Just up the street from Pastéis de Belém, a bakery famous for its mouth-watering egg custard tarts, and right across the way from the Tower of Belém, the ceremonial gateway into Lisbon’s harbor, stands an over-the-top structure that exemplifies Portuguese art at its absolute best.
It’s the iconic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Monastery of the Hieronymites), and it’s suitable for framing.
I’m on the clock — less than an hour to be exact — to take in this one-of-a-kind house of worship that serves as the final resting place for Vasco da Gama, the celebrated 15th century explorer who discovered the ocean route to India, along with numerous kings and queens.
That’s a tall order, but I am a member of the intrepid “band of merry media” — 29 travel scribes and photographers hand picked by Insight Vacations (Insight) to experience a portion of its Iberian Adventure through Portugal and Spain — so, I’m up to the task.
Gathered outside around Laura, Insight’s expert on all-things Lisboa, she gives us a quick primer on the history and style of the ornate monastery.
The architecture is Manueline, a unique, Portuguese late-Gothic style named so after King Manuel I who commissioned and financed the 100-year building project that got underway in 1502.
The Monastery of the Hieronymites, with its elaborate sculptural details, many with a maritime motif, is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during its celebrated Age of Discovery, that period between the 15th and 17th centuries when the country defined globalization, thanks to its famed explorers who plotted faraway ocean routes to India, the Orient, Africa and South America.
Like its neighbor, the Tower of Belem, the monastery is also a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site, and it shows. Lens caps off, let’s have a look.
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Back on board the motor coach, reclined in my business-class legroom seat, Helder, our GQ-worthy driver, puts the sleek Insight galleon in gear and away we go. Where to? Oh, just the western-most point on continental Europe.
©The Palladian Traveler