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Jerónimos Monastery History: A Timeless Tale of Architecture and Culture

The Jerónimos Monastery began as a monastery belonging to the Order of Saint Jerome. Originally a church constructed in 1495, the monastery was built in the Portuguese Gothic Manueline architectural style. Over the years, the monastery has become one of the most visited attractions in Lisbon, as tourists marvel at the beautiful architecture and learn more about its history.

About Jerónimos Monastery

About Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is regarded as one of the most stellar examples of Portuguese architecture. It is the final resting place of many famous Portuguese personalities like Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, King Manuel I and King John III of Portugal. It took more than 100 years to complete the construction of the monastery. You will find many themes in the structure, including Renaissance, as many artists contributed to making the Jerónimos Monastery. 

Over the years, the monastery survived significant damages but stood strong through the centuries. Many restoration works were held to protect the original construction material used that gave the monastery its elegant look. Till today, events of historical importance are held inside the Jerónimos Monastery, like the Treaty of Lisbon signed on 13th December 2007.

Jerónimos Monastery Timeline

  • 1495: The Church of Santa Maria de Belém is inaugurated as the resting place for House of Aviz members.
  • 1501: On 6th January 1501, under King Manuel’s leadership, the construction of the Jerónimos Monastery began.
  • 1517: Diogo de Boitaca, the original architect of the monastery, was replaced by Juan de Castillo. He changed the architectural style to Spanish Plateresque.
  • 1521: Construction of the Jerónimos Monastery is temporarily halted after the passing of King Manuel.
  • 1604: King Philip of Spain declares the monastery as the royal funeral monument, only accessible to royal family members and monks.
  • 1720: Henrique Ferriera is commissioned to paint portraits of different kings in Portugal for the Sala dos Reis (Hall of the Kings).
  • 1755: The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 damaged the balustrade and the high choir. 
  • 1894: Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões’s tombs are restored in the southern lateral chapel by renowned sculptor Costa Mota.
  • 1963: The western wing of the monastery is converted into the Maritime Museum.
  • 2007: The Treaty of Lisbon is signed at the monastery on 13th December 2007

History of Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery 15th Century

15th Century

The monastery was built on an existing church dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém. Its purpose was to assist seafarers who passed the area and were maintained by the monks belonging to the Order of Christ religious order. The church was inaugurated by King Manuel, with plans to expand the grounds into a monastery. In 1507, the construction of the monastery began, which would go on for 100 years. The Holy See was given the task of the construction, and they roped in architect Diogo de Boitaca to design the monastery. He used an architectural style that came to be known as Manueline. 

Jerónimos Monastery 16th Century

16th Century

King Manuel funded the whole project from the riches collected via taxes and spice import. Owing to the heavy amount of funds available, the architect was given complete freedom to come up with extravagant design patterns. The key construction material used was a golden limestone called calcário de lioz. In 1517, Spaniard Juan de Castillo took over the construction and designing, changing the Manueline style to Platereqsue architectural style. Silverware was added to the decorations of the monastery, along with sculptures at the main chapel and the choir. You will see a lot of Renaissance influence in architecture, which dates back to this time period.

Jerónimos Monastery 17th Century

17th Century

As Spain and Portugal became one Portuguese Empire, a construction process was draining the funds from 1580. After 100 years, the Jerónimos Monastery monastery was completed. King Philip of Spain made the monastery a royal funeral monument, allowing entry to royal members and Hieronymite monks. With the Portuguese independence in 1640, the tombs of many royal members were built within the monastery.

Jerónimos Monastery 18th Century

18th Century

In 1755, an earthquake in Lisbon damaged the high choir and the balustrade. However, the damages were insignificant and were immediately repaired. During this period, painter Henrique Ferreira was commissioned to paint the Kings of Portugal that would be placed in the Sala dos Reis (Hall of the Kings). Golden tiles to the ceilings, frescoes at the staircases and various other additions were made to the monastery.

Jerónimos Monastery 19th Century

19th Century

Restorations works were completed during this time, continuing till 1860 under the supervision of Rafael Silva e Castro, Domingos Parente da Silva and J. Colson. The Jerónimos Monastery underwent a series of remodelling during this time where the Hall of the Kings and other areas of the monastery was demolished. The architects added Italian scenery designs, pyramid-shaped roofs and towers. To commemorate the fourth centenary of Vasco da Gama’s visit to India, sculptor Costa Mota renovated the tombs of the explorer.

Jerónimos Monastery 20th Century

20th Century

Many projects were undertaken during this time. The National Museum of Industry and Commerce was also planned, but it could not be completed. It was replaced by the Ethnological Museum of Portugal. Till 1924, Costa Mota further remodelled the monastery, along with designer Abel Manta and Ricardo Leone. Stained glass windows were added to the structure, refining the design style. President Óscar Carmona was entombed at Sala do Capítulo in the year 1951. In 1963, the Maritime Museum of Portugal was inaugurated in the west wing for people to see treasures found during naval expeditions.

Construction of Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery

Architects Involved

Diogo de Boitaca - The Jerónimos Monastery became Diogo de Boitaca’s best-known work. From 1502 to 1516, Boitaca planned the monastery and dedicated all his time to designing the structure. It would go on to become one of the most important buildings in Portugal.

João de Castilho - Castilho designed the southern portico, which is among the best areas of the monastery. After succeeding Boitaca, he changed the architectural style of the monastery to Spanish Plateresque, with extravagant decor both inside and outside the structure.

Architecture

Architecture

The main architectural style of the Jerónimos Monastery is Manueline, although Castilho introduced the Spanish Plateresque style, which is still visible in different areas of the monastery. Made with golden limestone, the structure is a classic example of Portuguese Gothic Manuline architecture. The style originated in the Portuguese Renaissance and the Age of Discoveries. Its prominent features are lavish decor with themed ornamentation intertwined with traditional style. The Jerónimos Monastery has large arches, frames, frescoes and facades that add to its magnificence. It took more than 100 years to complete the structure, with various remodelling works sanctioned throughout history as different artists contributed towards making it what it is today.

Jerónimos Monastery Today

Since the time it was constructed, the monastery has played a huge role in politics. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed here on 13th December 2007, and it continues to be one of the most important landmarks in Portugal. About 2.5 million people visit the monastery every year to see the final resting place of Vasco da Gama and to witness the architectural marvel that it is. From 1495 till today, the monastery has been at the centre of religion and culture in Lisbon. If you are planning to visit Lisbon, add Jerónimos Monastery to your itinerary and see its enigma with your eyes.




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Frequently Asked Questions About Jerónimos Monastery History

Q. How old is Jerónimos Monastery?

A. With construction starting in 1501 and being completed in 1601, the Jerónimos Monastery is about 522 years old.

Q. Where is Jerónimos Monastery?

A. Jerónimos Monastery is in Lisbon. The official address is Praça do Império, 1400-206 Lisboa, Portugal. You can follow these directions on Google Maps.

Q. What is Jerónimos Monastery famous for?

A. Jerónimos Monastery is famous for its Manueline architectural style and as the final resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama.

Q. Who built Jerónimos Monastery?

A. Jerónimos Monastery was originally designed by architect Diogo de Boitaca. He was succeeded by João de Castilho.

Q. What is the architectural style of Jerónimos Monastery?

A. Jerónimos Monastery is designed in Manueline architecture, with elements of the Spanish Plateresque style.

Q. How much does it cost to visit Jerónimos Monastery?

A. The entrance fee for Jerónimos monastery is €10 for adults, 50% off for senior citizens and free entry for children under 14 years of age.

Q. Are there guided tours explaining Jerónimos Monastery’s history?

A. Yes, there are both guided tours and audio tours to help you understand the history of Jerónimos Monastery.

Q. What is the most interesting fact about Jerónimos Monastery’s history?

A. Jerónimos Monastery is the final resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama.

Q. Who is buried in Jerónimos Monastery?

A. Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, King Manuel I, King John III and many members of the royal family are buried in the monastery.