The Jesus Monastery in Aveiro is one of the city’s most important historical buildings and is well worth a visit if you are in the city for a few days. The Jesus Monastery is located right in the heart of the city, opposite to the cathedral and close to many of the city’s major attractions, including the lagoon, Forum Aveiro, the fish market, and the lovely green, park areas.
The Jesus Monastery in Aveiro is also known by many as the St Joana Convent in Aveiro, as this is the resting place of Infanta Joana of Portugal, the daughter of King Afonso V who dedicated her life to the order and was buried here after her death in 1490.
The St Joana Convent in Aveiro was established in 1462 and was built by renowned architects of the time, Brites Leitao and Mecia Pereira. The foundation stone was laid by King Afonso V in 1462, not knowing that he would subsequently ‘lose’ his daughter to the order ten years later, in 1472.
Infanta Joana was declared the heiress to the throne after the death of her older brother. Although she subsequently lost the title following the birth of her younger brother who would go on to become Joao II of Portugal, she continued to be known as the Princess, making her decision to join the order all the more unpalatable to her traditional father. In fact, Joana had wanted to become a nun since a young age but was forced to expressly go against her father’s wishes in order to fulfil her own.
For the convent, however, having such a high-profile member no doubt increased its prestige. Its profile was raised yet further when she was beatified in 1693, to become known as Blessed Joan of Portugal, thanks to a number of miracles which were attributed to her.
The Jesus Monastery in Aveiro was expanded several times during the centuries of its operation, but was forced to close eventually following the abolition of religious orders in 1834 by Minister Joaquim Antonio de Aguiar, in order to expropriate their land and buildings for the government. Final closure came upon the death of the last nun, in 1874, and in 1882 it was converted into the College of Santa Joana. Closed once more in 1910, it became a national monument and was taken over by the Museum of Aveiro, which now curates and operates the site.
Inside, it is possible to view the tomb of Princess Santa Joana, a masterpiece of mosaic in marble, and a series of tile panels depicting her life. The St Joana Convent in Aveiro is also notable for its beautiful church which dates back to the 18th century, with its sumptuous gilded wood carvings and ornately decorated ceiling. The Renaissance cloisters, which date back to the 16th century, also make a peaceful and contemplative stop on your tour around the site. The monastery is open all year round except public holidays, from Tuesday to Sunday. There is a small entrance fee (around one or two euros), with concessions available.