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Monastère des Hiéronymites - Lisbonne

The Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon

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Head to the Belém district, to the west of Lisbon! The UNESCO-listed Jerónimos Monastery—known locally as Mosteiro dos Jerónimos—is a must-see for anyone exploring the Portuguese capital.

All aboard, adventurers!

⚠️ The Jerónimos Monastery’s popularity means you might face incredibly long lines at the entrance. To save time, it’s wise to book your visit ahead of time:
Get your skip-the-line tickets for the Jerónimos Monastery

Inside this guide:
> A short history of the monastery
> Exploring the monastery
> Visitor tips

💡 The Captain’s Tips 💡

🧐 Interested in delving into Lisbon’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. The tip you leave is entirely up to you!

💤 Searching for a hotel or an apartment in Lisbon? Be sure to check out this selection of accommodations known for their great value for money.

A Short History of the Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)

Before we dive into our tour of the monastery, let’s take a moment, if you’d like, to explore its rich and extensive history!

The Origins of Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery

Step back in time to the 15th century, an era marked by grand maritime explorations. Names of navigators like the iconic Vasco da Gama evoke tales of adventure and discovery.

In 1496, King Manuel I of Portugal commissioned a grand monastery for the Order of Saint Jerome, also known as the Hieronymite Order. This monastery was to rise on the grounds of a modest hermitage established earlier in the century by Prince Henry the Navigator, one of Portugal’s most influential figures in seafaring history.

Interestingly, the Order of Saint Jerome is originally Spanish, which might raise eyebrows considering the historically tense relations between Portugal and Spain. Yet, this was precisely why King Manuel I chose them in a symbolic move aimed at gaining the goodwill of the Spanish rulers.

He tasked the Hieronymite monks with daily prayers for the seafarers, himself, and his heirs. Additionally, these monks provided counsel to sailors and took their confessions, playing a crucial role in the maritime community.

The Construction of Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery

Construction of the Jerónimos Monastery kicked off in 1502 and stretched over a century, a monumental endeavor largely financed by a levy on the lucrative spice trade.

The initial phase was overseen by Portuguese architect Diogo Boitaca. As decades passed, the baton was passed to a succession of architects including João de Castilho, Nicolas Chantereine, Diogo de Torralva, and Jerónimo de Ruão. The monastery’s architectural fusion of Gothic, Plateresque, Renaissance, and classical styles showcases the varied influences brought by each of these master builders.

Jerónimos Monastery - cloister - Bélem

The Jerónimos Monastery and The Pasteis de Nata (aka Pasteis de Belém)

Fun fact! Within the historic walls of the Jerónimos Monastery, the beloved Pasteis de Nata first came into being. These delightful pastries have since become a symbol of Portuguese culinary tradition.

According to popular lore, the monks originally used egg whites to starch their robes, which left them with an abundance of unused egg yolks. Innovatively, they came up with a delicious solution: the creation of the now-famous Pasteis de Nata.

Nowadays, the Pastelaria de Belém alone holds the original recipe for Pasteis de Nata, exactly as they were crafted by the monastery’s monks. This closely guarded secret is something bakers worldwide long to uncover. Culinary aficionados assert that no other Pastel de Nata even comes close to matching its excellence!

The Monastery Across the Centuries

While the 1755 earthquake laid waste to much of Lisbon, the Jerónimos Monastery was, by some miracle, largely spared.

Yet, it suffered significant damage fifty years later during the occupation by British troops under Wellington, who were defending against Napoleon’s forces.

In 1834, the monastery’s Hieronymite monks were ousted, and the building served as an orphanage up until the 1940s. The adjoining Church of Santa Maria de Belém transitioned to serving as a regular parish church for the Belém community.

Recognized for its historical significance, the Jerónimos Monastery was declared a national monument in 1907 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

💡 Fun Fact 💡

The Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed by the European Union member states’ heads of state, found a historic setting in the Jerónimos Monastery in 2007.

Exploring the Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)

As a stunning example of Manueline architecture, the Jerónimos Monastery rightly stands as one of the nation’s most iconic landmarks. Come along—let’s explore!

The South Portal

Before you step inside the monastery, pause to marvel at the magnificent south portal of the building.

Crafted by architect João de Castilho, the south portal is a rich tapestry of decorative elements, statues, and bas-reliefs, featuring prominent figures such as Henry the Navigator — considered a forerunner of the great explorations — and Saint Jerome.

It’s said that building the portal took nearly two years to complete!

💡 Fun Fact 💡

In architectural terms, ‘portal’ denotes an entrance or grand door, frequently embellished with intricate decorations. This term is used to describe the main access point of buildings such as churches, palaces, or monasteries.

The Cloister

The cloister at the Jerónimos Monastery is a masterpiece of Manueline architecture and stands as a serene retreat from Lisbon’s bustling streets. This square courtyard, measuring 55 meters on a side and encircled by galleries, feels like a step out of time.

The structure is two-storied: the ground floor, a blend of late Gothic and Renaissance styles, was crafted by Diogo Boitaca. The upper level, designed by João de Castilho, features a simpler, less elaborate style.

Be sure to see the beautifully crafted doors of the confessionals on the lower level. Additionally, the cloister is the final resting place of Fernando Pessoa, an iconic Portuguese poet and a cornerstone of Portuguese literature.

The Chapter House and the Refectory

Located off the cloister, the Chapter House and the Refectory are not to be missed.

Chapter House
This room is notable for housing the tomb of Alexandre Herculano, a renowned Portuguese Romantic writer and former mayor of Belém.

Adorned with exquisite 18th-century mosaics, the refectory served as the dining area where monks gathered to eat their meals in silence.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos - refectory

The Church of Santa Maria

The church, part of the Jerónimos Monastery complex, showcases a rich tapestry of architectural styles, mixing Gothic, Baroque, Manueline, and Mannerist influences.

The west portal, ensconced beneath a 19th-century porch, was crafted by Nicolas Chantereine, a sculptor of French descent renowned for his impact on Portuguese architectural legacy.

Upon entering, take a moment at the entrance to admire the two lavishly adorned tombs flanking the central aisle. Here lie Vasco da Gama, the legendary Portuguese navigator, and Luís Vaz de Camões, a seminal 16th-century Portuguese poet.

Fashioned like a colossal hall, the Church of Santa Maria stands out for its six towering Manueline columns that uphold its expansive vault—an awe-inspiring sight!

Highlights to look for include:

  • The royal tombs situated within the transept arms and the church choir
  • The silver tabernacle crafted in the early 17th century

The Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Archaeology

Located in the west wing of the Jerónimos Monastery, this part of the building is home to two distinguished museums: the Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Archaeology.

Maritime Museum
This museum boasts an extensive collection of ship models, small craft, and all sorts of maps. Interactive exhibits also immerse visitors in the era of Portuguese maritime exploration.

National Museum of Archaeology
Established in the 19th century, this museum possesses Portugal’s largest archaeological collection, with artifacts ranging from the Paleolithic period to the Middle Ages. However, it might not be essential viewing if you’re pressed for time in Lisbon.

💡 Tip: Entry to both museums is free on the morning of the first Sunday of each month.

Visitor Tips

Getting to the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém

To reach the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, make your way to the Belém district, on the western side of the capital. You have several transportation options from downtown Lisbon:

  • Train: Catch the Cascais Line to Belém station, then enjoy a 15-minute walk.
  • Bus: Board lines 728, 729, or 714.
  • Tram: Take Line 15E directly to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos stop.

👍 Insider Tip 👍

Hop-on hop-off tourist buses also make stops near the Monastery. These are an excellent option for touring the capital and visiting its landmark sites, particularly if you prefer not to walk long distances or are traveling with children.

The ticket includes an audioguide, available in multiple languages, providing engaging commentary and interesting anecdotes as you explore!

Jerónimos Monastery Hours of Operation

The Jerónimos Monastery has seasonal operating hours:

  • October to April: Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM | Ticket office closes at 5:00 PM
  • May to September: Open daily from 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM | Ticket office closes at 6:00 PM

The Monastery is closed on specific holidays: January 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, and June 13.

Visit Duration for Jerónimos Monastery

Allocate approximately one hour to explore both the Jerónimos Monastery and the Church of Santa Maria de Belém.

Jerónimos Monastery Tickets

Entry to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos costs 10 euros for a standard ticket, with free admission for children under 12.

⚠️ Heads up! The Monastery is a top draw in Lisbon, and lines to get in can be incredibly long. That’s why Captain Ulysses strongly advises you to reserve a skip-the-line ticket well ahead of time!

👉 Secure your skip-the-line tickets for the Jerónimos Monastery

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👍 Insider Tip 👍

The Lisboa Card also offers entry to the Jerónimos Monastery.

This pass grants unlimited use of Lisbon’s public transportation and includes admission to 39 attractions like the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower, National Azulejo Museum, and the Santa Justa Lift.

👉 Reserve your Lisboa Card

👍 Save Time! Book Your Visits & Activities in Advance!

😴 Find Your Accommodation in Lisbon!

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