After the wonderful visit to the Coach Museum in Belem, I couldn’t help but trot off to the Jeronimos Monastery… Often at the top of Lisbon’s guides and personal must-see lists, the monastery, a fine flagship of the manueline style, has impressed and taken many a breath away for hundreds of years.
The structure is deeply connected with Portugal’s History. It was built at the end of the 15th century, on the order of King Manuel I, thanks to the gold that Vasco de Gama brought back from his explorations. The manueline architecture calls back to those voyages, incorporating maritime elements as well as influences drawing from Indian Temples.
It took 100 years to complete the construction. It was then inhabitated by the monks of the order of Saint Jerome. They were appointed for the sole pupose of comforting sailors and praying for the King’s soul. Despite their busy spiritual agenda, they also managed to fit time in to invent only the most delicious pastry in the Universe: the famous pasteis de nata, Lisbon’s celebrated custard tarts.
In 1833, the monastery was turned into an orphanage and a school and while I was walking under the honey-coloured stoned arcades, I couldn’t help but thinking it must have felt like an epic Portuguese version of Hogwarts back then.
Top Tip: If you’re on a tight budget, don’t overlook a visit to the monastery as the entrance to the annexed church, Santa Maria, is free (and I may have preferred it to the cloister but shhhh…)
Appropriately, Santa Maria Church holds the tomb of Vasco de Gama as well as the most beautiful religious icons I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. The craftmanship is outstanding. But that aside, I think the most important thing you must do once you step inside is to look up… holy guacamole, that ceiling…
Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos)
Praça do Império
Train: Belém Station (Cascais Line)
Bus: 28, 714, 728, 729, 751
Opening Hours: 10am – 5.30pm (Oct – May) / 10am – 6.30pm (May-Sep)
Closed on Mondays, January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st and December 25th
Admission to the cloister: Adults 10€ / Seniors 5€ / Students 5€ / Children <12yo Free / Teenagers <18yo 5€ / Combined passes for Belem’s attractions
Free on the first Sunday of the month and Holidays until 2pm
Admission to Santa Maria Church: Free