"Convento dos Capuchos: Sintra's holy place" Sintra Off The Beaten Path Tip by berenices
Sintra Off The Beaten Path: 36 reviews and 50 photos
Certainly a stark contrast to the grandeur, and playful and even mischievous atmosphere of Sintra, as can be seen in its fairytale like castles and gardens, is this convent which is situated in a system of caves carved into rocks.
The convent, originally named Convento da Santa Cruz, was founded by the son of the viceroy of India, D. Alvaro de Castro in 1560. Legend has it that this was in fulfillment of a vow by the father, who one day during a deer hunt in the forests of Sintra, slept out of exhaustion under a rock outcrop. He dreamed that he was ordered to build a Christian temple in that exact spot. As the father was not able to fulfill this vow, the son took on the construction of the convent.
The convent housed a community of Franciscans. Their vow of poverty is seen in the way they constructed their habitation -- cells carved into and between rocks, with everything in a reduced, even claustrophic scale, with just a few feet of room for each monk. It is still possible to see the cells, the cooking and eating areas, the chapel and other areas as they were during those times - bare and crude in their arrangements (imagine how they must have suffered in the cold of winter). There is also a vegetable garden, and a small forest behind, both of which have hidden corners or small grottoes - places that the hermetic monks sought out for their own prayers and contemplation, in harmony with nature. The convent was abandoned in 1834 when the religious orders were banned in the country.
Visiting the convent is both a humbling and an edifying experience -- amidst the forests and quiet of this serene mountain, this former abode of religious and spiritual life, continues to teach us a few lessons. It is easy to imagine life here then as simple and pure, and somehow we go away from this place feeling a bit more at peace with ourselves.
The convent is 8 km from the historic center, just follow the road EN 247-3 on the map. There is no public transport going there, but if going without car, it's great for a hike.
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