Shuffling around a church amidst a throng of tourists - most of whom only give the surrounding architecture a passing interest before focusing back on their selfie-sticks - inevitably takes away from the experience of visiting; especially when the site is something as impressive as the Jerónimos Monastery. Here, where the vaulted ceilings seem built to scrape the heavens themselves, and the unique Late Gothic Manueline architecture is riddled with hidden symbols and meaningful motifs, you know that a quiet cloud of sheer awe is drifting just out of reach, waiting to touch your spirit and inspire your thoughts if only you could find a moment peaceful enough to let it descend. But instead it dissipates in the bustle of voices and camera clicks as you're swept along with the crowd.
That may be the state of things during opening hours at Jerónimos, especially during peak tourist season when people flock here daily, their stomachs laden with the hot lava custard of Pasteis de Belem devoured in the equally-packed restaurant next door. But there are times of respite. The Monastery hosts organ recitals within the gaping belly of its church, and these provide one such time.
The concerts take place after the tourists have been ushered out and the church's doors are closed to everyone except those who declare themselves interested in patroning the recital. Now, you can take a pew and settle into the stillness of the place, as the silence is pierced by the first echoing notes of the pipe organ. In this moment, the space finally feels like it's serving one of its true purposes. It becomes a place for sitting quietly, contemplating, listening; eyes closed, letting the soul be awe-inspired under the beauty of the gothic stone steeples that reach up towards the heavens.
For concert times and programs, visit ACMJ.