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Diogo de Boitaca (ca. 1460 -1516)

Diogo de Boitaca was active in Portugal in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. His first recorded work is the Convent of Christ in Setúbal (1490). He was the son-in-law of the most important architect in Portugal at the time, Mateus Fernandes, the master builder at Batalha. Boitaca carried out several works around the country and in North Africa [present-day Morocco]. In 1498-1500 he developed the plans for construction of the Jerónimos Monastery, a very ambitious project that he did not complete. The plans with the original layout of the Monastery, which were kept in the Monastery's library up until the 19th century, showed an area four times larger than the current area, with four different cloisters.In 1516 he worked on Batalha Monastery, where he remained until his death, most likely in 1528.

The construction work on the Jerónimos Monastery: Begun in 1501 or 1502 with the laying of the foundations, and experiencing a major impulse from 1513 onwards, the first works campaign oversaw by the architect Diogo de Boitaca extended to 1517, when, at the behest of Manuel I, changes to the orientation of the project were made. The general plan of the building, the elevations and diverse other projects can be attributed to this works campaign. The diverse projects include execution of the body of the dormitory and the narthex arcades below it. The original high altar was built and the walls of the body of the church were raised. The windows and supports for the vaulted ceilings were also constructed.Around 1517 the chapels at the north and south ends of the transept, with their square vaulted ceilings with straight ribbing, were most likely completed. The core of the nave columns was probably also already finished up as far as where the ribbing begin. The ground floor of the cloister was partially built and vaulted.

João de Castilho (1490 -1581)

João de Castilho arrived in Portugal from Spain at the beginning of the 16th century, settling in Viseu, where he worked on the cathedral's choir. In 1515 he began work on the Jerónimos Monastery, still under the oversight of Diogo de Boitaca, whom he replaced as supervisor in 1517. He was one of the trailblazers of the Renaissance style in Portugal, inventing innovative solutions for the coarse work left by Boitaca in the Monastery. Under João III, and by now master of royal works in Belém, he was given a residence on land next to the Monastery. In 1530 João III, who was a recent convert to the Renaissance style, entrusted him with other works he commissioned, in particular at the Convent of Christ in Tomar. Due to his specialisation in military architecture, in 1543 Castilho was sent to North Africa, where he built several fortresses. He died in Tomar in 1581.

The construction work on the Jerónimos Monastery: In April 1516 João de Castilho began work at the Monastery under the oversight of Boitaca. He assumed full management of the work site on 2 January 1517. Under his coordination the construction work was advanced on seven different fronts: South Portal - Castilho oversaw the construction of the portal with a team of thirty craftsmen from France, Flanders, Spain and Portugal; Chapter House - work on the Chapter House was entrusted to two Spanish masters: Pêro Guterres, who had a team of 27 workers for fitting it out; and Rodrigo de Pontezila, who had a team of four engravers for the portal; Sacristy - the Sacristry is the work of Fernando de la Fremosa, who led a team of 10 workers; Cloister - the Portuguese Filipe Henriques joined the Spaniards, Francisco de Benavente and Pêro de Trillo, at the head of a group of 140 workers to complete the ground floor and build the upper floor; Refectory - construction of this space was entrusted to Leonardo Vaz and his team of 15 workers; Axial Portal - this work was the responsibility of Nicolau Chanterêne, who led a team of 11 French craftsmen; Three Chapels in the Choir - this work was coordinated by the Portuguese builders João Gonçalves and Rodrigo Afonso, each overseeing a team of 10 men. Thus, the works campaigns coordinated by Castilho constituted a considerable effort to advance the project, with the completion of the ground floor of the Cloister and commencement of work on the upper floor (making it the first two-storeyed vaulted cloister), as well as execution of the South Portal, Sacristy, Refectory, and parts of the walls and the portal of the Chapter House. He was also responsible for the complicated task of constructing the ceilings for the Church nave and transept, a complex and intricate project that was completed in 1522 and reflects his specialisation in vaulting. But Castilho's marks on the complex go much further than structural aspects. He "dressed" the building in a new style: the late-Gothic-influenced ornamentation of the Boitaca period gave way to the Classicist decoration favoured by the Spanish Plateresque style.

Diogo de Torralva

Most likely of Spanish origin, Diogo de Torralva was a Knight of the Royal Household. In 1531 he built the Igreja do Góis church and in 1537 the Igreja da Graça in Évora. In 1545 he was appointed architect to King João III and, in 1548, he was appointed architect to the District of Alentejo and Palaces of Évora, being named surveyor for all works. He built the cloister at the Convent of Madre de Deus in Lisbon and in 1557 he took charge of the construction work on the Convent of Christ in Tomar, having been commissioned by Queen Catarina [Catherine of Austria] to remodel the main cloister, which had been designed by João de Castilho. In Tomar he also built the Ermida da Conceição chapel, which is considered one of the outstanding examples of Classicism in Portugal. In 1563 Catherine commissioned him to work on the Jerónimos Monastery.

The construction work on the Jerónimos Monastery: In 1530 João III removed João de Castilho from the construction site at Belém, giving him a new and important site to oversee at the Convent of Christ in Tomar. Diogo de Torralva took his place at Belém in 1540 and remained in charge there until 1551.He was responsible for finishing off some of the construction projects commenced by his predecessors, such as the upper floor in the north and west wings of the Cloister and installing the Classicist platband. Under his guidance a new gate was built, which was replaced in the 17th century, and the pews in the Upper Choir, designed by Diogo de Carça, were installed. Torralva was also responsible for remodelling the High Altar so it could house the remains of Manuel I.

Jerónimo de Ruão (1530 - 1601)

Jerónimo de Ruão was born in Coimbra in 1530. He died in Lisbon in 1601. A Classicist Renaissance architect, he was the son of the renowned sculptor form Coimbra, João de Ruão. From 1563 onwards he oversaw the construction projects at the Jerónimos Monastery (where he worked until his death). He was responsible for completing the Monastery.The current High Altar reflects his design, as does the internal remodelling of the transept, which was completed after his death by Rafael Moreira. Ruão marked the end of the expansion of the Monastery complex, as resources grew increasingly scant. King Sebastião had already limited funding from the royal treasury because of the need to build fortifications. Ruão also designed the Igreja da Luz church (1575) in Carnide, Lisbon, which was commissioned by the Infanta Maria, the daughter of Manuel I and Queen Leonor.

The construction work on the Jerónimos Monastery: The architect Jerónimo de Ruão oversaw completion of the complex, having taken charge in 1563 and been responsible for diverse individual works projects in the Monastery until his death in 1601 (he was laid to rest in the Cloister).The new High Altar was his design; it was commissioned by Queen Catherine in 1563. Begun in 1565 and completed in 1572, the High Altar was executed in a Mannerist style that deliberately contrasts with the rest of the building.He also designed in the garden in the main Cloister, the veranda with fountain at the far end of the dormitory, the patio to the left of the gate and the galleries in the small Ionic cloister, all of which were lost in the 19th century.

Source: Paulo Pereira, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Publicações Scala, 2002