A symbol of the building of the modern world
2007-12-14 0:00

From: news.bbc.co.uk

Related article: EU leaders sign The Lisbon Treaty (The New EU Constitution)


Regarded as the pre-eminent symbol of Portugal's history as a powerhouse of European exploration, Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery is a fitting location for the signing of the EU reform treaty.
The magnificent complex was started in 1502 by King Manuel I to commemorate Vasco da Gama's voyage as commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India.

Located at the entrance to the port of Lisbon, the monastery was built on the site of an earlier hermitage where the monks of the Order of Christ, a Portuguese successor to the Knights Templar, gave succour to passing sailors.


Henry the Navigator
That hermitage, the Ermida do Restelo, had been founded by Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince who lived from 1394-1460.

He was a noted patron of voyages of discovery along the western coast of Africa and the Madeira islands.

Opening up trade routes
Until Prince Henry's time, the most southerly point known by European sailors was Cape Bojador, a treacherous reef-surrounded headland on the western Sahara coast, in present day Morocco.

For generations, Spanish and Portuguese sea-lore had maintained that Africa was unnavigable past this point.

But eager to bypass the Muslim territories of north Africa and open up trade routes to the south, Prince Henry funded 15 expeditions to conquer the Cape before Captain Gil Eanes finally succeeded in 1434.

It was in Prince Henry's hermitage that da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before setting sail for India in 1497.


The monastery is a masterpiece of Manueline design

Upon their return two years later, King Manuel I commissioned the construction of a new monastery to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for da Gama's success.

The work was funded by a tax on eastern spices, with the exceptions of pepper, cinnamon and cloves.

Thanks to da Gama's passage to India the spices were in plentiful supply, allowing the architects to build a European Gothic masterpiece, regarded as the jewel of Manueline design.

King Manuel chose the monks of Order of St Jerome (Hieronymus monks) to occupy the Monastery.

Like their predecessors from the Order of Christ, the Hieronymus monks continued to provide spiritual guidance to the sailors passing through Lisbon throughout the Age of Discovery - the great period of European exploration from the 15th to 17th Centuries.

By the 16th Century these Portuguese sailors had helped build a huge empire embracing Brazil as well as swathes of Africa and Asia.

There are still some 200 million Portuguese speakers around the world today.

Foundations of our world
The monastery's connection to the sea is richly illustrated on the columns in the cloisters which are carved with coral, sea monsters and coils of rope.

Many great figures from Portuguese history are buried in the monastery, including its founder King Manuel and da Gama himself.

The monks remained in the monastery until 1833 when religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, at which point the building became owned by the state.

Declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1984, it is described by the UN cultural agency as a "reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world".

Article from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7141972.stm



Related Articles
Jerónimos Monastery Images
The Jeronimos Monastery Photo Gallery
European Parliament in Strasbourg - A Modern Tower of Babel
EU leaders sign The Lisbon Treaty (The New EU Constitution)
Battling the European Union - Action Now (Video)


Latest News from our Front Page

41% of Americans Support Criminalizing "Hate Speech"
2015-05-23 7:31
The following are from a recent poll about what some are calling on for "hate speech" 1. Support for Hate Crimes Legislation Do you support or oppose the federal law that requires increased penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person? 2. Support for Expanding Hate Crimes Do ...
FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers
2015-05-23 7:36
FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk ...
Sweetener Stevia Was Once Hailed As An Anti-Fertility Agent for Population Reduction
2015-05-23 7:13
Maybe it's not so sweet now... If you've thought stevia, the natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweetners with aspartame, et al., is too good to be true, there may be a catch. Check out this textbook written in 1970 by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the precursor to the textbook Ecoscience they wrote with Obama Science Czar John P. Holdren ...
TPP Aproved: Senate Republicans Give Obama New Powers - Details Remain 'Classified'
2015-05-23 6:43
President Obama won a big victory for his trade agenda Friday with the Senate’s approval of fast-track legislation that could make it easier for him to complete a wide-ranging trade deal that would include 11 Pacific Rim nations. A coalition of 48 Senate Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority late Friday, sending the legislation to a difficult fight ...
Circumcision battle: Mom seeks release from jail after federal lawsuit is dismissed
2015-05-23 3:22
West Boynton mother on Wednesday gave up trying to get a federal judge to stop her 4 1/2-year-old son from being circumcised as his father wishes — a battle that also led to her arrest May 14 on a state court warrant. An attorney for Heather Hironimus, who lost similar legal challenges in two state courts, notified U.S. District Judge Kenneth ...
More News »