"A twiddly paradise.........and a green man or two!" Belém by leics
Belém Travel Guide: 262 reviews and 1,020 photos
I would have visited the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos if I visited Lisbon, Vt meeting or not.
It was built on the site of a hermitage dating from 1450, where Vasco da Gama and his men spent their last night before leaving on their voyage to India.
The present structure dates from the early 1500s, and is simply superb.
I love twiddly architecture, and if it is Medieval so much the better. I love to see the carvings, because they tell us so much about the mind-set of the men (always men) who produced them....how they saw the world, porrtraits of ordinary peole they knew, traces of their 'pagan' beliefs......
The monastery church (and cloisters) are full of such carvings. Each of the pillars (looking, as my guidebook says, like palm trees...........and once that idea has entered one's head it is so very obvious) are covered with the most intricate carvings...of mythical and reealistic beast, of strange peiople, of angels and cherubs. One could spend hours examining each pillar (and even more time if a ladder was available, for I suspect the more 'unusual'carvings may be very high up). My travelogues will give you an idea.
A calm place, even with the tour groups.....dimly lit and atmospheric.The lower ceiling as one enters (past the tomb of Vasco da Gama himself)guides the eye to the great brightness beyond.
I believe the correct name for the architectural syle is 'Manueline'. But to me it is just 'twiddly'.....superb and fascionating.
An absolute must-see.
The early Christian church was not stupid. It built many (most?) of its sacred places on sites which were already sacred before Christinaity arrived......a good way to attract converts. And it allowed the workmen who built them to incorporate into their work symbols and images from a pre-Christian past...........as with the Romans, as long as a belief did not pose a threat to the church's authority then it was absorbed and accepted.
I first thought that carvings of 'the green man'.......a male face with leaves growing around and/or from it.........was exclusively from the UK. The 'green man' symbolises nature, and rebirth, and new growth, and new life. He is a strong feature of pre-Christian belief, but appears in many, many Medieval churches and cathedrals in the UK.
But I have found out, from my visits, that he appears throughout Europe as well. Now I know he can be found (in early Medieval religious structures) I make a special point of looking for him.
And I found him in Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, more than once, and in the Se in Lisbon too.
I have found him in several European countries now, and I shall keep looking out for him. Maybe I'll make a 'Green Man' VT album soon.
Apart from the superb monastery........and the Torre de Belem nearby which was built as a ceremonial gate to Lisbon to commemorate da Gama.......and the much more modern (1960) Padrão dos Descobrimentos....... Belem has a famous pastry shop.....Pasteis de Belem, dating from 1837 and incredibly busy with both tour groups and locals. And yes, the pastries make the bustle and hassle worthwhile.
A small group of heat-exhausted VT-ers declined the Lisbon tour and re-gathered ourselves in the 'hidden gardens' of Belem, a small but lovely botanical garden set between the monastery and the pastry shop. Huge well-established trees, ducks, water, palms.............a very pleasant and shady place to wander.
And, to finish off, some over-dressed guards standing ourside the pretty-pink Presidential palace..........their uniform reminded me very much of the English 'Horseguards', but they had no visible horses. I did feel sorry for them though...they were clearly uncomfortable in the unexpected heat, and certainly not standing very still!
- Pros:Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, pastries, Torre de Belem
- Cons:Lots of visitors
- In a nutshell:A paradise of twiddliness
I did like the way the Palácio Nacional de Belém (the presidential palace) was so very, very pink. It is much oler than... more travel advice
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