Located in the Belém district of Lisbon, Portugal, The Hieronymites Monastery or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is one of the most magnificent monuments in Lisbon. It has been classified as a world heritage site.
Pedra lioz, a local gold-colored limestone has been used for its construction. Sufficient funds provided by taxes on eastern spices allowed its architects to think big. Designed by Diogo de Boitaca, this building is built in the Manueline style. Diogo de Boitaca built the church, the monastery, the sacristy, and the refectory. Nicolau Chanterene’s Renaissance themes added depth to the building. Several other sculptors’ have also left their mark upon the building.
The monastery also has great historical significance since the Treaty of Lisbon was signed here.
Boitac built the groin vaults with wide arches and windows with tracery resting on delicate mullions in the monastery. João de Castilho finished the construction and he gave a classical overlay to the lower storey and the building a more recessed upper storey.
Castilho decorated the outer walls of the inner courtyard in Plateresco style while he made the inner walls rich with Manueline motives, and European, Moorish and eastern elements.
The renaissance style can be witnessed in the round arches and the horizontal structure while an incorporation of the Spanish architecture is also evident.
Tombs of several important men of history are found here. Several azulejos tiles from the 17th century are found in the refactory. Its decorative ornamentation and the dynastic symbolic motives, such as the armillarium, coat-of-arms, and the cross from the Order of Christ, show the growing world power of Portugal.
Castilho also designed the grand main entrance to the church of Santa Maria. Its south portal is large and features an abundance of gables, pinnacles, many carved figures standing under a baldachin in exquisitely carved niches, around a statue of Henry the Navigator, standing on a pedestal between the two doors.
Two scenes from the life of Saint Jerome in half-relief are displayed on the tympanum, above the double door. The coat-of-arms of King Manuel I is carved between these two scenes. A statue of the Archangel Michael stands on top of The Madonna of Belém which stands on a pedestal on top of the archivolt. On top of the portal stands the cross of the Order of Christ.
This western portal marks a transition from the Gothic style to Renaissance. the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Epiphany is depicted by the tympanum. Upon the archivolt we can see two angels, holdings the arms of Portugal. statues, including that of the king Manuel I and his second wife Maria of Aragón and patron saints St. Jeronimos and John the Baptist are displayed on either side of the portal. Little angels holding the coat-of-arms and, at the side of the king, an armillary sphere and, at the side of the queen, three blooming twigs are also found.
The retaining walls and the unique single-span ribbed vault, a combination of stellar vaulting and tracery vaults was completed by Castilho. The transversal vault of the transept lacks any piers or columns and gives the viewer the impression as if it floats in the air. Six high, slender, articulated, octagonal columns with refined grotesque or floral motives announcing the Renaissance style decorate its halls.
Manueline altars, decorated with carved work in golden and green colors, dating from the 16th and the 17th centuries stands at the end of the side aisles and on both sides of the choir. A statue of St. Jerome in multi-colored enameled terracotta is carved upon one of these.
The royal tombs rest on marble elephants and are set between Ionic pillars. The tombs belonging to King Manuel I and his wife Maria of Aragon are found on the left while on the right are tombs belonging to King João III and his wife Queen Catherine of Habsburg. The church also has the stone tombs of Vasco da Gama (1468–1523), and of the great poet and recorder of the discoveries, Luís de Camões (1527–1570).
Thus, this monastery is not only grand in its appearance but also has great historic importance. It is a building to behold and a place to always be remembered. It is one of the main tourist attractions of Lisbon.