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Discovering the Magnificence of Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon


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## Introduction

Lisbon, the vibrant capital city of Portugal, is home to several culturally significant and historical landmarks. Among these, the Jeronimos Monastery stands out as one of the most captivating and iconic attractions. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastery was constructed in the 16th century to commemorate the extraordinary voyage of Vasco da Gama to India. This architectural masterpiece serves as a testament to Portugal’s rich history and cultural heritage. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the Jeronimos Monastery, exploring its fascinating history, stunning architecture, and notable highlights that make it a must-visit destination.

A Brief History of Jeronimos Monastery

The story of the Jeronimos Monastery begins in 1496 when King Manuel I of Portugal sought permission from the pope to build a grand monastery in Belém, a district in western Lisbon. This request was made as a gesture of gratitude to the Virgin Mary for guiding Vasco da Gama and his crew on their successful voyage to India. Construction of the monastery began shortly after receiving the papal approval, and it would take over a century to complete.

To fund the construction, King Manuel I introduced a “pepper” tax on commerce with Asia and Africa. Additionally, treasures acquired during voyages to these regions were bartered for funds. The building’s grandeur and intricate details were a testament to Portugal’s newfound wealth and power during the Age of Discovery.

The monastery was initially occupied by the Order of Saint Jerome, also known as Hieronymite monks. Their main responsibilities included praying for the king and offering spiritual guidance to sailors departing from and returning to Belém. The monks carried out these duties for over four centuries until 1833 when religious orders were disbanded, and the monastery was left abandoned.

The Architecture of Jeronimos Monastery

Jeronimos Monastery is renowned for its exquisite Manueline architecture, a unique Portuguese style that combines elements of Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance design. The monastery’s façade, made of limestone, stretches for over 300 meters and features intricate stone carvings and maritime motifs symbolic of Portugal’s maritime prowess.

One of the most striking features of the monastery is its main entrance, which stands 32 meters tall and 12 meters wide. The interior boasts a vast open space, flooded with natural light that highlights the elaborate stone pillars and arches. The double-tier cloisters, with their ornate stonework and delicate details, provide a serene and peaceful atmosphere for visitors to explore.

Exploring Jeronimos Monastery

The Church of Santa Maria

The Church of Santa Maria, located within the Jeronimos Monastery, is a major highlight of the complex. Its stunning exterior showcases Manueline-style architecture with intricate stone carvings, rib vaults, and beautiful stained-glass windows. Designed by João de Castilho, the rib vaults are particularly noteworthy for their unique and innovative design. The grand arches, soaring ceilings, and other architectural elements of the Church of Santa Maria leave visitors in awe of its magnificence.

The Cloisters

The four-story cloisters of Jeronimos Monastery are a sight to behold. Built in the early 16th century by Diogo de Boitaca and later enhanced by João de Castilho, the cloisters showcase the finest examples of Manueline architecture. The white marble columns, delicate arches, and serene garden create a tranquil and captivating atmosphere. Don’t miss the fountain in the shape of a lion and the tomb of the renowned poet Fernando Pessoa within the cloisters.

Monument to the Discoveries

The Monument to the Discoveries, located near Jeronimos Monastery, pays tribute to the great Portuguese explorers who played a significant role in the country’s rise to power. This modern monument, built in the 20th century, features sculptures and carvings representing important figures from Portugal’s history of exploration. Visitors can learn about Portugal’s rich maritime heritage and the remarkable achievements of explorers like Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan.

Tomb of Vasco da Gama

The tomb of Vasco da Gama, the legendary Portuguese explorer, can be found within the Church of Santa Maria at Jeronimos Monastery. Da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea, and his voyage marked a significant milestone in world history. The tomb, located in the chancel of the church, serves as a testament to his extraordinary achievements and allows visitors to pay their respects to this remarkable historical figure.


The Refectory of Jeronimos Monastery is a historic dining hall that dates back to the 16th century. It was used as a communal eating space for the monks. Inside, visitors can admire the beautiful stone arches, carved wooden ceilings, and azulejo panels, which add a touch of grandeur to the room. Exploring the Refectory provides a glimpse into the daily lives of the monks and the historical significance of communal dining.

Chapter House

The Chapter House of Jeronimos Monastery is another noteworthy attraction. Construction of this room began in the 1500s and was completed in the 19th century. The vaulted ceiling and interior decorations, added later, captivate visitors with their intricate details. The frescoes, dating back to the 16th century, depict scenes from the life of St. Jerome, offering a glimpse into the monk’s devotion and contemplative practices.


The Library within Jeronimos Monastery is a treasure trove of ancient knowledge. Visitors can explore centuries-old books and manuscripts, including a rare edition of the works of Camões, one of Portugal’s greatest poets. The Library also hosts a permanent exhibition called “A Place in Time,” which delves into the monastery’s history and its significance to Portugal and the world.

South Portal

Jeronimos Monastery’s South Portal is a true masterpiece of Manueline architecture. The entrance features a 32-meter door designed by João de Castilho. The ornate stonework, embedded figurines, and statues of notable figures such as Henry the Navigator and St. Jerome make the South Portal a visual delight. It serves as a testament to Portugal’s rich cultural heritage and the skill of the craftsmen who created it.

Plan Your Visit to Jeronimos Monastery

Visiting Jeronimos Monastery is a truly enriching experience that allows you to immerse yourself in Portugal’s history and marvel at its architectural brilliance. Here are some essential details to help you plan your visit:

Opening Hours and Tickets

Jeronimos Monastery is open to visitors throughout the year, but it is important to check the specific opening hours before your visit. You can purchase tickets online or at the ticket office on-site. Online tickets offer the advantage of skipping the queue and may also provide discounts. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Nearby Attractions

While visiting Jeronimos Monastery, take the opportunity to explore other nearby attractions in the Belém district. Some notable sites include the iconic Belém Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the enchanting Pastéis de Belém pastry shop, where you can indulge in the famous Portuguese custard tarts.


Jeronimos Monastery is a true gem in the heart of Lisbon, showcasing Portugal’s rich history, cultural heritage, and architectural brilliance. A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an absolute must for anyone traveling to the city. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Church of Santa Maria, stroll through the captivating cloisters, and pay tribute to the legendary explorer Vasco da Gama. Jeronimos Monastery offers a glimpse into Portugal’s glorious past and a unique opportunity to appreciate its artistic and historical treasures. Don’t miss the chance to explore this remarkable monument and create lasting memories of your trip to Lisbon.

For an unforgettable experience at Jeronimos Monastery and other incredible destinations in Lisbon, consider booking the “Full-Day Best of Lisbon City Highlights Private Tour” offered by Portugal Magik. This tour offers a comprehensive exploration of the city’s major highlights, providing expert guidance and transportation to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience. Discover the wonders of Lisbon with Portugal Magik and make your trip truly unforgettable. Book your tour now at








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