Cultura 9 June, 2019

Jerónimos Monastery: a jewel of Portuguese architecture

After visiting the Belém Tower, another must-see attraction for visitors to the Belém region in Lisbon is the grandiose Jerónimos Monastery.

The region of Belém was very important in the discoveries era, because there was where the ships departed to the new world.

 

Originally in the place where the Monastery now stands, there was a chapel, the Hermitage of Santa Maria de Belém, where great navigators such as Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral would say their prayers before setting out for the sea.

Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and elected as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, the Jerónimos Monastery represents a masterpiece of the Manueline style.

 

The construction of the Jerónimos Monastery started in 1501 to celebrate the return of Vasco da Gama from the Indies and it took about 100 years to be finished.

 

Arriving in Belém and seeing the Monastery, it’s easy to understand the delay in construction. Even from afar the imposing Monastery impresses!

The facade is approximately 300 meters wide, being considered the D. Manuel’s architecture jewel.

 

The South Portal is the visual center of the facade. With 32 m of height and more than 12 m of width, it has more than 40 figures allusive to Sacred History and History of Portugal.

The entrance of the Monastery is through the Main Portal. Less sumptuous than the South Portal, it symbolizes the Spring, being the frontier gate to the High Altar.

 

At the top of the portal, we see 3 scenes of the Jesus Christ’s birth: The angel announcing that Mary would be a mother; the birth of Jesus and the Magi’s adoration.

After passing through the Main Door and entering the church of Santa Maria de Belém, we come across an impressive architecture.

 

The church features a Latin cross plan, composed of 3 “naves” of the same height united by a single vaulted ceiling and supported by 6 pillars. The cruise vault, in Kubler’s words, represents “the most accomplished achievement of the late-medieval ambition of covering as much space as possible with the least support.” It’s one of the most important church-hall in all Europe!

It’s in this place where the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luis de Camões are, decorated with the life symbols and with the deeds of these two important Portuguese personalities.

In the High Altar, we find beautiful paintings representing the Christ’s Passion and the Magi’s Adoration, by the painter Lourenço de Salzedo.

The Monastery of Jerónimos’s cloister is considered a masterpiece of the world architecture.

 

It combines religious symbols, reign’s symbols and naturalistic elements with skill, delicacy and harmony.

The iconographic richness of the cloister is impressive! The decor is extremely rich, full of details and meanings.

 

It’s impossible not to marvel at this pleasant and quiet place for the prayer and meditation by the monks of the Order of St. Jerome.

The Refectory is lined with glazed tiles depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

 

It was in this room where the monks took their daily meals. The environment was solemn and obeyed severe rules of behavior. It wasn’t possible to talk during meals because there was always the Bible’s reading.

On the way to the Chapter Room, through the North Wing, there is the Fernando Pessoa’s tomb. The writer used to visit the Jeronimos Monastery.

The Chapter Room was originally designed to accommodate the monks’ periodic meetings, but never had such use. In the center of the room is the tomb of Alexandre Herculano, historian, writer and first president of the Municipality of Belém.

The Chapter Room was also used as a pantheon for other writers and Presidents until the creation and transfer to the National Pantheon.

The Jeronimos Monastery is an extraordinary attraction in Lisbon. A must-stop in any travel itinerary in the capital, the Monument is worth a long visit to see all the wonders of its architecture and history!

Watch our video and let yourself be enchanted by another beauty of Portugal!

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