Portugal Convent of the Capuchos

8 images 1 contributors Shoot with care

Sue Wolfe

Shoot with care
The monastery and the surrounding grounds are part of the park system and rules do apply.

About this spot
While many of the monasteries in Portugal are very ornamental—the Convent of the Capuchos is not. The Franciscan Order did not believe in living lavishly and Capuchos Convent reflected those beliefs.

The convent was founded in 1560 and for 300 years it continued as a place of worship where saintly men came to renounce the pleasures of earthly life. The small convent, tucked away in the Sintra Hills, could only accommodate eight friars. Brother Honório, the best known of the convent’s residents, spent his final three decades in isolation, living off bread and water in a small cold cave. Amazingly he lived to be 100. Lord Byron mentions the monk in his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, “Deep in yon cave Honorius long did dwell. In hope to merit heaven, by making earth a hell.”

The convent’s windows and doors are coated with cork, a traditional building material, to help protect against the elements. The doors were small to encourage an obedient and respectful posture. Construction was influenced by the number eight—which symbolized infinity. Inside the cells you will find a “stone” bed and a small window that was the monk’s only source of light. The chapels, living quarters and kitchen are connected by narrow passages.

Philip I of Portugal said “Of all my kingdoms, there are two places I estimate especially, El Escorial for being so rich, and the Convent of Capuchos for being so poor.”

In 1834, religious orders were abolished in the country and the convent fell into disrepair. In 1949, the convent was acquired by the state and restored.

The Convent of the Capuchos was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1995.

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