Jerónimos Monastery

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos – Lisbon

If you came on my Monday walk to Belém, in Lisbon, you will have guessed that this is the Monastery of Jerónimos.  Not hard to see why it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but I hope you will join with me in celebrating its beauty.

My expectations were high, for this was the third time I’d come to Lisbon, hoping to visit the monastery.  They say God works in mysterious ways, and it’s not for us to understand.  I was happy simply to stand in the midst of all this glory.

A church dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém was the forerunner to the monastery.  This stretch of the River Tagus provided a safe harbour and anchorage for shipping back in the 15th century, and the monks of the Order of Christ gave assistance and spiritual guidance to seafarers.  The church was already in a state of disrepair when Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night before their voyage of discovery in 1497, praying.

King Manuel 1 sought a dispensation from the Vatican to construct a monastery on the site, and building began in 1501.  Completion was to take 100 years.  The elaborate style of architecture, involving knots, anchors and all things maritime, came to be known as Manueline, the work originally being funded by the spice trade.  Manuel chose the Order of St. Jerome, known as Hieronymites, to occupy the monastery, tasking them with praying for his eternal soul.  It was to be a final resting place for him and his successors.  The religious order was not dissolved until 1833.

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The first room that you enter is the monk’s dining hall.  Fortunately I can simply share a few azulejos, as Becky presents you with all the details in 500 years old this year.  You will be wowed!  I walk through the cloisters agape.  There is nowhere I can look that doesn’t delight me.  When I’ve almost looked my fill, I mount the stairs to look down on the courtyard.

An incredible moment arises at the top of the stairs.  You step into a chamber arching high above you.  As you perceive the body of Christ on the cross and the stained glass Madonna, you notice people gathered at a stone balustrade.  Stepping forward your eyes light up!  You are looking down into the body of the church.

Back into daylight,  the gargoyles and faces, intricate knots and flowers combine to seduce.

Until finally my mission is accomplished and, with sensory overload, it’s time to leave.  The monastery was secularised and handed over to a charitable institution in 1833.  The many twists and turns since then can be read on the monastery website.

It’s that time of year and the Weekly Photo Challenge suggests that you might want to share your 2017 Favorites.  For me the last post that I wrote is invariably my favourite, but I do have one particular image that sings out to me from this post.  I wonder if you can guess which it is?  It simply remains to wish you all a blessed Christmas, and good health and happiness in the New Year.

Jo’s Monday walk : Beautiful Belém

Did you know that the name Belém derives from the Portuguese for Bethlehem?  And that makes it a very suitable subject for this time of year, doesn’t it?  Just 6km from the centre of Lisbon, it’s a distance I’d normally regard as walkable but, eager to get there, I squeezed myself onto a reluctant bus.  No tram for me!  My last visit to Lisbon ended in tears when my purse was pickpocketed whilst waiting for the famous no. 15 tram.  This time I was determined to make it to the Jerónimos Monastery.

And when I did, the disappointment of that failed visit was completely swept away.

I’ll bring you back to the incredible beauty of the monastery later this week, but for now I think we should do some walking.

Much too soon to loiter over a pastel de nata!  We need to get going to stay ahead of the tour buses.  I promise you can have one or two later.  It is the festive season, after all!  Not sure what to make of this street art.  Genius or madness?

Rua de Belém, the main street, is a strip of historical buildings dating back to the earthquake of 1755.  This and Ajuda were the areas least affected by the devastation, and many of the survivors who lost their homes were temporarily installed here in tents and shacks.  The King and his ministers set up court nearby and, with the construction of Ajuda National Palace, brought trade to the area.  With the French invasion of 1807 the royal family fled to Rio de Janeiro, and Belém gradually evolved into an industrial zone.  Tanneries, textiles, glass makers and metal stampers were among the factories established.

At the heart of Belém lies the Praça do Império, with gardens and fountain laid out during World War II, and beyond it a magnificent sweep of waterfront, culminating in the iconic Torre de Belém.  As you can see, it’s a popular spot.

The tower was built in 16th century.  Delicate as it looks, it was intended as part of the defence system at the mouth of the Rio Tejo, together with fortresses at Cascais– which we saw last week- and Caparica, south of the river.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, as is the monastery, it has a colourful history.  The two photos below are from a previous visit to Belém in 2005.

From here you can easily stroll along the riverfront as far as Ponte 25 de Abril, with any number of diversions en route.

You might think that not a lot of walking goes on.  It’s definitely an area devoted to fun in the sun, but looking ahead I’m excited!  The last time I was here I did not know that you could climb these structures.  Not only the lighthouse, but Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

The Monument to the Discoveries, as we see it today, was formally opened in 1960 to commemorate the voyages of exploration which departed from here as far back as the 15th century.  Trade was established with countries as far away as India.

You know what comes next, don’t you?  There was almost no queue for the lift that takes you most of the way up.

Did you spot Michael, in the blue t’shirt, sitting patiently waiting below?  He thinks it’s pastel de nata time.  Just another couple of shots!

Patience should be rewarded, I’m sure you’ll agree.  What a place!  I was astounded.  400 seats and choc full of character.  But best of all….

I don’t suppose many of you will feel like a walk on Christmas morning, so may I take this opportunity to wish all my walking friends a peaceful and happy Christmas.  I have enjoyed your company so much and I hope you’ll continue to walk with me in the New Year.

Not many walks to share this week.  Everyone’s busy, but spare a minute or two to say hello?  As always, many thanks to readers and walkers alike.  Details of how to join in are on the Jo’s Monday walk page.


Let’s start with Tammy’s interesting tour in my part of  the world.  Watch out for the Fisherman!

North Shields Heritage Walk : Fish, Ships and Lighthouses

Jackie with a bit of seasonal spice this week?

Spicing things up

Why the battlefields of the Western Front are important to Woolly :


And an excellent bit of sketching along the way, from Pauline and Jack :

Cliff top walk in the sun

That’s it for now.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Remember to breathe- it comes around every year.  Merry  Christmas!