Convent of the Capuchos, Sintra

Convent of the Capuchos feels like a world away from the crowds of Sintra although it rests in the same hills along with famous palaces such as Monserrate and Pena Palace. It has been almost 500 years since the convent was first founded yet it still retains its sense of serenity. This small convent, also known as the Cork Convent, demonstrates a Franciscan commitment to simplicity and austerity. It won’t take you long to visit, but the memories of this place and the quiet you can find here may linger long after.

Vitor Oliveira, Convent of the Capuchos, Flickr

History

Convent of the Capuchos, or Cork Convent, was founded in 1560 by D. Álvaro de Castro, a councilor of King D. Sebastian. It fulfilled a vow made by his father, D. João de Castro, who dreamed of building a temple dedicated to contemplation. The use of cork in its construction and decoration is a testament to the Franciscan ideal of renouncing worldly pleasures for spiritual enlightenment.

Upon its completion, the convent was named the Convent of Santa Cruz of the Serra de Sintra. It later received further improvements by the order of Cardinal King D. Henry. In 1581, King Philip I of Portugal paid a visit to the convent and made a quote that later become famous, being pleased for two things in all of his kingdom: “the Escorial, for being so rich, and the Convent of Santa Cruz, for being so poor.” Thus, even in its early days, the convent and its surroundings made a strong impression on people.   

Vitor Oliveira, Close up of Convent of the Capuchos, Flickr

Convent of the Capuchos served as a place of pilgrimage and worship for around 250 years before being abandoned in 1834, after the expiration of the Religious Orders in Portugal. In 1873, the 2nd Count of Penamacor sold the property to the 1st Viscount of Monserrate, Francis Cook.

For about 250 years, the convent remained a place of worship and pilgrimage, inhabited by Franciscan friars that the local population considered “holy men”, who shared the philosophy expressed there. One of the remarkable friars in the history of this house was Friar Honorius who, according to legend, spent the last decades of his isolated life, bread and water, in a small cave in the forest of the convent, after having fallen into temptation.

However, in 1834, after the extinction of the Religious Orders in Portugal, the convent was left to abandonment, with its ownership changing hands twice before being acquired by the Portuguese State in 1949.

In 2000, the Convent of the Capuchos began to be managed by the Parques de Sintra. Finally, in 2013, a project began to restore and conserve the convent, ensuring the protection and updating of the monument for future visitors.

Vitor Oliveira, Convent of the Capuchos, Flickr

How to Get to Convent of the Capuchos

The easiest way to reach the Convent of the Capuchos is by car or tuk tuk from the center of Sintra. Rideshares through Uber or Bolt can be booked from the center of Lisbon to Convent of the Capuchos for €30 and will take about 50 minutes.

Alternatively, you can take a tuk tuk from the center of Sintra, which can reach the convent in about 25-30 minutes. One of the most relaxing ways to reach the Convent of the Capuchos is to book a personalized tour and specify in advance that you want to stop at the Convent of the Capuchos. It is usually only the personalized tours in Sintra that will make a stop for a good length of time at the convent.

Tickets & Times

To enjoy a visit to the Convent of the Capuchos without the hassle of waiting in line, it is advisable to purchase tickets online. Purchase your ticket at least three days in advance and you can receive a 15% discount.

Ticket prices vary by age group. Adults cost €11, youth (ages 6-17) and seniors (65+) pay €9, and children under 6 are free. A family ticket for two adults and two youths is available for €29. You also have the option to buy an audio guide from the CloudGuide app for €1.09 or an audio guide combining five monuments (Pena, Sintra, Queluz, and Monserrate Palaces and Convent of the Capuchos) for €3.99. 

Visiting Convent of the Capuchos invites visitors to venture into the heart of Sintra’s natural beauty and take a quiet moment for themselves, far from the crowds and close to the tranquility enjoyed by the Franciscans before them. 

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