Jeronimos Monastery

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.

Jeronimos Monastery – side door of the Church

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.

Jeronimos Monastery Church

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
Jeronimos Monastery – cloister

Trivia:

  • 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

Philippa of Lancaster

Philippa of Lancaster is the only female figure in Monument to Discoveries. Navigation voyages in the 15th and 16th centuries were essentially a male subject, but the authors of the Monument to the Discoveries in Belem also wanted to choose a figure to honor the female universe and they could not have chosen better.

Belem – Monument to the Discoveries

Philippa of Lancaster (1360-1415) was one of the most influential women of her time. Queen of Portugal, granddaughter of Edward III of England, daughter of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, mother of Prince Henry the navigator and great-grandmother of Emperor Maximilian of the Holy Roman Empire, she has in her descendants all the royal houses in Europe. Philipa of Lancaster, who was said to “gave birth with British punctuality” was the mother of an extraordinary generation of princes and princesses, whom Camões called “outstanding offspring“.

Belem - Philippa of Lancaster
Belem – Philippa of Lancaster

At a time when queens were expected to be little interventionist and die young, Philippa began as a patron of the arts, founded a literary circle and maintained correspondence with important figures in Portuguese and English societies. When she was 38 years old, on the occasion of her father’s death, she headed the Portuguese delegation to the funeral ceremonies, taking advantage of the occasion to maintain important contacts that led to the deepening of the Treaty of Windsor (1386), the oldest agreement of friendship and mutual aid between sovereign nations, still in force.

Despite not having been born in Portugal, the Portuguese see her as one of the greatest figures in their history and are proud that her mortal remains have found eternal rest in the founder’s chapel in the monastery of Batalha, next to João I.

Sao Pedro Alcantara

Each major viewpoint of Lisbon (Sao Pedro Alcântara, Senhora do Monte and Santa Luzia) has each one it’s own fan club, each one is outstanding, but São Pedro Alcantara is my favorite. From Sao Pedro Alcantara Viewpoint, you can get a “postcard like” view over old Lisbon.

On the top of the confronting hill you can see Viewpoint of Senhora do Monte and after that, left to right, there is the imposing convent and Church of Graça, the the pinnacle of Pantheon, the twined towers of Saint Vincent, Saint George Castle and in the far right, the Cathedral. Santa Luzia viewpoint and Alfama cannot be seen because they are hidden by the castle.

Sao Pedro Alcantara Viewpoint
View from São Pedro de Alcântara

Closer to the viewpoint there is the quarter of Mouraria and the valley represented by Avenida da Liberdade.

According to the atmospheric conditions, time of year and even time of day, S. Pedro Alcantara offer different and distinct views. In sunny days, the best view is offered one hour before the sunset when the castle hill appears illuminated.

São Pedro de Alcantara garden
São Pedro de Alcantara garden

The name is given by Convent of Sao Pedro de Alcantara (17th century). The closer quarter is Bairro Alto and a little more far away is Chiado. Nearby points of interest are funicular of Glória and Saint Roque (Rock) Church.

Viewpoint of Sao Pedro Alcantara is included in tour Chiado/Bairro Alto.