Tour Locations | Lisbon: The Age of Discovery

  • LOCATION 11 | Lisbon: The Age of Discovery

    The Monastery for the Navigators

    The Monastery for the Navigators  on Lisbon audio tour Lisbon: The Age of Discovery

    Feel free to walk along the Monastery as I tell you about it.

    But let me first show you where to go when you're done.

    You'll need to come back to this spot in front of the Church, and cross back over to the other side of the road. You're aiming for the square that will be just to your right.

    [1.5 SECOND PAUSE]

    Now you're welcome to browse around the Monastery.

    Prince Henry the Navigator ordered the church of St. Mary of Belém to be built here in the mid-1400s. It was where the navigators used to pray before their expeditions.

    Later, in 1501, King Manuel I decided to build a monastery to replace this church that had existed on the same site and chose the Order of St. Jerome to occupy the Monastery.

    The Jerónimos Monastery, as its commonly known, was where the monks of the Order of Christ provided spiritual guidance to the seafarers.

    One of King Manuel's motives for building the Jerónimos Monastery had to do with his desire to have a pantheon for the Avis-Beja dynasty, of which he was the first monarch.

    The Monastery's dedication to the Virgin of Belém was another factor that influenced the king's decision.

    The Monastery is a culmination of the Manueline architecture, built in limestone extracted from quarries close by. Its the most exceptional Portuguese monastic ensemble of its time and one of the main churches of Europe.

    Construction began at the dawn of the 1500s, and continued for the next hundred years. The building of the monastery was led by a remarkable group of architects and masters of works, particularly João de Castilho.

    It is a classified UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are religious symbols, including elements of the Passion of Christ. You'll also find royal ones such as the regal shield, the armillary sphere and the cross of the Military Order of Christ. Lastly, you'll see naturalistic elements such as ropes and vegetal motifs that coexist with a still medieval imaginary of fantastic animals.

    It was in this place that great navigators such as Pedro Álvares Cabral and Vasco da Gama prayed before they left for their epic sea voyages.

    I highly recommend a visit, and would suggest starting with the church. The entrance is free. Inside, you’ll find the tombs of Vasco da Gama and the great poet Camões. From there you can then proceed to the Monastery.

    The Jerónimos cloister is the first of its kind in Portugal, with two vaulted floors and a square plan, with cut corners, forming a virtual octagon.

    After you visit, cross over to the garden in front.

    You can pause the tour while you explore.

    Remember, when you're done or if you prefer to keep moving now, make your way to the front of the church, and cross back over to the opposite side of the road, aiming for the square that will be just to the right of you.

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