Also familiarized as the Hieronymites Monastery, in Portugal, the Jeronimos monastery festoons the banks of the Tagus River. This erstwhile monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome personifies Portugal’s potential and prosperity amid the Age of Discovery. The root system for this monastery still stands firm to the ancient foundation of 1502 when King Manuel 1 laid the same on the grounds of a hermitage by Prince Henry. This monastery, glorified for the voyage of acclaimed sailors like Vasco da Gama and his crew, who sought its concurrences before leaving for the eastern lands, was fabricated as a token of gratitude for the Virgin Mary for its triumph. This monastery, sprucing up its Manueline style of architecture, is colonized by the monks of the Order of Saint Jerome, vowing to be the beacon-lights to wavering sailors and appeal for the peace of the king’s soul.

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The Jeronimos Monastery, Portugal. ©

Retracing back the voyage of Gama to unfurl the dazzling riches during the expedition, King Manuel 1 began the construction of a new monastery to vaunt the fresh new treasures. The next century witnessed the steady development of the monastery complex with taxes implied on the imported goods of the east. Architects and sculptors sought this golden opportunity to illustrate cohesively and design the masterpiece sketch of Gothic Manueline architecture.

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The Jeronimos Monastery, Portugal. ©   

The sumptuous treat to the eyes, the enormous shrine-like side portals were designed by Juan de Castilho. The 32 m high and 12 m wide portal showcases a broad spectrum of florid visage, with gables and pinnacles and sculpted baldachin figures between niches. While the tympanum illustrates life sketches from Saint Jerome’s lifestyle, the archivolt parades a long sequence of Manueline elements and symbols. The portal is fringed by huge windows on each side, featuring generously chiseled openings.

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The ornate south portal designed by Castilho., Jeronimos Monastery © Voyage Virtuel   

Structured by Nicolau Chanterene in 1517, the axial portal, the main entrance, showcases a fine-tuning from the Gothic style to Renaissance. Bathed in renaissance elements, namely, angels in the Roman garb, cherubs, details, and the realism of rulers and kings, is what grants royalty to this transition between the church and the ambulatory.

The axial portal at the western end of the monastery. ©

Diogo Boitac extended the church walls beyond the cornices to lay a preliminary base for the three-aisled arch, sheltering five bays under a single vault. A Spanish architect and sculptor, Juan de Castilho, extended his hands for the construction in 1517 to fuse stellar and tracery vaults and bind a unique single-span ribbed vault over the 19m span. The absence of piers and columns for the audacious transverse vault gives the illusion of a floating vault. Castilho ornamented the fragile octagonal columns to personify the grotesque elements of the Renaissance.

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The ribbed vault system at the monastery. ©

Edging towards the side altars, choirs from the 16th and 17th centuries make themselves count. Not only are these spruced by wooden carvings plated with golds and emeralds, but also, one of them showcases the Saint in the humble terracotta. Stately tombs abode on marble elephants set against a backdrop of paradigmatic Corinthian columns.

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The royal tombs against Corinthian pillars at the monastery. ©

The lower choir is bestowed upon by the tombs of Vasco Da Gama (1468-1523) and the great poet Luis de Camoes, chiseled by the 19’s sculptor Costa Mota in sync with the neo-Manueline style.

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The tomb of the sailor,Jeronimos Monastery, Vasco Da Gama. ©

The monastery’s 55m X 55m grid was laid sequentially in a system of groin vaults and wide arches by Boitac. Later, Castilho overlaid the lower floor in classical elements and painted the upper as recessed. Embodied with Plateresque style decor, he exchanged Boitac’s circular pillars for rectangular ones to ease the framing. Colossal buttresses starring broad arches support the Quadra-internal bays, while diagonal arch systems remain flanked by generously ornamented corner bays. Though the internal walls display a dynamic fusion of nautical elements with European, Moorish, Spanish, and Renaissance style, the decor of the external walls of the inner courts’ showcases filigree aspects of the Plateresco style. Tin-glazed ceramic Azulejos styles dating back to the 18th century find themselves placed in the refectory.

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The internal courtyards of the monastery. © World Monuments Fund.
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The internal courtyards of the monastery. ©

The Sacristy, designed as early as the 16th Century by Architect Joao de Castilho shows a unique personification of a focal pillar emanated by the vaulted ceiling, still used to date. The Chapter house, so-called because of the initiation of the meetings with reading a chapter from the novel of rules, boasts of a final peace of comfort for writers. The cloisters with less aesthetic factors and more pastoral scenes splash a story tale of opulent stonework bound with religious, botanical, and royalty motifs.

The Plan of the monastery, Jeronimos Monastery ©

In a nutshell, the monastery exhibits a fine blend of Gothic, Mudejar, and Renaissance elements to ornate architecture with complex themes, showcasing the riches of naval expeditions carved in limestone. Several motifs including, ship elements, anchors, sea elements like pearls, botanical emblems, ornate pillars with niches, and twisted rope personifying columns come together to give birth to this unique Manueline style, profoundly used in the monastery.

The Manueline architecture. © Go Lisbon

The monastery upholds tremendous political gravity owing to the signing of the treaty of Lisbon on 13th Dec. 2007, staging the foundation for the reform movements of the European Union. This emblem of the Portuguese age of discovery declared as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, was later renamed the Hieronymites Monastery. Later in the 20th century, staging and assembling coupled with conservation broadened the restoration process of the main chapel in 1999 and the abbey in 1998-2002.

The Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal. © Go Lisbon

The urban fabric in the vicinity strives to perpetuate the essence of the coherence of the structure. Not only does the buffer zone around secure the pristine settings, but the broad sea spectrum also certifies that visual vision lines are undisturbed. Restoration activities carried out have paid grandeur to the original material board, the planning, social significance, and relating to the urban inn. This valorization of the urban heritage has gently improvised the local conditions owing to a steady flocking of international traffic. Not only have facilities like ports and airports developed but also, the overnight stays have doubled, and residential homes have evolved to short-term rental properties. The urban heritage has blessed public spaces with adequate transit nodes and is a changemaker.


An architecture student by profession, a curious empath by choice, Ruchika’s perceptive hearing has always unfolded the esoteric and stupendous tales of folklore and tradition in architecture. With a piercing interest in art, history and architecture, she holds strong to her poetic conclusions whilst analyzing human perception of the same.