In the middle of the forest between Sintra and the Atlantic coast, lies the ruins of the old monastery Convent dos Capuchos (Convent of Santa Cruz). The monastery was built in the middle of the 16th century in a miserable place in the forest, filled with large stones and far from civilization. Here 8 monks lived in incredible poverty and simplicity, without access to any kind of comfort.
When King Philip II visited the monastery in 1581, he is said to have said that in all his kingdoms, there were two things he valued most: El Escoril, because it was so rich and Convent of Santa Cruz because it was so poor. To me, that says something about how the monastery must have looked 500 years ago.
The monastery is completely built in stone, partly built into the surrounding rocks and mountains. Through very small corridors and passageways, it is now possible to visit the old cells where the monks lived. It is no exaggeration to describe this place as extremely spartan and simple. Small, narrow doors lead into the very small bedrooms with the tiny little windows for light. It is hard to imagine that the monk who lived here the longest lived here for 36 years. I probably wouldn't have managed 36 minutes. The body really crawls with discomfort to walk in these narrow little dark corridors.
In the ceilings, over the walls and in every crack there are still traces of the cork that over the centuries sealed the monastery and protected against both cold and moisture. The large amount of cork has even given the monastery its nickname - "the cork monastery".
The monastery was inhabited until 1834, when in a turbulent historical time all religious communities were banned. The monks were divided and the monastery was abandoned. Over the years, nature has slowly taken over the building and everywhere over the walls and stairs moss, grass and flowers now spread like a thick carpet.
Today, the Convento dos Campuchos is owned by the state and part of Sintra's cultural area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Over the years, the monastery has been partially demolished, but through state protection, further decay has been stopped. Walls have been boarded up and corridors secured for tourists.
How do I get to Convento dos Capuchos?
We actually found here by chance, when we went to Cabo da Roca in Sintra. The monastery is located in the forest on a minor road, about 1 mile from Sintra (takes about 20 min).
How much does it cost to visit Convento dos Capuchos?
The monastery is part of Parks of Sintra and the more of their seats you buy tickets for, the more discount you get. So, for example, if you also plan to visit the Palace of Pena and the Moorish Castle, you get a 6% discount on the total ticket price.
Normal price for Convento dos Capuchos before any discounts is 7 Euros per adult and 5,50 Euros per child (between 6-17 years).
NOTE: There is no service here except for ticket sales and toilets, so bring water and don't come here hungry!
Today's super tip!
If you are also going to Palace of Pena, there is a back road to this park from the monastery, with parking near the entrance to Chalet of the Countess of Edla. Much fewer cars and tourist buses than via Pena's main entrance, but a bit further to walk. If you also pre-purchase all tickets at the monastery, you will avoid queuing for tickets at the castle. So win win!
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