Standing tall at the entrance of the Lisbon harbor, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery) is a monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, located near the shore of the parish of Belém. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The monastery is a perfect example of Manueline architecture (the style originated by Portugal’s King Manuel I).
“The ornate [South] 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 metres (105 feet) high and 12 metres (39 feet) 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. The tympanum, above the double door, displays, in half-relief, two scenes from the life of Saint Jerome: on the left, the removal of the thorn from the lion’s paw and, on the right, the saints experience in the desert. In the spandrel between these scenes is the coat-of-arms of king Manuel I, while the archivolt and tympanum are covered in Manueline symbols and elements. The Madonna (Santa Maria de Belém) is located on a pedestal on top of the archivolt, surmounted by the archangel Michael, while above the portal there is a cross of the Order of Christ. The portal is harmoniously flanked on each side by a large window with richly decorated mouldings.” – Wikipedia
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery) was commissioned by King D. Manuel I in 1495, then donated to the monks of St. Jerome to pray for the King himself and seafarers. Also known as Vasco de Gama’s resting place – his tomb is placed inside the entrance on the left – its rich ornamentation and elaborate architecture featuring maritime motifs are visual evidence of its celebration of Prince Henry the Navigator and all explorers who left the city’s shores in search of the New World.
In the heart of Lisbon are five bakers who may never ride in a car together, eat the same food at the same restaurant, or even travel together. They are the holders of the city’s best kept secret – the recipe of the original Pastéis de Belém. Employed and handpicked by the Casa Pastéis de Belém, these men have memorized the recipe and may never write it down. The recipe was originally developed by the nun at the local Jerónimos Monastery (to use up the egg yolks left over from separating out the egg whites used to starch their laundry), who then sold the tarts to earn a living. In 1837, nearly 17 years after the monastery closed, the Casa Pastéis de Belém became the first bakery in Lisbon (outside of the convent) to sell the delectable treat. Today this delicious custard tart is so popular that variations of the recipe are served worldwide as pastel de nata.