Monastery of the Hieronymites 
and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (1983)

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Standing at the entrance to Lisbon harbour, the Monastery of the Hieronymites – construction of which began in 1502 – exemplifies Portuguese art at its best. The nearby Tower of Belém, built to commemorate Vasco da Gama's expedition, is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world. 

Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Souvenir sheet showing the Monastery of the Hieronymites.

The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém are the supreme architectural representatives of a period in which the Portuguese nation played a leading role, expanding the horizons of both Europe and the world. 

They were erected symbolically in Belém, which, in the sixteenth century, was the site of the port from which the caravels and other large ships set sail on the great voyages of the Portuguese maritime discoveries. 

Today, now that both the port and beach have disappeared, the site has become a pleasant leisure area. 

  • Portugal 2002.  Souvenir Sheet showing the Monastery of the Hieronymites. The inserted stamp is shown below. 

A small chapel - Santa Maria de Belém - was built here at the behest of Prince Henry the Navigator on the site where the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos now stands. The monastery was itself commissioned by D. Manuel I. The magnificence of the building reflects the universal vision of its founder and the powerful financial resources that the Portuguese crown enjoyed from the treasures and wealth brought home by Vasco da Gama from the lands he discovered. 

Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. The main entrance to the Monastery of the Hieronymites.

The sixteenth century in Portugal was profoundly connected to the Discoveries and the Messianic idea of the Empire, inspiring a unique style that came to be known as ''Manueline'', since it was developed in the reign of D. Manuel I. The decorative features carved out of the monastery' s stone, many of which, such as ropes, fish and conches, were inspired by the sea.  
Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Detail from the Monastery of the Hieronymites. Stamp #1. Portugal 2002. World Cultural Heritage. Detail from the Monastery of the Hieronymites. Stamp #2.

The monument's original design is the work of the architect Boytac, and its construction began in I502. This was the initial phase of building work that was to be continued by other Masters, namely João de Castilho and, in the middle of the century, Diogo de Torralva.  A famous Portuguese, buried in the Monastery, is the author Luis de Vaz Camðes (1524-1580). 

The Belém [Bethlehem] Tower was built between the years 1515 and 1521 as a fortress overlooking the Tagus estuary. 

It is one of the most characteristic monuments of the splendid Manueline period. In the decoration of the elegant tower the most diverse elements representing the navigating spirit of the Portuguese people can be seen, and the building constitutes the symbolic essence of the reign of Don Manuel I The Fortunate. 

  • Portugal 1972.  Tower of Belém, Lisbon. 

Portugal 1972. Tower of Belem, Lisbon.

The old fortress has preserved all the grace of its Moorish domes, its lovely balconies and, most of all, that poetic aura of the past emanating from this unique white-walled domain. 
Sources and link:

Other World Heritage Sites in Portugal and Areas (on this website). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Portugal-section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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