Convent of the Capuchos
Founded in 1560, the Convent of the Capuchos is a monastic complex in the native forest of Sintra. The convent was inhabited by Franciscan friars for nearly 300 years and breathes spiritual devotion and asceticism. The site forms a symbiosis of humble human construction and natural splendour, where monastic architecture is nestled amidst enormous granite boulders and the surrounding vegetation. The convent was abandoned in 1834 and passed through phases of total absence of maintenance before it was acquired by the Portuguese State. In 2000, its management came under the authority of Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua, a public company created for the safeguarding and management of state properties in the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, listed as UNESCO World Heritage in 1995.
The conservation and restoration of the Convent of the Capuchos was fully financed by Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua out of tourist revenue generated by previously restored monuments under its care. This economic model guarantees the sustainability of the public company’s cultural heritage management.
Involving a multidisciplinary team, the restoration project focused on restoring all buildings and their respective decorative features. The process included cleaning the characteristic cork elements, used profusely in the convent for insulation and as a finishing and decorative material. Traditional techniques were combined with innovative solutions, such as the implementation of a fire safety system to prevent the spread of forest fires. Accessibility conditions were also improved, through the rehabilitation of all paths and the reduction of obstacles to mobility wherever possible.
Today, the Convent of the Capuchos is a source of pride at national, regional and local level. The convent plays an important role in the collective consciousness of the local community and figures in popular culture, legends and tales related to the mysticism of Sintra. The rehabilitation of the Convent of the Capuchos contributes to this connection between the local residents and the heritage site, and has a catalysing effect on the rehabilitation of the municipality’s heritage.
“Its remote location and the poor state of conservation made the restoration of the Convent of the Capuchos especially challenging. Nevertheless, Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua carried out a high-quality restoration which is a remarkable example for humble and sensitive heritage. The restored convent stimulates a more sustainable, slow cultural tourism by attracting visitors to sites in the wider area of Sintra,” noted the Awards’ Jury.