Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon


City of Lisbon
N38 41 30.984 W9 12 56.988
Date of Inscription: 1983
Minor boundary modification inscribed year: 2008
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Property : 2.66 ha
Buffer zone: 103 ha
Ref: 263bis
Standing at the entrance to Lisbon harbour, the Monastery of the Hieronymites – construction of which began in 1502 – exemplifies Portuguese art at its best. The nearby Tower of Belém, built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s expedition, is a reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world.

Brief synthesis

This serial World Heritage property comprises the Monastery of the Hieronymites and the Tower of Belém, both known as the complex of Belém, located on the shore of the Tagus River at the entrance to the port of Lisbon. The Monastery of the Hieronymites is a royal foundation that dates back to the late 15th century. It was commissioned by King D. Manuel I and donated to the monks of Saint Hieronymus so that they would pray for the King, and pay spiritual assistance to seafarers that left the shores of Lisbon in quest for the new world. The monastery was also built to perpetuate the memory of Prince Henry the Navigator. Its very rich ornamentation derives from the exuberance typical of Manueline art. Being symbolically linked to the Age of Discoveries, the monastery still preserves most of its magnificent structures, including its 16th-century Cloister, the friars’ former Refectory, and the Library.

Not far from the monastery, on the banks of the Tagus River, Francisco de Arruda constructed the famous Tower of Belém around 1514, also known as the Tower of St Vincent, patron of the city of Lisbon, which commemorated the expedition of Vasco da Gama and also served to defend the port of Lisbon. The cross of the Knights of Christ is repeated indefinitely on the parapets of this fortress, while the watch towers that flank it are capped with ribbed cupolas inspired by Islamic architecture.

Created by the royal dynasty of Avis at its height, the complex of Belém is one of the most representative examples of Portuguese power during the Age of Discoveries.

Criterion (iii): The Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém are a unique and exceptional testimony to a 15th and 16th-century civilization and culture. They reflect the power, knowledge and courage of the Portuguese people at a time when they consolidated their presence and domain of intercontinental trade routes.

Criterion (vi): The complex of Belém is directly associated with the Golden Age of the Discovery and the pioneer role the Portuguese had in the 15th and 16th centuries in creating contacts, dialogue and interchange among different cultures.

Suggested base(s):

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal situated on seven hills at the wide mouth of the river Tagus (Tejo) where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. With half a million citizens in the city proper and 2.8 million in the Lisbon Region and a thriving mix of Portugal’s rich history and vivid contemporary culture, Lisbon enchants travellers with its white bleached limestone buildings, intimate alleyways, and an easy going charm that makes it a popular year round destination. The Lisbon Region comprises many other splendid tourist destinations such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sintra, the seaside resorts of Estoril [read more]

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