Jeronimos monastery

Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)
Hieronymites Monastery
Monastery (Mosteiro)
National Archaeology Museum
Official name: Mosteiro da Santa Maria de Belém
Name origin: jerónimo Portuguese transliteration for Saint Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus) ; the use of Hieronymites, referring to the Order of Saint Jerome
Nickname: O Jerónimos
Country  Portugal
Region Lisbon
Sub-region Grande Lisboa
District Lisbon
Municipality Lisbon
Location Santa Maria de Belém
 - elevation 11 m (36 ft)
 - coordinates 41|51.60|N|9|12|21.60|W|type:landmark_region:PT name=


Architects Diogo de Boitaca, Juan de Castilho, Nicolau Chanterene, Diogo de Torralva, Jérôme de Rouen
Styles Manueline, Plateresque, Renaissance
Material Pedra Lioz (Limestone)
Origin 1495
 - Initiated 6 January 1501
 - Completion 1601
Papal permission 1496
Owner Portuguese Republic
For public Public
Visitation Closed (Mondays and on 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May and 25 December)
Easiest access South Portal
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Name Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém
Year 1983 (#7)
Number 263
Region Europe and North America
Criteria iii, vi
Management Instituto Gestão do Patrimonio Arquitectónico e Arqueológico
Operator Centro de eLearning do Instituto Politécnico de Tomar (IPT) e Área
October–April 10:00 am – 5:30 pm
May–September 10:00 am – 6:30 pm
Location of the Jeronimos within the municipality of Lisbon
Commons: Jerónimos Monastery

The Hieronymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Portuguese pronunciation: [muʃˈtɐjɾu duʃ ʒɨˈɾɔnimuʃ]) 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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[1] The Hermitage of Restelo (Portuguese: Ermida do Restelo), as it was known, was already a hermitage in disrepair, when Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer before departing on their expedition to the Orient in 1497.[1]

The existing structure was started on the orders of Manuel I (1469–1521) at the courts of Montemor-o-Velho in 1495, as a final resting-place for members of the House of Aviz, in his belief that an Iberian dynastic kingdom would rule after his death.[3] In 1496, King Manuel petitioned the Holy See for permission to construct a monastery at the entrance of Lisbon, along the margins of the Tagus River.[2] It was after the arrival of Vasco da Gama, a year later, bringing with him samples of gold he discovered, that the monastery became a representation of Portuguese expansionism, and that the church became a house of prayer for seamen leaving or entering port.[4][5]

Middle Ages

The construction of the monastery and church began on 6 January 1501 (and were completed 100 years later).[1][2] King Manuel originally funded the project with money obtained from the Vintena da Pimenta, a 5% tax on commerce from Africa and the Orient, equivalent to 70 kilograms (150 lb) of gold per year, with the exception of pepper, cinnamon and cloves (which went directly to the Crown.[1][2] With the influx of riches, the architects were not limited to small plans, and resources already prescribed for the Monastery of Batalha (including the Aviz pantheon) were redirected to the project in Belém.

Manuel I selected the religious order of Hieronymite monks to occupy the monastery, whose role it was to pray for the King's eternal soul and to provide spiritual assistance to navigators and sailors who departed from the beach of Restelo to discover the world.[1][2] This the monks did until 1833 (over four centuries), when the religious orders were dissolved and the monastery was unoccupied.[1][2]

The monastery was designed in a style that later became known as Manueline: a richly ornate architectural design that includes complex sculptural themes incorporating maritime elements and objects discovered during naval expeditions, carved in limestone. Diogo de Boitaca,[1] the architect, pioneered this style in the Monastery of Jesus in Setúbal. On this project Boitaca was responsible for the plans and contracting work on the monastery, the sacristy, and the refectory. He used calcário de lioz, a local gold-coloured limestone, that was quarried from Ajuda, the valley of Alcántara, Laveiras, Rio Seco and Tercena, for its construction.[2] Boitaca was succeeded by the Spaniard Juan de Castilho, who took charge of construction around 1517. Castilho gradually moved from the Manueline to the Spanish Plateresque style, an ornamentation that included lavish decorations that recall silverware (Spanish: plata). The construction came to a halt when the King Manuel I died in 1521.

There were several sculptors who made their mark on this building. Nicolau Chanterene added depth with his Renaissance themes. The architect Diogo de Torralva resumed the construction of the monastery in 1550, adding the main chapel, the choir, and completing the two stories of the monastery, using only Renaissance motifs. Diogo de Torralva's work was continued in 1571 by Jérôme de Rouen (also called Jerónimo de Ruão) who added some Classical elements. The construction stopped in 1580 with the union of Spain and Portugal, because the building of the Escorial in Spain was now draining away all the funds.


On 16 July 1604, Philip of Spain (who ruled after the Iberian Union) made the monastery as a royal funerary monument, prohibiting everyone but the Royal family and the Hieronymite monks from entering the building.[6] 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.[6] In 1640, the monastery's library, by order of the monastery's prior Friar Bento de Siqueira, was ordered constructed.[6] In this library, the books left by the Infante Luís (son of King Manuel I) and others linked to the religious order were deposited.[6]

The restoration of Portuguese Independence (1640), the monastery regained much of its importance, becoming the burial place for royal pantheon; within its walls four of the eight children of John IV of Portugal were entombed: the Infante Teodósio (1634–1653), the Infanta Joana (1636–1653), King Afonso VI (1643–1683) and Catarina de Bragança (1638–1705).[6] But, later, on 29 September 1855, the body of King Afonso VI was transported to the royal pantheon of the House of Braganza, in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, along with his three brothers and sister. During the reign of King Peter II of Portugal, in 1682, in the transept chapels were buried the bodies of King Sebastian and Cardinal Henrique.[6]

In 1663, the Brotherhood of the Senhor dos Passos occupied the old Chapel of Santo António, which is redecorated with a gold tiled ceiling in 1669, and at the same time, the staircase frescos (with the heraldry of Saint Jerome) are completed (1770).[6] Comparably, in 1709 and 1711, during the reign of John V, the retables were completed; valuable alfaias are presented to the religious order; and the sacristy is redecorated in 1713.[6] Also, during this sovereign, in 1720, the painter Henrique Ferreira, was commissioned to paint the Kings of Portugal (from head to toe): the regal series was placed in the rightly named Sala dos Reis (Hall of the Kings).[6] Henrique Ferreira was also commissioned to complete a nativity of paintings.[6]

The monastery withstood the 1755 Lisbon earthquake without too much damage: only the baluster and part of the high choir were ruined, which were quickly repaired.[6]

On 28 December 1833, by decree the State secularized the Jerónimos Monastery and transferred its title to the Pious Royal House of Lisbon (Portuguese: Real Casa Pia de Lisboa), to serve as a parochial church for the new civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém.[7] Many of the artworks and treasures were transferred to the possessions of the crown or lost during this period.[7] It was vacant most time and its condition began to deteriorate.

After 1860, restoration work began on the Monastery, starting with the souther façade by the architect Rafael Silva e Castro, and in 1898 by Domingos Parente da Silva.[7] Although the cloister tank, internal religious cells and the kitchen are demolished at this time, three projects by architect J. Colson to reconstruct the monastery are not approved, including the introduction of revivalist neo-Manueline elements.[7] In 1863, architect Valentim José Correia is hired by the ombudsman of the Casa Pia (Eugénio de Almeida) to re-organize the second-storey of the old dormitory and design the windows (1863–1865).[7] After that he is substituted by Samuel Barret, who constructed the towers in the extreme west of the dormitories.[7] Similarly and unexplainably, Barret was replaced by the Italian scenery designers Rambois and Cinatti (who worked on the theatre designs of the São Carlos Theatre), to continue the remodelling within the monastery in 1867.[7] Between 1867 and 1868, the "scenery designers" reformulated profoundly the annex and façade of the Church, resulting in the monument that is known today.[7] The demolished the gallery and Hall of the Kings, constructed the towers of the eastern dormitory, the rose window of the upper choir and substituted the pyramid-shaped roof of the bell-tower with the mitre-shaped design.[7] The remodelling was delayed by the 1878 collapse of the central dormitory.[7] After 1884, Raymundo Valladas began to contribute, initiating in 1886 the restoration of the cloister and Sala da Capítulo, including the construction of vaulted ceiling.[7] It was in the Sala da Capítulo (in 1888) that the tomb of Alexandre Herculano was placed (its design by Eduardo Augusto da Silva).[7]

To celebrate the Fourth Centenary of the arrival of Vasco da Gama to India (1898), they decide to restore the tomb of the explorer (1894).[7] The tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões (completed by sculpture Costa Mota) were placed in the southern lateral chapel.[7] A year later the monastery received the remains of the poet João de Deus, later joined by the tombs of Almeida Garret (1902), Sidónio Pais (1918), Guerra Junqueiro (1923) and Teófilo Braga (1924).[7]


The Minister of Public Works (Portuguese: Ministério das Obras Públicas) opened a competition to conclude the annex, to serve as the National Museum of Industry and Commerce (Portuguese: Museu Nacional da Indústria e Comércio, but the project was canceled (in 1899), and substituted by the Ethnological Museum of Portugal (Portuguese: Museu Etnológico Português), by decree 20 November 1900.[7][8]

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.[8] In 1938, the organ in the high choir was dismantled, at the same time that a series of stained-glass are replaced in the southern façade (designed by Abel Manta and executed by Ricardo Leone).[8]

As part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of modern Portugal (1939), new remodelling was completed in the monastery and tower.[8] During these projects, the baldachin and tomb of Alexandre Herculano is dismantled and cloister patio is paved.[8] In 1940, marked by the Portuguese Exposition, the space in front of the monastery is redesigned.[8] The Casa Pia vacates the interior spaces of the cloister and the tombs of Camões and Vasco da Gama are transferred to the lower choir. A series of windows (designed by Rebocho and executed by Alves Mendes) are completed in 1950.[8]

In 1951 the remains of president Óscar Carmona are entombed in the Sala do Capítulo.[8] They would later (1966) be transported to the National Pantheon to join the bodies of the former presidents and literary heroes of the country.[8]

The Marine Museum (Portuguese: Museu da Marinha) created in 1909, and the Calouste Gulbenkin Planetary would be installed in the 1962, in the building annexs of the monastery.[8]


The church and the monastery, like the nearby Torre de Belém and Padrão dos Descobrimentos, symbolise the Portuguese Age of Discovery and is among the main tourist attractions of Lisbon. In 1983, UNESCO formally designated the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém as a World Heritage Site.

When Portugal joined the European Economic Community, the formal ceremonies were held in the cloister of the monument (1985).[8]

Two great expositions marked the monastery during the 1990s: an exposition, entitled "4 séculos de pintura" (Portuguese: Four Centuries of Paintings), in 1992; and the exposition "Leonardo da Vinci – um homem à escala do mundo, um Mundo à escala do homem" (Portuguese: Leonardo da Vinci: A Man at the World's Scale, A World at the Scale of Man), in 1998 (which included the Leicester Codex, on temporary loan from Bill Gates).[8]

At the end of the 20th century, remodelling continued with conservation, cleaning and restoration, including the main chapel in 1999 and between 1998–2002 the cloister.[8]

On 13 December 2007, the Treaty of Lisbon was signed at the monastery, laying down the basis for the reform of the European Union.

View from the top of Padrão dos Descobrimentos


Church of Santa Maria


South portal

The ornate side entrance to the monastery was designed by Juan de Castilho and is considered one of the most significant of his time, but is not, in fact, the main entrance to the building.[9] 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.[9] This western portal is a good example of the transition from the Gothic style to Renaissance. It was built by Nicolau Chanterene in 1517. This was probably his first commission in Portugal. It is now spanned by a vestibule, added in the 19th century, that forms a transition between the church and the ambulatory.

In the tympanum there are scenes from the birth of Christ: from the left to right: the Annunciation (of the angel indicating to Maria that she would give birth); the Nativity (the birth of the Christ child); and the Epiphany (the adoration of the magi).[10] 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.[10] The supporting corbels are decorated with little angels holding the coat-of-arms and, at the side of the king, an armillary sphere and, at the side of the queen, three blooming twigs. This doorway, completed by Nicolau Chanterene, introduces Renaissance elements: angels in Roman garb, cherubs, the detail and realism of the Kings and nude study of Saint Jerome.[10] Throughout the monastery there are representations of Saint Jerome, in paintings, sculptures and stained-glass.[10] There are three important examples:

  • O Penitente no deserto (The Penitent in the Desert), located in the sub-chorus, near the tomb of Vasco da Gama, showing an emaciated saint in the desert, with a rock in his hand, while meditating in front of a crucifix;[10]
  • O Estudioso na sua cela (The Studious in his Cell), showing the saint seat at his workplace encircled by open books;[10]
  • O Doutor da Igreja (The Doctor in the Church), located in the high-choir, it depicts a solemn Saint Jerome standing in the red robes and hat of a cardinal.[10]

In which ever example identified, the saint is always accompanied by a lion and bible.[10]


Diogo Boitac laid the foundations for this three-aisled church with five bays under a single vault, a clearly marked but only slightly projecting a transept and a raised choir. The hall church layout is composed of aisles and nave that are of equal height. Boitac built the walls of the church as far as the cornices and then started with the construction of the adjoining monastery.

Juan de Castilho, a Spanish architect and sculptor, continued the construction in 1517. He completed the retaining walls and the unique single-span ribbed vault, a combination of stellar vaulting and tracery vaults spanning the 19-metre-wide church.[11] Each set of ribs in the vaulting is secured by bosses.[11] 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.[11]

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 19th-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

  • Official Site of the Monastery of the Jeronimos

See also

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