Jerónimos Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin of Belém in Lisbon which was one of the major factor that influenced the King Manuel I , besides the desire to have a pantheon for the Avis-Beja dinasty.
From Lisbon, King D. Manuel I request to the Holy See for authorisation to build a huge monastery on the banks of Tagus river. In those days, it was outside of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital since the XII century.
Jerónimos Monastery was constructed side by side with a local church ( Santa Maria de Belém ). The monks of the Order of Christ provided spiritual guidance.
After the authorization of the Holy See, the construction started in 1501, which became a huge investment. Financed by 5% levy on income (also called pepper tax) of the trade with Africa and the Orient.
Jerónimos Monastery has an outstanding façade with more than three hundred metres. Built in limestone due to the proximity the the spots of extraction : Rio Seco , Alcântara, Laveiras, Tercena and Ajuda.
Nowdays it is possible to visit the Church and the main building. The church is open to public and you will find the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões, besides Manual I ( founder of the Jerónimos Monastery ). The monument closes on Mondays.
Custards from the Monastery
Before this amazing building and the other buildings on the area, it was a white sand river beach. You will find a beautiful tiles panel on the Pastéis de Belém bakery nearby.
Pastéis de Belém started as a sugar cane refinery. To survive after the liberal revolution, clergy and labourers offered sweet pastries to sale and became famous and known by Pastéis de Belém. Later, in 1837 the baking store began attached to the refinery, following what they called the ancient secret recipe from the monastery. Till today, besides the mater confectioners nobody knowns the recipe.
Now days, you only find the Pastéis de Belém at the bakery, however there is another business entrepreneurs that developed what is called Pastéis de Nata, similar but different. Taste several in different points of the city, you will love to eat them with a coffee or milk. You also can learn how to make the custards.