Though it’s one of the most important buildings in Portugal today, the Jerónimos Monastery had much more humble beginnings.
In the 14th century, the small Lisbon chapel, Santa Maria de Belém, was presided over by monks of the military-religious Order of Christ. Originally built by Prince Henry the Navigator, the duty of the monks there was to assist Portuguese sailors and ships leaving port for long journeys. Seamen and crew would spend their last night in Portugal within the church, often praying for safe travel and confessing their sins to the monks there in case they did not return to land.
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