Sadly, this is the final piece in my four part series on Medieval Lisbon. For medievalists, Lisbon is a wonderful place to visit; I only wish I had more time to explore it. Thank you to Lisbon for its culture, warmth, gorgeous sites and fabulous food. Portugal is definitely a place I will be returning to seek more medieval adventure!
This is also my last international travel post of the year. I will be kicking off international travel again in 2016, with my eye on Italy, Czech Republic, Southern Germany and potentially, Amsterdam! Travel fans, don’t despair! I will be doing plenty of local travel in England so stay tuned for medieval closer to home.
Of the four medieval #placestosee in Lisbon, Jerónimos Monastery, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, was my favourite. The monastery is located in Belém, a suburb of Lisbon, that is famous for the 16th century monastery, as well as for its world famous pastry shop, Pastéis de Belem, where you can sample the mouth watering Portuguese egg custard tarts, pastel de nata.
The monastery was founded for pilgrims who were en route to visit the site where Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), built a church, Santa Maria de Belém. It was also dedicated to the Order of Saint Jerome, also known as Hieronymites, a monastic order of hermits who live according to the Rule of Saint Augustine, written around 400 AD. It is classed as a World Heritage Site.
Jerónimo’s: A Portuguese “Who’s Who”
Jernónimos, built during Portugal’s Age of Discovery, is also the resting place of some of the country’s most famous historical and literary personalities. The lavish tomb of Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) lies here. Da Gama’s tomb is exquisite, a stunning tribute to the man who was the first European to reach India by sea in 1497. The intrepid explorer died during his third and final expedition after contracting malaria. His remains were reinterred in Portugal in 1539 but he wasnt formally moved to Belém until the 19th century.
Across from Da Gama, is famous poet Luís de Camões (1527-1580), considered the “ Portuguese Shakespeare”. He is best known for his moving epic, Os Lusíadas, a Homeric style poem about Portuguese exploration with a fantastical twist. Da Gama features heavily in it as a narrator so it’s fitting that the two should rest together side by side.
Also found in the Jerónimos monastery is one of the greatest Portuguese poets of the modern era, Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935). Pessoa published works in English and French, as well as numerous translations into Portuguese. Pessoa was born in Lisbon and loved the city; it inspired many of his poems. The city reveres him; his statue is a popular tourist spot in the Chiado district, outside the famous café, A Brasilia that he frequented along with other writers during early 20th century.
Several members of the royal House of Aviz, which ruled Portugal until 1580, are buried in the cathedral at Jerónimos. The royal family found here include: kings Manuel I (1469-1521), João III (1502-1557), and Sebastião (1557-1578), queens Maria of Aragon (1482-1517), wife of Manuel I and queen Catherine of Austria (1507-1578), wife of João III.
In terms of architecture, Saint Jeronimos is an excellent example of a Manueline monastery, the style also known as “Portuguese Gothic”, where scenes of maritime navigation and exploration are mixed in with late Gothic elements. The cathedral attached to the monastery is breathtaking, a mix of Late Medieval and Renaissance styles.
I spent a good amount of time in the cathedral and monastery taking photographs, but it was a bit tricky. There are many tour groups going through Jerónimos on the weekend. I made the mistake of going on a Saturday when it was packed. I’d strongly advise a weekday visit. It was extremely difficult to get access to Vasco de Gama’s beautiful tomb; I had to wait between tour groups to stealthily nip in and take a few pictures before another mass of people descended upon it.
The entry cost is €10, but you can combine the ticket to also visit the Tower of Belém (which, unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do), or Jerónimos and the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia for €12, or combine all three for €16. If I had to do it over, I would’ve purchased the ticket for all three and spent the entire day there. Of course, there are discounts for seniors and students, as well as discounts for researchers and educators. The first Sunday of every month is free admission.
Full disclosure – I hopped in a cab with two other friends and it was approximately €8 altogether. However, there are many trams that go directly to Belem if you wish to take a longer, scenic route to the monastery, specifically the #15 tram. The cost one way via tram is €2.85, although, if you’re doing a lot of hopping on and off trams or their metro system, it might be best to buy an all day transport pass for €6 or their travel card, the Viva Viagem card.