ARCHITECT, Portuguese
(active after 1501 in Lisbon)

Interior view

Hieronymite monastery, Belém near Lisbon

The Hieronymite monastery of Belém, together with the nearby Torre de Belém, is architecturally and ideologically the masterpiece of the reign of Manuel I (reigned 1495-1521). They together present a noted example of Manueline architecture.

The "Manueline" style is a particularly rich and lavish style of architectural ornamentation indigenous to Portugal in the early 16th century. Although the Manueline style actually continued for some time after the death of Manuel I, it is the prosperity of his reign that the style celebrates. The profusion of dense ornament in Manueline architecture owes some debt to the contemporary Spanish, to the Flamboyant Gothic style of northern Europe, and to a revival of Moorish style.

Erected mainly in the first quarter of the 16th century, the monastery at Belém is an artistic achievement which, blending Gothic structures with Plateresque decoration and dynastic symbolism, has an unmistakably Portuguese character. The present building was begun in 1501 to replace a former charterhouse. The first architect was Diogo Boytac (1460-1528), who was succeeded after 1517 by Joao de Castilho (c. 1475-1552).

The complicated net vaulting of the nave is carried on six octagonal piers 25 metres high completely covered with Renaissance ornamentation. The exterior is notable for the richly decorated framework of the portals, which carry a complex iconographic program.

The photo shows the interior of the church.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.