Jerónimos Monastery in Belém

Show Map

The Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, ) is located near the shore of the parish of Belém, in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal. The monastery is one of the most prominent monuments of the Manueline-style architecture (Portuguese late-Gothic) in Lisbon, classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém.


Originally, the home for the Hieronymite religious order, was built by the Infante Henry the Navigator around 1459. The chapel that existed there, to the invocation of Santa Maria de Belém, was serviced by monks of the military-religious Order of Christ who provided assistance to pilgrims who transited the area. The small beach of Praia do Restelo was an advantage spot, with safe anchorage and protection from the winds,sought after by the ships that entered the Tagus. A new portal was constructed (1625), the cloister door, the house of the portsmen, a staircase and a hall that was the entrance to the upper choir, designed by the royal architect Teodósio Frias and executed by the mason Diogo Vaz. Many of the artworks and treasures were transferred to the possessions of the crown or lost during this period.

After 1898, new remodelling would occur at the monastery, including the central annex after Parente da Silva (in 1895), now simplified and the restoration of the cadeiral (the chairs used by the clergy in religious services), which were completed in 1924 by sculpter Costa Mota. This shrine-like portal is large, 32 metre high and 12 metre wide, extending two stories. Its ornate features includes an abundance of gables and pinnacles, with many carved figures standing under a baldachin in carved niches, around a statue of Henry the Navigator, standing on a pedestal between the two doors.

The tympanum, above the double door, displays, in half-relief, two scenes from the life of Saint Jerome: on the left, the removal of the thorn from the lion's paw and, on the right, the saints experience in the desert. In the spandrel between these scenes is the coat-of-arms of king Manuel I, while the archivolt and tympanum are covered in Manueline symbols and elements. The Madonna (Santa Maria de Belém) is located on a pedestal on top of the archivolt, surmounted by the archangel Michael, while above the portal there is a cross of the Order of Christ. The portal is harmoniously flanked on each side by a large window with richly decorated mouldings.

Axial portal

Although of smaller dimensions then the southern doorway, this is the most important door to the Jerónimos: in terms of its localization in front the main altar and because of its ornamentation. Two angels, hold the arms of Portugal, close to the archivolt. The splays on each side of the portal are filled with statues, among them are statues of King Manuel I and Queen Maria of Aragón kneeling in a niche under a lavishly decorated baldachin, flanked by their patrons: Saint Jerome and Saint John the Baptist, respectively. Each set of ribs in the vaulting is secured by bosses.<ref name=Study/> The bold design (1522) of the transversal vault of the transept lacks any piers or columns, while Boitac had originally planned three bays in the transept. The transept's unsupported vault gives the visitor the impression that it floats in the air.<ref name=Study/>

Castilho also decorated the six 25 metre-high, slender, articulated, octagonal columns with refined grotesque or floral elements typical of the Renaissance style. The construction of this late-Gothic hall is aesthetically and architecturally a masterwork: it augments the spatial effect of this vast building. The northern column closest to the transept there is a medallion that may have been intentionally included as a portrait of Boitac or Juan de Castilho.

At the end of the side aisles and on both sides of the choir are altars (also in the Manueline-style) dating from the 16th and the 17th centuries. They are decorated with carved/sculpted wood and plated in golden and green pigment, one of which supports the image of Saint Jerome in multi-coloured enamelled terracotta.

This chancel was ordered by Queen Catherine of Austria as the final resting place for the royal family. It is the work of Jerónimo de Ruão (Jean de Rouen) in the Classical style. The royal tombs rest on marble elephants and are set between Ionic pillars, topped by Corinthian pillars. The tombs on the left side of the choir belong to king Manuel I and his wife Maria of Aragon, while the tombs on the right side belong to King João III and his wife Queen Catherine of Austria.

Lower choir

Within the church, in the lower choir, are the stone tombs of Vasco da Gama (1468–1523), and of the great poet and chronicler of the Age of Discoveries, Luís de Camões (1527–1570). Both tombs were sculpted by the nineteenth century sculptor Costa Mota in a harmonious neo-Manueline style. The mortal remains of both were transferred to these tombs in 1880.


Work on the vast square cloister (55 x 55 m) of the monastery was begun by Boitac. He built the groin vaults with wide arches and windows with tracery resting on delicate mullions. Juan de Castilho finished the construction by giving the lower storey a classical overlay and building a more recessed upper-storey. The construction of such a cloister was a novelty at the time. Castilho changed the original round columns of Boitac into rectangular ones, and embellished it with Plateresque-style ornamentation. Each wing consists of six bays with tracery vaults. The four inner bays rest on massive buttresses, forming broad arcades. The corner bays are linked by a diagonal arched construction and show the richly decorated corner pillars. The cloister had a religious function as well as a representative function by its decorative ornamentation and the dynastic symbolic motives, such as the armillarium, coat-of-arms, and the cross from the Order of Christ, showing the growing world power of Portugal.

The inside walls of the cloister have a wealth of Manueline motives with nautical elements, in addition to European, Moorish and Eastern motifs. The round arches and the horizontal structure are clearly in line with the Renaissance style, while at the same time there is also a relationship with Spanish architecture. The decorations on the outer walls of the inner courtyard were made in Plateresco style by Castilho: the arcades include traceried arches that give the construction a filigree aspect.

In one of these arcades is the sober tomb of the poet Fernando Pessoa, while several other tombs in the chapter house contain the remains of the poet and playwright Almeida Garrett (1799–1854), the writer-historian Alexandre Herculano (1810–1877), former Presidents Teófilo Braga (1843–1924) and Óscar Carmona (1869–1951).

The refectory across the chapter house has several azulejos tiles from the 17th century.

In an addition added to the monastery after the 1850 Restoration, the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) were established (the west wing).


External links

See also

  • Monasterio de Jerónimos