Welcome !

You have entered the site of the Parish of St. Mary of Bethlehem, which has its headquarters in the Church of Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém, or Jeronimos Monastery, as today is simply called.

I invite you today to 'revisit' the Jeronimos Church and enjoy his "secret".

When this church was built, it was quite close to the Tagus, near the sea, at the doors of the Atlantic Ocean. It was from this place who departed Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral for their historical journeys, which would take them to India and Brazil, respectively.

Before the Jerónimos Monastery

By this time there was still a small church or chapel that Prince Henry had founded in 1459, obtaining from the Pope the status of parish, in order to give spiritual support to sailors that passed by here.

To this church, part of the Military Order of Christ, gave the Prince Henry the title of Santa Maria de Belém, after the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and where directed the Magi from the East, led by a star to worship the Child.

It was here that Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvares Cabral heard Mass and communed with his men, before going to the sea: the first on July 8, 1497, the second on March 8, 1500. The August 29, 1499, Vasco da Gama enters the Tagus, returning from the grand expedition to India, and celebrating here "Novenas" in thanksgiving for the success of his trip.

It was here that King Manuel, soon after he ascended the throne in 1495, decided to build a grand temple, entrusted to the monks of the Order of St. Jerome, who took possession of the new canonical Monastery on April 21, 1500.

A Monastery at the beginning of a new century

The first stone of the building was released on January 6, 1501: to start a new century, the monastery symbolizes the beginning of a new era, marked by a new closeness between men and peoples.

A monastery is a place of prayer and of community life. In this monastery was to be celebrated with due solemnity, the divine worship. According to the Bull of Foundation, promulgated by Pope Alexander VI, in June 23, 1496, the monks took the obligation to celebrate "a mass daily for the soul of Prince Henry, the first founder of this place, and by the King Manuel and his successors." Every day, besides the Mass, they celebrated the seven canonical hours of the "Divine Office" and also dedicated his time to prayer and private study. Many monks devoted themselves to the study of sacred music, others studied organ or other instruments, in view of the splendor the liturgy. But do not neglect the pastoral care of seafarers and sojourners, to whom administered the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.

Fascination of the mystery of Christ

Dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém, Jeronimos Monastery reflects a particular fascination for the Incarnation, Epiphany and birth of the Son of God made man, Jesus Christ. When we enter the door west or axial, which is the main door of the Church, it stands out above the door, three groups of sculptures: the Birth of Jesus (center), the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary (left), the Adoration of Holy Magi (right). At the south-door, toward the river in the center of its magnificent sculptural composition, stands the statue of Our Lady of the Kings, with the boy on the right arm and in his left hand a vase, that symbolizes the offerings of the Magi from the East.

The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi is represented in the altarpiece in the chancel of the church, in two beautiful paintings, recently restored, done by a painter of Spanish origin, Lawrence of Salzedo (1572-1574). In the center, where today is the wonderful silver tabernacle, there was another picture, showing the baby Jesus in the manger, adored by a kneeling Magi, Gaspar. This table does not exist. But in door of the tabernacle is represented the same scene. In the right frame of the Tabernacle, Baltazar's, and left Melchior, each with his retinue. Baltazar wears a robe and turban, as a great lord of the East, and offers to the newborn Son of God a precious vase of gold. Melchior, who wears a crown, is preceded by one page whom he holds a small safe, and is dressed like a King from the Old Testament.

Jerónimos church, today

Today Jeronimos Church remains, as in the beginning, a sacred space, where we celebrate the birth, the Epiphany, Death and Resurrection of Christ. It is not a stone museum, it is a place of encounter with Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago, and He is still present in the Eucharist celebrated daily and kept in the tabernacle.

Here meets on Sunday and also on other days of the week the Parish of St. Mary of Bethlehem, which Christians often join other communities.

Here, the greatness of an unparalleled, recognizes the presence of God and celebrates the mystery of Christ.

Therefore I dare to invite you to find out here this presence. Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today and forever. And if you want, take Him in your heart, to continue the journey with Him the path of your life.


Canon José Manuel dos Santos Ferreira