Located in the Belem District of Lisboa is the city's most prominent monument, the Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos). The amazing structure is considered to be the most successful achievement of the Manueline style. In 1983, the UNESCO established the monastery as a World Heritage Site.
An enormous facility, construction of the monastery began in 1502 and took nearly 40 years to complete. The building was funded through tax dollars on some, but not all, Eastern spices. Diogo de Boitaca designed the monastery. Boitaca, along with Igreja de Jesus, is considered to be an originator of the Manueline style. Unlike most buildings in Lisboa, the monastery stood strong through the 1755 Great Earthquake of Lisboa with very little damage. An event that did bring the monastery to its knees took place in 1833 when the building was vacated by the elimination of the religious orders in Portugal. The structure actually deteriorated and nearly collapsed during this time. Eventually, the building became inhabited again. Several renovations have been performed to bring the monastery to its current beauty.
The south portal of the Jeronimos Monastery serves as an ornate main entrance to the building. The portal was built by Joao de Castilho. The work Castilho performed on the portal is considered to be the most significant of his time. The portal is 12 meters wide by 32 meters high. It reaches two stories high and features several pinnacles, carved figures, and gables for visitors to view.
Serving as a prime example of transition from the Gothic style to the Renaissance style is the western portal. Designed in 1517 by Nicolau Chanterene, the project is believed to be the first commission in Portugal. During the 19th Century, a vestibule was added to form a transition between the ambulatory and church. This can still be seen today.
One of the most eye-catching features of the monastery is its magnificent exterior design. Considered a novelty at the time of construction, the cloisters reach two stories high and line the building's exterior. Castilho modified the columns into a rectangular design that features Plateresque-style ornaments. Six bays with tracery vaults line each of the building's wings. Additionally, four inner bays rest on large buttresses to form broad arcades. Diagonal arched construction links the corner bays. On the inside walls of the cloisters, Castilho used nautical decor and European elements to decorate the areas. The outer walls of the inner courtyard feature more Plateresque impressions by the designer.
Boasting a Renaissance style, the cloister arches also maintain a relationship with Spanish architecture. The poet Fernando Pessoa's tomb is situated in one of the arcades. Several other tombs are housed in the chapter house including the tombs of President Teofilo Braga, poet Almeida Garrett, historian Alexandre Herculano, and President Oscar Carmona. Overall, the cloisters are simply a masterpiece in their own right.
Today, the monastery serves as a reminder of Portugal's wealth and power during the Age of Discovery. Visitors are welcome and encouraged to explore the unique historical site.