Monastery dos Jeronimos Cloisters, Lisbon, Portugal
The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. Vasco da Gama’s tomb was placed inside by the entrance, as was the tomb of poet Luis de Camoes, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he glorifies the triumphs of Da Gama and his compatriots. Other great figures in Portuguese history are also entombed here, like King Manuel and King Sebastion, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.
The monastery was populated by monks of the Order of Saint Jerome (Hieronymites), whose spiritual job was to give guidance to sailors and pray for the king’s soul. It is one of the great triumphs of European Gothic (UNESCO has classified it a World Heritage monument), with much of the design characterized by elaborate sculptural details and maritime motifs. This style of architecture became known as Manueline, a style of art that served to glorify the great discoveries of the age.
The cloisters are magnificent, each column differently carved with coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs evocative of that time of world exploration at sea. Here is also the entrance to the former refectory that has beautiful reticulated vaulting and tile decoration on the walls depicting the Biblical story of Joseph.
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