrance contains religious and Portuguese iconography – cherubs, angels and saints, an armillary sphere, the coat of arms of Portugal, scenes from the nativity, King Manuel himself and his queen and much more.

Going through the Axial Portal, you enter the Church. This is still used as a place of worship so be aware that there may be a service taking place. Mass is early morning and late afternoon.

The Church is breathtakingly beautiful with is vast high arched ceiling held up by octagonal pillars. A spider’s web of carving weaves across the vaulted ceiling. The pillars themselves are intricately carved with a variety of motifs. Even through the hum of tourist whispers and footfall, a hush of peace hangs in the air. Light streams through the stained glass windows. Note that these are not the original windows as these were destroyed in the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755.

Interior_of_Mosteiro_dos_JerónimosIn the Church you will find the tombs of Vasco de Gama and Luís de Camões who wrote the famous Portuguese narrative poem ‘The Lusiads’ which chronicles and celebrates the great maritime adventures of the Discoveries era. King Manuel 1st himself is also buried here along with other Portuguese royalty in the marble chancery. The royal tombs are help up by glistening marble elephants. In the chapel behind the altar are master paintings in classical style.

Whilst a visit to the Church is free, if you want to enter the cloister there is a fee to pay however it is well worth it to see the inner sanctuary. The cloister here is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The golden limestone seems to shimmer as it opens in archways to the light pouring into the perfect rectangular garden. Again, almost every surface is ornately carved with everything from planets and animals, the Virtues, nautical and religious themes. Look hard and you will even find sea monsters! It’s also within the cloister that you’ll discover the resting place of Fernando Pessoa. The cloister is a perfect thinking spot and I found myself reflecting on the echoes of the soft tread of a monks feet centuries before.

From the cloister you can enter the refectory where the monks once gathered for dinner and readings of the Bible. Check out the intricate mosaic freeze that runs around the entire room depicting biblical stories.

Back through the cloister and up to the Choir balcony you get a fabulous upper view of the church. With its huge rose window and large statue of Christ this is a quiet place of contemplation where the monks would meditate. Take a look at the polished wooden seats as each is carved with fantastical designs and different from the other. Above the stalls are more classical paintings showing various saints.

Jeronimos Monastery is a majestic tribute to the opulent history enjoyed by Portugal during the discoveries era. In modern times, the monastery continues to make history by hosting important ceremonies of state such as the signing of the Treaty which marked Portugal’s entry into the European Economic Community (the body which preceded the EU).

On my first visit, I went on a Wednesday early in the morning and was lucky that it was reasonably quiet. The second time I visited (to get photos that I didn’t manage to get the first time around!), the queue was long, the sun was hot and I ended up foregoing site-seeing in favour of a long, cool drink. My advice is to head out early to avoid the hoards of visitors that this heritage site attracts.


Location
Praça do Império, Belem


View Larger Map

How to get there
Tram 15 from either Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio

Opening hours
October to May – 10.00 am to 5.30 pm

May to September – 10.00 am to 6.30 pm

CLOSED – Mondays, 1st January, Easter Sunday, 1st May and 25th December

Price
The church is free

Access to the Cloisters is free with a Lisboa card or €7 (free up to 2pm on Sundays)

Combo tickets are available for Belém Tower and other attractions.

Free access with the Lisboa card

Children up to 14 go free

Senior citizen 50% reduced rate

Official Website
http://www.mosteirojeronimos.pt/

Resources
A 3D tour from Arounder.com

Jeronimos Monastery on Facebook

Short official video guide 

Images
Interior of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos by Lacobrigo on Wikipedia [creative commons]

Exterior view from the top of the Discoveries Monument by Lily

11 comments for “Jeronimos Monastery

  1. March 21, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for you alphabet and website I am from Dublin and have lived in the US for some years but I am moving to Portugal to live with friends at a holistic center to help bring about a more companionship and community in the world.

    I shall visit the church you described so well .

    Thanks so much!

    • Lily
      March 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Hi Tanya, thank you for your comment. Oh how lovely you are moving to Portugal! I hope I am not too far behind you – maybe a year or so if I can. I would love to know more about the holistic centre. Is this in Lisbon?

  2. August 5, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I am an American who has recently moved to Lisbon. I live close to the Jeronimos Monastery and agree that it is absolutely breathtaking. You described it beautifully!

    I just started a website/blog and will be writing about Lisbon often (since I live here). Feel free to peruse now and then to see what’s going on, in real time!

    Nina

    • September 27, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      Hello, Nina
      I will be in Lisbon in June, 2016 with my community chorus of about 50 singers. I would love to perform in Jeronimos Monastery, if it is allowed. Would you be able to send me the contact information for the Monastery so I may contact them? Also, if you have any suggestions for concert venues, I would be happy to receive your comments. – perhaps you know of some community choruses in Lisbon who would like to present a Friendship Concert – a concert where the 2 groups share the stage.
      I look forward to hearing from you.
      Thank you,
      Bob Sharon

  3. Gonçalo
    October 22, 2015 at 5:48 am

    Would you be interested in selling the website? thanks

    • Lily
      October 26, 2015 at 9:56 am

      No thank you Gonçalo. I am hoping to go back to Lisbon next year so I can start writing for the site again. I’m still in love with Lisbon 🙂

  4. richard taylor
    November 2, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    So pleased to hear you’re still in love with minha querida Lisboa. A Portuguese cousin my mother hadn’t seen in about 40 years turning up at her home in England was the catalyst for my subsequent love affair with Lisbon and Portugal and I recently had my 8th visit to Lisbon starting in 1996. Lisbon absolutely knocked my socks off this time ! I love wandering through its streets. It has such an atmosphere: melancholic, nostalgic, wistful etc. Lisbon is a city where you can take an intense pleasure in being sad; yet at the same time, it has a cool vibe and a great party atmosphere. Just love those bars in the Bairro Alto – a New Yorker once told me she was homesick because it reminded her of her ancestral Puerto Rico ! I love the hole in the wall shops and tascas and this time I especially found the city full of surprises and ceaselessly entertaining.

    A German art student on line has said that she loves Lisbon so much it hurts, a sentiment I share. This time as I was about to board the plane at Heathrow, my eyes filled with tears and I choked with emotion as I said to myself:”I hope they’ve been looking after my dear Lisbon!”

    I’ve just been reading some old blogs of yours and I can report that on this recent trip I visited for the first time that tiny glove shop and the Chinese Pavilion. I had never found that glove shop and I must have walked past it unknowingly so many times; but this time I was walking out of a bookshop opposite and there it was in front of me! I later treated myself to a pair of gloves from there as a birthday present to myself for yesterday (1st November).

    Mentioning bars, the next time you’re in Lisbon you must visit the splendidly over the top Pensao D’Amor in Cais de Sodre. I was thoroughly amused and can honestly say that in more than 40 years of drinking I’ve never been in a place like it; afterwards I go into a bar (next door?) where one of the bar staff looks like the footballer, Luis Figo! I showed a photograph of this chap to the manager of my delightful boutique B&B in Santa Catarina (Dear Lisbon Guesthouse) and he knew him!

    Away from Lisbon, I paid my usual visits to Sintra (isn’t that so beautiful?), the fairytale Obidos (and if you haven’t gone there on the train, you should do – slow journey with 23 stops but lovely countryside and some lovely stations with blue azulejos and nice little gardens), Evora, and my usual chilling out on Sunday in Cascais combined with a trip to Cabo da Roca. This time, also, a cousin in Cascais took me to see his vineyard in the Douro and I was able to enjoy the beauty of this region despite the rain that weekend

    Best Wishes,
    Richard

    • Lily
      November 3, 2015 at 9:36 am

      Hi Richard – Thank you for all your lovely comments. It’s great to hear about all your experiences. I miss Lisbon so much – like a long lost love I’m waiting to return 😀 I cannot wait til go back next year and if all goes well, maybe I will not be coming back to England! I’m going to take a few longer trips first and then see how things work out but Lisbon is my heart and soul. I also cannot wait to start writing for this site again. It’s been too long.

  5. richard taylor
    November 2, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    On my recent visit I was accustomed to joking that if they had hand pulled beer and county cricket in Lisbon I’d move there! Actually, there are one or two reasons why I wouldn’t; a principal one being that when all is said and done, I like staying close to my roots here in Olton, Solihull. However, my other country is so very dear to me (I was sentimental about Portugal before I ever went there, which made Saturday, 14th September 1996, the day when I first stepped foot in Portugal one of the most memorable and special days in my life) and Lisbon is my favourite urban playground, wandering around enjoying the delightful architecture and views. Venice and Prague may be more consistently beautiful (they have for instance mostly ruined the Avenidas Novas such as Av Republica, though that street still to be visited for the wonderful cakes in Café Versailles. If I was a mother in Lisbon with young children, I would want to take them there after school as a special treat!), but are they as entertaining or as much fun? No!

  6. richard taylor
    November 6, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I’ve been sifting through your old blogs and adding comments – as they are old blogs, I’m not sure that anybody is actually reading them! But I’ve noticed on your face page you mention recent comments and people must be wondering who the hell this Richard Taylor guy is! Anyway, I think I’ve finished for the time being, you’re probably relieved to hear!

    Look forward to reading your future blogs. As for me, I’m suffering some heavy bouts of saudade since returning from my 16 days in Portugal (Lisbon, but one weekend in the Douro – unfortunately with the rain! Actually, weather in Lisbon somewhat unsettled this time). Not cold enough yet to go for a walk in my new gloves (don’t usually wear them, but thought I’d treat myself to some as a birthday present on All Saints Day by purchasing a pair from Luvaria Ulisses, that tiny glove shop I finally discovered on this trip having passed by it I can’t imagine how many times!

  7. richard taylor
    November 6, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Just got to say, I’ve been googling my way through Lisbon with those street maps you mentioned on your blogs. I circled the Technico and eventually managed to walk past 16, Av. Rovisco Pias where I used to stay with my cousin, Giza. Also been to Largo do Portas Do Sol and finally walked up Rua Augusta and to Praca do Comercio to the waterfront. Where is everyone, though? It’s August 2014 and there’s virtually no-one in the square! Were these taken At 5am?

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