The Jeronimos Monastery struck me as one of the most impressive religious structures I’d seen in 50 years of European travel. The city tourist office calls Jeronimos Monastery the most prestigious place of worship in Lisbon.
The monastery was begun in 1502, partly to commemorate the naval achievements of Vasco da Gama, who had established the sea link to India just four years earlier. The west wing of the monastery, just to the left of the tall tower, is Lisbon’s Maritime Museum.
The monastery was completed in 100 years, and the scale of its architectural (Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style) ambition is humbling. The monastery and the nearby Belem Tower have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983.
The ornate Manueline south portal.
The Monastery’s lush, ornate decoration makes stone seem as light as air.
The church of the monastic complex, dedicated to Santa Maria, is the most spectacular of the architectural sections.
The monastery contains the tomb of Vasco da Gama.
Lisbon is situated on the northern banks of the River Tagus, the longest river (626 miles) on the Iberian Peninsula. The river has impacts on the city from end to end.
The river’s mouth is a large estuary near the city, supplying Lisbon with a fine natural harbor.
For about a mile along the Tagus, you can take a 100-foot-high cable car line, which ends at the city’s Nations Park. Riders are warned in writing: “The use of the Telecabine is forbidden to persons who are notoriously drunk or appear to have psychic anomaly.”
The city’s oceanarium, built for a World Trade Fair in 1998, is in the park on the river’s edge, and that’s it at top left, coming into view from the cable car.
Greeted by an ambassador of the oceanarium.
Some other of the 450 species of oceanarium residents.
The river is for recreation, too, and little harbors can be found all along the river’s edge.
The Tagus is about 1.2 miles wide at the Bridge of the 25th of April, named after the nearly non-violent revolution of 1974 that swept an authoritarian regime out of power. The Statue of Christ the King can be seen on the skyline in neighboring Almada across the river.
The ornate Belem Tower made UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1983.
Like many of the historical buildings of modern Lisbon, construction of the Belem Tower is related to the age of the great geographical discoveries.
The tower was built in the 16th Century to reinforce defenses on the shores of the Tagus River.
The architect inserted Moorish elements in the structure and decoration of the tower.
The watchtowers, roofed balconies, windows, loggias and intricate decorative motifs make exploring the structure a rich experience.
Lisbon’s Maritime Museum was created to honor Portugal’s naval achievements, starting from the 15th Century, the age of the great geographical discoveries.
The museum is the western wing (left in the photo) of the Jeronimos Monastery, but it was built 350 years after the start of the monastery.
The Maritime Museum (also referred to as the Navy Museum) shares the wing with the National Museum of Archeology.
The museum dates from 1863, when King Luis I started to collect sailing-related items. The king’s collection grew over time, and it led to establishment of the Maritime Museum, which opened in 1963.
The collection features old maps, models of ships, 18th Century royal ceremonial barges, sailing instruments (including the world’s largest collection of astrolabes), charts, paintings and archeological findings related to seafaring. We thought the life-size ancient ships below helped make the museum worthy of Portugal’s naval pedigree.
The Monument to the Discoveries memorializes the age of the great geographical discoveries, when Portugal dominated sea trade among the continents. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.
The Monument seen from the Tower of Belem. The Monument was built in 1940 and made permanent on the north bank of the Tagus in 1960.
The monument, 165 feet high, memorializes the period from the 15th Century to the middle of the 17th, when extensive overseas exploration (and exploitation) emerged as a powerful factor in European culture. It started with the Portuguese discoveries of Madeira in 1419 and the Azores in 1427, the coast of Africa after 1434 and the sea route to India in 1498.
The monument is decorated with seafaring and related motifs that recall the age of the great discoveries.
Thirty-four statues decorate the two sides.
The main statue is the one which represents Henry the Navigator, credited with the early development of Portuguese exploration and maritime trade with other continents. He was the official behind Portugal’s systematic exploration of Western Africa, the islands of the Atlantic Ocean and the search for new routes.
Other figures represent poets, explorers, navigators, crusaders and mapmakers, with key figures such as Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Felipa of Lancaster and Camoes, who contributed to Portugal’s reputation during the Age of Discoveries.
Lisbon is built on seven hills. St. George Castle is an 11th Century Moorish castle and palace ruins that sits on the Alfama hilltop, overlooking Lisbon center.
After a 4-mile subway ride from our hotel, we surfaced at the broad, patterned Commerce Square, from which we could see St. George Castle above on the highest hilltop in the city.
The castle didn’t look all that far off. But we were more than half a mile from the base of the hill, where the real climbing began.
We elected to get to know the steep streets of Alfama on foot. We bypassed the Elevador de Santa Justa, which carries people from one level of the city to another. We walked along the Tram 28 tracks but ignored them. And we discovered that the temperature increases as quickly as the elevation in Lisbon, even at mid-morning.
Human occupation of the castle hill dates back nearly 3,000 years.
The castle was the residence of Moorish royals until 1147, when it was conquered by Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. The king enjoyed the help of Englishmen, and that’s why the castle was named after Saint George, the patron saint of England.
The castle is one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon. The early fortifications built here date from the 1st Century BCE.
The castle was a major casualty of the 1755 earthquake. What remains are the main walls, several rebuilt rooms and 18 towers.
From one point or another at the castle, you can see all over Lisbon. Similarly, you can see the castle from almost any place in the city.
The courtyard of the castle.
Longtime residents of the courtyard. Can be safely petted.
The Tagus River had strategic value to the Spanish and Portuguese empires as the approach to Lisbon.
The river is about half a mile away at this point, but you can see the Bridge of the 25th of April (named for the start of the Carnation Revolution in 1974). Right under the mouth of the cannon (and across the river) is the famous Statue of Christ the King. We never got close enough for a good photo.
View from the castle wall to the Tagus.
Flag of Portugal over St. George Castle. Green symbolizes hope for the future, red the blood of the nation. National coat of arms where the colors meet.
Copenhagen (pop. about 600,000) sits on two islands in the Baltic Sea, and life there seems a continuous conversation among canals, harbor and sea.
Colorful Nyhavn Harbor, Copenhagen.
This tour boat looked as if it were going to ram us, but we passed port to port.
Both new watercraft and old are integral parts of Copenhagen harbor.
Tivoli’s charm accounts for its fame worldwide.
Denmark is a kingdom, and Amalienborg is the royal family’s residence.
The Citadel, a fortification begun in the 17th Century.
The Little Mermaid is really little. She’s right in front of this fellow’s camera.
The Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle, surrounded by gardens and home to the crown jewels.
To many, Kronborg is Elsinore, Shakespeare’s setting for “Hamlet.”
Sofiero, former summer residence of the Swedish royal family, is famed today for flowers.
Copenhagen was the first European destination Anne and I visited to attend an annual Rotary International Convention. That was 2006. Anne is the Rotary connection; for her, it’s a business trip.
At the Rotary convention, an actor portrays fairytale master Hans Christian Andersen. Here, he breaks out into the song, “There Once Was an Ugly Duckling.”