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St. Jerome Chapel

Built in 1514 within the enclosure of Hieronymite Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém, St. Jerome's Chapel (Capela de São Jerónimo) with its austere forms and rare balance of volumes, impresses all who see it for the first time.
The chapel can be linked to the architect of the Jerónimos Monastery, Diogo de Boitaca, whose work seems to have inspired the design and building project. However, the name of Rodrigues Afonso is referenced as the architect who carried out and completed the work. Square in plan, the chapel is topped with a stone rope detail along the roofline interrupted by four twisted conical pinnacles. At each corner it is adorned with gargoyles similar to those found in the Monastery's cloister. The four cornerstones of the chapel building are reinforced by four "giants" supporting the weight of the roof and walls. The main door, which is small in size, faces west. From it one has a view out towards the sea and the horizon. The door's decoration is very simple, in keeping with the rest of the building. The only stand-out feature is a royal coat of arms topped by the crown and flanked by two armillary spheres - symbols of the reign of Manuel I that evoke a period of Portugal's history in which it gave "new worlds to the world".
In the chapel's interior the highlight is the multi-foil triumphal arch decorated with artichokes on the sides. To the body of the nave a second smaller and lower nave was added that serves as the high altar space; it also features a ribbed vaulted ceiling. The chapel had three altars covered in Sevillian tiles - an interesting example of the versatility of this decorative element. There has been a close connection between the chapel and the Jerónimos Monastery since its construction. However, the transformations resulting from the closure of the religious orders in the 19th century put that connection at risk. The dispersion of the order's assets also affected the property and the land belonging to the former enclosure was sold off in parcels, thus disrupting the century-old unity between the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém and its chapels, ovens, vegetable gardens and orchards.
The chapel is now an integral part of the Monastery of Jerónimos/Tower of Belém heritage group - peerless monuments of Manueline architecture. Although small in size, its value within the group of heritage assets is not diminished, as the balance in its forms and its simplicity of design make it a standard for good taste and good building that was passed on to us from a golden age in which the world became smaller and peoples came closer together.

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