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Monchique mayor determines to buy landmark convent of Nossa Senhora do Desterro

monchiquemayorMonchique's mayor is determined to purchase the town's iconic convent and convert it into a hotel or hostel.

Convento de Nossa Senhora do Desterro is one of Monchique’s ‘must see’ buildings and still attracts tourists, despite its parlous state of repair.

If the council does manage to buy the site, which may not be easy as different parts are owned by different people, it will need to act swiftly before the abandoned building starts to collapse.

Ultimately, the council has the power to issue a compulsory purchase order. Mayor Rui André (pictured) acknowledges that this would be the final option but hopes a deal can be done with the current owners.

André said that the council "has been negotiating for a long time to acquire the entire building, which has proved very difficult as it is divided up into several sections, with several owners."

If the owners don’t play ball, the council will take administrative possession of the convent and then offer it as a business opportunity. It is likely that legal steps will have to be taken to secure the site as a family living there for nearly 40 years sees itself as the ‘natural guardian of the convent’ and its members are unlikely to leave quietly.

The goal is "to create a Pousada de Portugal or a niche hotel," said the mayor, adding that the council first needs to act to "consolidate the ruin, to avoid collapse while keeping the monument open for visitors."

After this, the council will be looking for investors from the hotel and catering sectors although the cost of reconstructing the buildings is likely to make any commercial venture unviable unless a sizeable grant is available.

Rui André says that there is already "a project to create a hotel there", which "would not only see the building saved but also increase hotel capacity for the Monchique area.”

A undated Public Petition to 'save' the convent and upgrade the private accommodation for the family living within its walls, without converting it into "yet another example of commerce and tourism," received little support.

The building is a former convent of the Friars of the Third Order of St. Francis, an order founded in 1447.*

The building was inaugurated in 1631 by Pêro da Silva, who became Governor of Portuguese India. According to legend, he carried back from India a small ivory statue of Our Lady, which was venerated as a relic after his death.

Pêro da Silva is believed to be buried at the convent and that the magnolia tree in the courtyard grew from a sapling that accompanied him on his return voyage from India.*

Another legend relating to the construction of the convent is of two sailors, in difficulties on the high seas, who promised to build a church on the first site on Portuguese territory that they set eyes on across a storm-tossed ocean.

The convent was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755, and was rebuilt in the Manueline style.* Due to at least two centuries of neglect, the convent now needs a comprehensive rebuild but is not beyond saving.




 See video: 'The Derelict Haunted Convent in Monchique, Algarve '

* See readers comments below from the historian, Peter Booker



Pêro da Silva (1580 -1639)



0 #5 Dre 2017-09-08 21:06
Well worth a visit, on the hill just above monchique, to get to see how buildings were constructed is fascinating, as the building returns to nature you get to witness skills long forgotten in construction, ie the curved roof formed from small bricks/tiles?, To turn it in to a Hotel is the stuff of nightmare's, great just remove any soul it has, and more importantly this clearly is a home to a very kind and humble man, who let us view around the building, for a few € I gave him, please leave be, for when it wants to return to once it came
-2 #4 Malcolm.H 2017-07-18 12:04
Certainly the building needs saving for its historical value but this is Portugal. During hard times and it has been disused for 2 centuries. So why not just make it wind and rain proof - for now? The UK National Trust do this when their funds are short ... ask them.

Each month sees at least another billion added to Portugal's public sector borrowing - which any grant to this Municipal will fall under. Does it really need to rack up even more debt just to grease a few lucky palms ?
+2 #3 Ed 2017-07-18 08:35
Quoting Peter Booker:
3rd order founded by St Francis of Assisi in 1221.

Pêro da Silva died at Goa in 1639. Perhaps the magnolia came in his coffin?

The later date came from this note:
"A papal decree of 1447 organized the more isolated communities into a new and separate religious Order with its own Rule of Life. From that point, members were defined either as Third Order Regular (T.O.R.; i.e. living under a Regula or "Rule"), or as the Third Order Secular, for those members of the Order who lived in the world. In the later centuries of the Franciscan movement, the Order of Regular Tertiaries was considered as equivalent to the friars of the First Order."

As for the magnolia, this legend is just that, but adds some colour to the dereleicion...
+1 #2 Peter Booker 2017-07-18 07:57
Dear Ed, The last buildings constructed in the Manueline style were soon after the death of D Manuel in 1521. I see that someone has written that the building does have some Manueline attributes, but I think that description is tosh. Having inspected the photos of it, I would suggest that it was built in the Mannerist style, common in the late sixteenth - early seventeenth century. Portuguese sources often show estilo chão, meaning a plain style, which this building certainly has.
0 #1 Peter Booker 2017-07-18 07:42
3rd order founded by St Francis of Assisi in 1221.

Pêro da Silva died at Goa in 1639. Perhaps the magnolia came in his coffin?