UNESCO has classified the monastery, which faces the River Tagus, as a World Heritage site. In the main doorway, you’ll see Our Lady of Belém (Bethlehem), patron saint of seafarers, a beautiful example of 16th Century Portuguese sculpture. In the centre of the monastery is the symbolic figure of Prince Henry the Navigator, grasping a sword.
While the work of sculptor Nicolau de Chanterenne stands in the west doorway, a statue of King Manuel I.
Pay a visit to the monastic church, one of the most beautiful in Portugal and Europe. The slender pillars are decorated with delicate arabesques and seem to suspend the immense vaulted ceiling.
Five hundred years ago, the monastery was the site of a modest chapel where departing and arriving seafarers came to pray. King Manuel transformed it into this remarkable monument, a prayer to the Virgin of Belém for the success of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India.
The site is a monument to the great men who spearheaded the Portuguese Discoveries, glorified by Luís de Camões in his epic poem “Os Lusíadas”. The tombs of King Manuel and his descendents are all found here, as well as a symbolic monument to Fernando Pessoa in the royal cloisters, the famous Portuguese poet of the 20th century.