The jewel in the crown

The history of the Jerónimos Monastery

One of the most emblematic monuments of the Portuguese Age of Discovery, Jerónimos Monastery has over 500 years of history.

‏‏‎ Main Gate (1517)Jerónimos Monastery

The history of this monastery dates from 1496 when a request was sent by D. Manuel I to the Holy See for authorisation to build a large monastery on the banks of the Tagus just outside Lisbon.

On the left hand-side of the main entrance, the oldest remaining depiction of D. Manuel I can be found.

One of Manuel's motives for building the Jerónimos Monastery almost certainly has to do with his desire to have a pantheon for the Avis-Beja dynasty, of which he was the first monarch.

‏‏‎ Tomb of Vasco da GamaJerónimos Monastery

The construction work commenced in 1501 and was completed roughly one century later. Manuel I channelled huge amounts of money into the work. A sizeable part of the "pepper tax" revenue, a 5% levy on income from trade with Africa and the Orient, or the equivalent of 70 kg of gold per year, was used to finance the project.

This sculpted relief work on Vasco da Gama's tomb depicts a caravel, the type of ship used by Portuguese explorers during the 16th Century.

South Portal (16th century) by João de Castilho and Diogo de BoitacaJerónimos Monastery

The building has a façade that extends for more than three hundred metres, following a principle of horizontality that gives it a harmonious and relaxing physiognomy. It was built in limestone extracted in the nearby sites of Ajuda, Rio Seco, Alcântara, Laveiras and Tercena.

Jerónimos Monastery - view of the cloister (16th century) by Diogo de Boitaca, João de Castilho, and Diogo de TorralvaJerónimos Monastery

Given the grandeur of the design and sumptuousness of execution, there were several successive works campaigns overseen by several different master builders: Diogo de Boitaca, João de Castilho, Diogo de Torralva and Jerónimo de Ruão are some of the names recorded who left their indelible marks on the complex.

‏‏‎ South Portal - detailJerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is generally considered to be the "jewel in the crown" of Manueline architecture, incorporating both Late Gothic and Renaissance elements and blending regal, Christian and naturalist symbols in its design details to make it a unique and outstanding work.

Saint Jerome (1640/1645) by José de Avelar RebeloJerónimos Monastery

Manuel chose the Order of St. Jerome, or Hieronymites, to occupy the Monastery.

Their monks' role, amongst other things, was to pray for the soul of the monarch and provide spiritual assistance to the seafarers and navigators who departed from the Restelo shorefront to discover new worlds.

Tabernacle (c.1675) by João de SousaJerónimos Monastery

One of the most important donations to the Jerónimos Monastery was made by Afonso VI and his brother Pedro in return for success at the Battle of Montes Claros in 1665, which put an end to the War of Restoration.

Thus, in 1675, Pedro, as Regent, delivered the grandiose silver tabernacle, the work of the silversmith João de Sousa, which was placed behind the high altar.

‏‏‎ Tomb of Vasco da GamaJerónimos Monastery

With a view to marking the 4th centennial of the arrival of Vasco de Gama in India in 1898 the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões, both created by the sculptor Costa Mota, were placed in the southern side chapel.

‏‏‎ Tomb of Luís de CamõesJerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery - aerial view (1995)Jerónimos Monastery

In 1983, the importance of the Monastery in the history of humanity is recognised by UNESCO who classifies it as a World Heritage Site.

Credits: Story

Coordination: Isabel Cruz de Almeida (Director, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)

Jerónimos Monastery

Digital Production:
Luis Ramos Pinto (Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, Portugal)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps