Look Up To Heaven
Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery is an important example of the Manueline style in architecture. Unique to Portugal, it is a rich and lavish style developed during the transition from the Late Gothic to Renaissance. Although short-lived (from 1490 to 1520), it was integral in the development of Portuguese art. Manueline art and architecture have a unique vocabulary, with elements of the sea (coral, shells, barnacles, and seaweed), sailing (spheres, anchors, chains, and ropes), floral and botanical motifs, newly discovered lands (Islamic filigree, East Indian temple art), strands of twisted rope, rounded instead of pointed arches, eight-sided capitals, and the use of asymmetry. Examples of these elements can be seen in the nave of Jerónimos Monastery, as well as in the details shown below. The nave and the two aisle are of equal height, a possible holdover from the early Gothic Cistercian stlye. The lavish ornamentation, however, is in stark contrast to simplicity of the Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça (see earlier post), the first Gothic structure in Portugal.
Sea trade was the basis for Portuguese wealth in the 15th and 16th centuries. The highly nautical Manueline style was influenced by the voyages of discovery of Portuguese navigators, from the coasts of Africa, to the discovery of Brazil, and to new routes to India and the East. In 1496, King Manuel I (1495–1521), for whom this Portuguese style was named, asked the pope for permission to build a monastery to the Virgin Mary in thanks for Vasco de Gama’s successful voyage to India. Construction on the complex began in 1501 but not completed in 1607. This and other Manueline style buildings were largely financed by proceeds from, as well as a stiff tax on, the spice trade with Africa and the East. A statue of Henry the Navigator stands on a pedestal between the two doors of the church’s main entrance, the south portal. Fortunately, Jerónimos Monastery did not suffer catastrophic damage in the 1755 earthquake, unlike many other Manueline buildings which were destroyed—it stands as one of the outstanding examples to Portuguese artistic innovation.
The stone tombs of Vasco da Gama (1468–1523) and Luís de Camões (1527–1580), the great poet and chronicler of the Age of Discoveries, are in the lower choir. The 19th-century tomb were sculpted in neo-Manueline style and the bodies were reinterred in 1880.
Join Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge: Height