An elegant example of Manueline architecture & design, discover why the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos has been a source of national pride for over 500 years.
The Hieronymites—a religious order dedicated to scholarly St. Jerome—quickly grew after forming in 1373. King Manuel I received Papal permission to establish a Jerónimos monastery in Belém… at the same time as he organized an expedition to discover the ocean route to India. Fate or faith? The successful voyage of Vasco da Gama, divinely linked to the monastery, inspired the king to give its monks 5% of all taxes on the spice trade. This beautiful monastery was the result.
Manuel I unfortunately did not live to see its completion; however, he requested to be buried at the church’s main altar. His son & heir, João III, fulfilled his father’s wishes & converted the church into a royal pantheon. In turn João III’s son, a Cardinal-King, would also be buried there in addition to his grandson Sebastião—killed in a crusade against Muslims in Morocco without leaving a successor!
The end of a royal dynasty plus centuries of political turmoil left the monastery in neglect, & it survived the 1755 earthquake with little damage. But the worst was yet to come… Napoleon invaded & defending British troops used the monastery as a military hospital, causing serious damage. Soon after, growing liberalism in Portugal expropriated the monks & the monastery’s fate hung by a thread.
Improvements—better termed “demolition”—occurred but some parts were left untouched. For almost a century a mega-orphanage occupied the monastery, & many works of art were lost, stolen or destroyed. Over time, politicians remembered the historical significance of the mosteiro. Portugal even signed the treaty to join the European Union in its cloister. Painstaking restoration, completed in 2002, made the monastery shine like new.
Detailed maps of the entire complex both past & present, a family tree of Manuel I’s descendants with easy-to-follow explanations, a map of how Portugal discovered the spice trade routes & cut out the middleman, plus original artwork & research.
Through 19 points of interest, this guided walk discusses history in detail, the unique architecture of the monastery, how it changed over the centuries, & provides biographies of all the important figures buried inside: explorer Vasco da Gama, poet laureate Luís de Camões, historian Alexandre Herculano & poet Fernando Pessoa.
Sample sheets below demonstrate the guide’s general layout: