Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower are the Unesco Heritage sites of Lisbon.
Once Upon a time… a beach next to the village of Restelo on the right bank of the Tagus, close to where the river meets the Atlantic. During the 15th century and particularly after the conquest of Ceuta (1415) this area became the point of departure and arrival for fleets that year after year set out to reconnoiter the African coast. The maritime activity also brought the construction and reconstruction of ships and all the logistics associated with it.
The great mentor of this activity was Prince Henry the navigator, who in 1452 ordered the construction of the Chapel of Our Lady of Bethlehem (“Belem” in Portuguese), from which the name of the place derived. The objective was to provide religious services to sailors and to the new local community.
The navigators Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral and their crews held vigils in the Chapel of Our Lady of Bethlehem, before embarking on the voyages that took them to India (1497) and Brazil (1500).
In 1496, King Manuel asked the Pope for permission to build a large monastery to replace the Chapel. In 1498 the future Monastery was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome.
The construction of the Jeronimos Monastery began in 1502 and lasted for about a hundred years. The architect who conceived the original project was Diogo de Boitaca. Like the neighboring Belem Tower, the architectural style is Manueline, characterized by exuberant decoration in elements of nature.
The Jeronimos Monastery is the symbol translated into stone of the Portuguese epic in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was chosen by king Manuel as his eternal resting place, as well as his descendants.
In 1983, the Jeronimos Monastery was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What can you see:
- free visit – the south exterior façade, the magnificent side portal of the Church, the main portal and the Church with the tomb of the poet Camóes on the right side of those who enter and the navigator Vasco da Gama on the opposite side – recommended duration: 15 minutes
- paid visit – everything included in the free visit plus the cloister, the monastic areas and access to the choir for a higher level view of the Church – recommended duration: 30 minutes
- the surfaces facing the Tagus (where visitors enter and leave Lisbon by sea) are much more decorated than all the others. For example, the side portal of the Church is incomparably more decorated than the main one.
- the value of 5% of the crown’s revenues from the spice trade was attributed to the works of the Monastery. This value corresponded in the 16th century to an annual value of about 70 kg of gold.
- before the regularization of the banks of the Tagus, the river came much closer to the Monastery than it currently is.
- the Monastery was designed for 100 friars
- Pastéis de Belém originated in the kitchens of the Monastery
Visiting hours (self guided): 10:00 am – 5:30 pm from October to April and 6:30 pm from May to September (last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closing: Mondays and January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, June 13th and December 25th. On Sunday morning visits are limited by the occurrence of religious services
Entrance ticket: 10€ (free up to 12 years old). The ticket office is located at the entrance of the Archeology Museum