O Jerónimos

It was with some hesitation that I scheduled in our visit to the monastery as I had come across numerous reviews mentioning large crowds and even the queue for tickets lasting an hour or more. Not my type of attraction, and certainly not MrB’s, even if it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We decided if there was a ticket queue then we’d simply visit another trip, but to minimise the risk of that happening I planned carefully.  We arrived within 45minutes of the doors opening and took the bus not the tram to Belem. And it worked! Quiet in the cloistersNot only was there no ticket queue but we both got a seat on the bus and the monastery was relatively quiet inside when we arrived.

I was so glad as the monastery is even more extraordinary inside than it is outside, there was even a live angel on a step ladder. I took so many pictures there are going to be a couple more posts, but today I thought I’d focus on the cloisters, the inner quadrangle and of course that angel!

The Monastery began life in the 16th century when an Iberian order of monks – Hieronymite – closely linked to the Portuguese Royal family, transferred to Santa Maria de Belém from a monastery in Sintra. Work on their new chapel – Capela de São Jerónimo – was ongoing and the cloisters were nothing more than plans at the time of their move. Their Refectory though had been completed which probably explains the timing of the move! What I found really fascinating was that in 1524 João III prohibited any construction which may obstruct the view of the monastery from the sea!

Superb planning decision by João III as the view of the monastery from the river are truly stunning. He was also a great international diplomat, and the Portuguese Empire grew significantly during his reign. However his extremely pious beliefs led him also to make many poor decisions – he was the monarch who formally established the Inquisition in Portugal. I was going to share more on the Inquisition portugaise but after Monday’s events in Manchester, I simply feel too sad to reflect on historical and continuing atrocities which are apparently undertaken in the name of ‘religion’. Instead I am going to keep the focus on the beauty of this royal monastery. I know I have a thing about cloisters but these ones are particularly incredible.

The ground floor of the cloister was completed by 1520, and the upper floor completed by 1544. Further work on the cloisters took place in 1570 and the Monastery went under significant changes in the 19th century but most of what you see today in the cloisters is what was originally designed. Amazingly the cloisters were unaffected by the 1755 earthquake.

The detailing of the carvings is stunning. There are fantastic beasts, the natural world, religious symbols and royal imagery. Even UNESCO gets quite excited: Its very rich ornamentation derives from the exuberance typical of Manueline art. No wonder my camera and I got carried away!

The craftsmanship is a testament to the extraordinary power, knowledge and wealth of Portugal in the 16th century. I certainly recommend a visit here, but time your visit well if you really want to appreciate it. I will be back with pictures of the refectory and also the upper choir, but for now I must go. But before I do . . . . . the angel. As you can see he was on a rather large stepladder!

Unfortunately as we are unable to understand Portuguese we were unable to determine the story but it looked like a fabulous performance and certainly brought a smile to my face. As I hope it has to yours!

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

14 thoughts

  1. Angel? I thought it was a decorator 🙂 🙂 Did make me smile though, Becky.
    The cloisters are fabulous! Another of those sights we were deprived of by the pickpocket. 🙁 I guess we will have to go in October, though I rather fancied going south to Jerez. Plenty of time to decide. 🙂

    1. hee hee . . . . .decorators in the north must be Angels of the North!
      They really are, you’ll love them whenever you finally get to see them, whether that be this October or once you properly retire!

  2. I love the Manueline architecture of the building – like you we have hundreds of photos, but didn’t see any angels on our visit!

  3. It is an incredible place to visit in Lisbon. We went the first time we visited Lisbon, about ten years ago and then there were. O queues at all, in fact barely anyone was visiting at all. Last time we went I wanted to revisit as I had enjoyed it so much but as you said tge queues were horrendous and we skipped our attempt. One day we’ll try again, maybe like you did, first thing in the morning.

    1. If only I had discovered Lisbon 10 years ago!!! Mornings do seem to work . . .we went on a Thursday and from what I’ve read that is one of the quieter week days if you do try again one of these days.

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