Lisbon, Portugal

Mosterio des Jerónimos, Lisbon, Portugal

The Monastery of the Hieronymite order stands in the Belém district of Lisbon. It is one of the most important buildings in Portugal.

A hermitage was founded here by Henry the Navigator around 1450. Here Vasco de Gama and his men prayed before setting off for India in 1497. When de Gama returned it was decided to rebuild the hermitage in celebration.

The order was given by Manuel I and the style of architecture was to take his name – Manueline Gothic. Work began in 1502, funded in part by a tax on spices. The initial architect was Diogo de Boitaca who built the church, monastery, sacristy and refectory. After his death he was succeeded by Spaniard João de Castilho who was responsible for the elaborate carving that covers pretty much every available surface inside and outside the Monastery.

King Manuel I died in 1521 and work stopped until 1550 when Diogo de Torralva restarted construction and he was succeeded by Jerome de Rouen in 1571.

When Spain and Portugal joined together in 1580 work finished once more as the Escorial Palace in Spain drained all the resources previously being used on the Monastery.

The Great Earthquake caused only minimal damage to the Monastery – one advantage of not being on a hill like most of the rest of Lisbon. However, in 1833 religious orders were abolished in Portugal and the building remained empty for many years, suffering deterioration to the point of collapse.

Fortunately the early 20th Century saw a renewal of interest in Portugal’s golden age and renovation work was begun. In 2007 the Monastery saw the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, starting off a process of reform of the EU.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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