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Convento Sao Francisco do Monte

relevance for the project

It needs restoration works, it is relevant for architectural and environmental issues.


The Convent of São Francisco do Monte, located in the municipality of Viana do Castelo in Portugal, dates back to the end of the fourteenth century and was one of the first convents of the Ordo fratrum minorum in the country. The foundation dates back to 1392, with the construction of a primitive oratory, on the initiative of the friar Gonçalo Marinho (†1400), near a source of water. The building was subsequently enlarged with a small convent area, and in 1568 the complex was integrated into the Capucha Province of Santo António, becoming a convent in which a novitiate was established. In 1584 work began to construct a new wing of the convent, making a cloister and a dormitory. In 1590 the original church was rebuilt with a high choir. The complex was interested in several extensions that followed one another until 1612, when the friars were transferred to the more central Convent of Santo António dos Capuchos (Viana do Castelo), thus reducing the site to its original function as an oratory. However, this did not stop the evolution of the complex, which through significant donations was continually enriched with works of art and awards. In 1759, the construction of twenty dormitory cells, a library, and an inn were completed, and on 22 December 1752, the building took back the title of ‘convent’. In 1785 the chapel of São Pedro de Alcântara and the access galilee to the church were built. In 1834, the convent was abandoned with the extinction of religious orders and the alienation of church property by the liberal state. In 1850 the church was donated to the Parish of Santa Maria Maior, while the convent was bought at public auction by the Viscount of Carreira. In the 1920s, the complex was inherited by Maria Luisa De Castro Feijó, who hired a custodian to take care of the place until 1966, its definitive abandonment. During this period, the convent entered a long period of decay. In 1987, the last owner donated the convent's property to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Viana do Castelo, which sold it in 2001 to the Polytechnic of Viana do Castelo. Despite the interest in this critical monastic complex, which led to some structural consolidation and safety measures in 2007, the building is nowadays in a state of neglect.
The ruin, part of a large wooded area of pines and eucalyptus crossed by hiking trails, strongly characterises the landscape, transforming the entire environment into a ‘mental landscape’, highlighting its historical depth and temporal dimension. Access to the complex is through a high arched portal with a cornice based on two Doric columns, surmounted by three statues: San Francesco, San Pedro de Alcántara, and Sant’Antonio. Two chapels on the left overlook the entrance patio, one dedicated to Santa Maria Madalena and the second to São Pedro de Alcântara. Both in poor condition, they had a gable facade with a round-arched portal supported by Tuscan pilasters. On the opposite side, along the church wall, is the small chapel do Senhor da Prisão. Based on the historical documentation, the territory owned by the convent was characterised initially by the presence of numerous seventeenth-century chapels inserted within a path marked by fountains and drinking troughs.
The two main entrances to the complex also over- look the patio. The first in Galilee, where the Senhor dos Passos chapel is located, leads to the church through a door built in the 18th century, and the second entrance with a monumental arch leads the convent. There are three other secondary entrances along the perimeter of the building. One on the back, probably intended for horses, given the presence of metal hooks on the wall and several drinking troughs, one on the side of the refectory and one on the western side of the complex.
The church, with a longitudinal plan with a single nave, has four shallow side chapels - framed by round arches supported by Tuscan pilasters - and a presbytery narrower than the nave and of older construction. The two chapels closest to the triumphal arch, dedicated to the Senhora do Rosário and to São Boaventura, were decommissioned and replaced by wooden structures with the angled altarpiece, the two devoted to São Gonçalo (Gospel), and Sant’Antonio (Epistola) remain. The main facade on the western front is flanked on the left side by the quadrangular bell tower built in the eighteenth century and is completely covered with vegetation; the large arched window of the high choir remains visible.
The convent develops around a quadrangular cloister. Some smooth pillars with Ionic capitals and a portion of the balcony on the upper floor remain today. The confessional room and the ancient chapter house are located on the west side of the cloister. On the east side, along a corridor called ‘via sacra’, is the sacristy, the presbytery, and the morning staircase that led to the dormitory on the upper floor. Further east is the new chapter house, connected through a large atrium to the outdoor patio. Further north is a large room that served as a refectory and the kitchen, characterised by a high fireplace and various rooms used as warehouses and washbasins. On the left is the ‘De Profundis’ room, connected to an entrance area with the hooks for tying the horses. Towards the south, there is a corridor with a small chapel and the ‘regular’ staircase, which led to the upper floor where the dormitory was located. All the second floor and the rooftop are disappeared, but it is still possible to figure them out by investigating the historical sources and the traces on the masonry.


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Viana do Castelo, Norte, Portugal

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