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.
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.
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