The Cork Convent Of Capuchos, Portugal

I was browsing through some old photos and discovered a set from a visit to a fascinating convent we visited near Lisbon, Portugal, in 2019. This winding, cramped religious complex was established in 1560 by just eight monks. It’s tucked away from the world even now and, curiously, has walls, doors, and windows lined with cork as a natural insulation

The tale of its founding (because of course there’s always a tale) was that it was inspired by João de Castro. He was hunting in the mountains of Sintra, got lost chasing a deer, and fell asleep against a rock. In his dream, he received a divine revelation to build a Christian temple on the site. And being a man with the means to do so, he did. And so the Convent of Capuchos was built.

After religious orders in Portugal disappeared, the convent was bought privately, and fell into disrepair. It was bought by the government in 1949, but repaired in fits and starts. Sadly it was burgled in 1998, and many of its treasures were lost.

In 2001, after further conservation efforts, it was re-opened to the public. The buildings are compact, built very much in nature even before it was abandoned and greenery started to reclaim it. The dwellings slot into and around boulders, trees, and hedgerows. You wander through them like a maze, stooping beneath low doorways, and into dark, cold rooms, lit by modern strings of LED lights.

The building is somewhat off the beaten track, and we were the only ones there aside from some people working in the gardens below. The place felt as if it had slipped in from another world. It was easy to picture the inhabitants working in solitude, barely seeing anyone from outside for weeks at a time, living peacefully. I could imagine this place popping up in high fantasy or an historical epic.

What do you think? Please share in the comments.

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