The Hieronymite Monastery or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is located in Lisbon’s Belém district. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. You should not miss a visit to the site when you go on a city trip to Lisbon.
Standing in the park of the Praça do Império, it is a particularly beautiful view of the building. The side wings of the 300-metre-long structure now house the Naval Museum and the Archaeological Museum, while the monastery building and the church can be entered from the centre of the structure.
However, I think the best view of the building is from the viewing platform of the seafarers’ monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos on the banks of the Tagus.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – History
King Manuel I laid the foundation stone for the monastery in 1502. It took over seven decades and five architects worked on the construction until the building was finally completed. Despite the quite different master builders, it was possible to create a uniform-looking building with a hall church. However, the monastery building was much larger than originally planned. Thus, a two-storey cloister with a refectory, a chapter house, a sacristy, a west wing (which is 193 metres long) and later a choir were built.
The south portal of the monastery church is impressive at 32 metres high. Between the entrance doors is the figure of Henry the Navigator. Late Gothic pinnacles and round arches from the Renaissance dominate, and you can see ornamental flowers and leaves.
The earthquake of 1755 left hardly any damage to the building. The Hieronymites lived in the monastery until 1834. After that, the monastery became an orphanage, and today it is a museum.
Visit to the monastery church
Visiting the church is free of charge. However, you should be prepared for a longer wait. Every time we walked past, there was a rather long queue in front of the door, but it was always moving.
One enters the church through the west portal. Because the west wing was added later and narrows the entrance to this portal, it appears to be a side entrance to the church.
When you enter the interior of the church, you stand in a high room. The hall is 90 metres long and 27 metres wide. The beautiful net vault is 25 metres high. Filigree-looking columns support it, a masterpiece of construction for the time.
The transept measures 29 x 19 metres and adjoins the nave. Here, the builders have managed to ensure that no pillar has to support the vault.
On the north side is the sarcophagus of the famous navigator Vasco da Gama. He died as viceroy in India in 1524 and was also buried there. Only since 1880 have his mortal remains been given a place in Portugal. In the immediate vicinity below the small choir is the sarcophagus of the poet Luís de Camões.
In the side chapels, the kings, princes and infantes are buried, going back to King D. Manuel I. The monastery and its church are the final resting place of many members of the Portuguese royal family. For example, Manuel I, King of Portugal and John III:, King of Portugal were also buried here.
Apart from the unbelievable height of the church, unfortunately, little impressed me. Perhaps it was because there was little peace and reverence here. People streamed through the church even out of season, talking loudly and showing little consideration for other visitors. We also like to take photos in churches, but we always try not to disturb the actual purpose of the space, which is devotion and peace. Here it was clearly only a place of sightseeing – a pity!
Visit to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
The area of the monastery can only be visited with a previously purchased entrance ticket or free of charge with the LisboaCard. The entrance is on the left side next to the church entrance. There is often not much of a crowd here. However, if you want to enter the church afterwards, you will have to queue up again for the church.
A staircase leads to the cloister of the monastery. The green inner courtyard is surrounded by a beautiful two-storey cloister. I was very impressed by this architecture.
Emblems, figures, plants and animals have been carved out of yellowish sandstone. You will discover something special everywhere, such as strange faces, gargoyles and almost artistically carved out ornaments. But if you look closely, you will also discover the royal coat of arms and the cross of the Knights of Christ.
The columns between the individual openings to the courtyard seem “light” and filigree despite the stone. The design of some elements reminds me a little of the palaces we saw in Morocco.
In the north-west corner of the cloister today stands the lion fountain, which for many years stood in the middle of the courtyard.
During your visit to the monastery, you can also visit the former refectory. Here, the tiles on the walls, which date back to the 18th century, are particularly impressive.
In another room is a sarcophagus in which Eduardo Augusto da Silva, a writer, poet, historian was buried in 1887.
Praça do Império
Tuesday – Sunday:
9.30 – 18 h
Monday and 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May and 25 December
Entrance fees monastery:
Discounts are available. Free admission with the LisboaCard.
Entrance fees church: