The Hieronymites Monastery is located near the shore of the parish of Belém, in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal. The monastery is one of the most prominent monuments of the Manueline-style architecture (Portuguese late-Gothic) in Lisbon, classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém.
Originally, the home for the Hieronymite religious order, was built by the Infante Henry the Navigator around 1459. The chapel that existed there, to the invocation of Santa Maria de Belém, was serviced by monks of the military-religious Order of Christ who provided assistance to pilgrims who transited the area. The small beach of Praia do Restelo was an advantage spot, with safe anchorage and protection from the winds,sought after by the ships that entered the Tagus.
Church of Santa Maria
The ornate side entrance to the monastery was designed by Juan de Castilho and is considered one of the most significant of his time, but is not, in fact, the main entrance to the building. This shrine-like portal is large, 32 metre high and 12 metre wide, extending two stories. Its ornate features includes an abundance of gables and pinnacles, with many carved figures standing under a baldachin in carved niches, around a statue of Henry the Navigator, standing on a pedestal between the two doors.
Although of smaller dimensions then the southern doorway, this is the most important door to the Jerónimos: in terms of its localization in front the main altar and because of its ornamentation. This western portal is a good example of the transition from the Gothic style to Renaissance.
It was built by Nicolau Chanterene in 1517. This was probably his first commission in Portugal. It is now spanned by a vestibule, added in the 19th century, that forms a transition between the church and the ambulatory.
Diogo Boitac laid the foundations for this three-aisled church with five bays under a single vault, a clearly marked but only slightly projecting a transept and a raised choir. The hall church layout is composed of aisles and nave that are of equal height. Boitac built the walls of the church as far as the cornices and then started with the construction of the adjoining monastery.
Juan de Castilho, a Spanish architect and sculptor, continued the construction in 1517. He completed the retaining walls and the unique single-span ribbed vault, a combination of stellar vaulting and tracery vaults spanning the 19 metre-wide church. Each set of ribs in the vaulting is secured by bosses.
Work on the vast square cloister (55 x 55 m) of the monastery was begun by Boitac. He built the groin vaults with wide arches and windows with tracery resting on delicate mullions. Juan de Castilho finished the construction by giving the lower storey a classical overlay and building a more recessed upper-storey. The construction of such a cloister was a novelty at the time.
Castilho changed the original round columns of Boitac into rectangular ones, and embellished it with Plateresque-style ornamentation. Each wing consists of six bays with tracery vaults. The four inner bays rest on massive buttresses, forming broad arcades.