The Project

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém (Lisbon), founded by King Manuel I (1469-1521) for the friars of the Order of St. Jerome, is well known for its Manueline architectural style and today attracts thousands of tourists. Strangely, however, its musical-liturgical manuscripts have not attracted the attention of scholars. Some of the large choir books (known as cantorales) from the collection at Belém are held in the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, just a few kilometres from the monastery. The other manuscripts from Belém are in the Free Library of Philadelphia. Copied at the beginning of the sixteenth century – which coincides with the construction of the monastery – these richly decorated manuscripts contain the liturgy of the Office and the Mass sung daily by the Hieronymite brothers of Belém.

The objective of this project is to study the liturgy of the monastery of Belém. Each of the choir books will be analysed in detail in order to highlight their musical and liturgical characteristics. The liturgical books printed by the Order will also be studied. They will be a reference to identify any unique features of the liturgy written in the manuscripts from Belém.