Convento dos Capuchos Sintra | Portugal Visitor

Convento dos Capuchos (Convento de Santa Cruz da Serra da Sintra)

Convento dos Capuchos (Cork Convent)

Convento dos Capuchos (Cork Convent)

The Convento dos Capuchos (Cork Convent or to give it its full title the Convento de Santa Cruz da Serra da Sintra) just outside Sintra dates from 1560 and forms part of the town’s UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape.

Its minute cells, chapel and refectory are cut from the local granite rock and lined with cork for insulation – hence its name.

The buildings seem to grow from the lush vegetation of oak, ferns and mosses.

The granite boulders are covered with moss and lichen.
The granite boulders are covered with moss and lichen
The Patio do Tanque with its octagonal fountain.
The Patio do Tanque with its octagonal fountain


The convent was founded in 1560 by D. Álvaro de Castro, a minister of the ill-fated King Sebastian of Portugal inspired in a dream by his father, D. João de Castro (1500-1548), once a Portuguese Viceroy of India. Initially just 8 monks arrived to take up residence from the Convent of Arrábida.

The convent was Franciscan and belonged to the Order of Friars Minor, or the Capuchins and followed the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi – the search for spiritual perfection by shunning the pleasures and travails of the world. The most famous of the initial 8 monks was Friar Honório who lived to be 100 existing in a simple cell on a frugal diet.

Lord Byron mentions the monk in his narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “Deep in yon cave Honorius long did dwell. In hope to merit heaven, by making earth a hell.”

Supported by the Portuguese monarchy, the convent was supplied with fish, olive oil and other necessities and received gifts of azulejos tiles and paintings.

With the dissolution of the religious orders in Portugal in 1834, the site was acquired first by the Portuguese Count of Penamacor and later passed into the hands of Francis Cook, a wealthy English businessman and owner of the Palácio de Monserrate.

Acquired by the state in the 20th century, the site has been preserved and restored.

The monarch of Spain (and Portugal) Filipe I of Portugal (II of Spain), remarked after visiting the Convent of the Capuchos and Sintra in 1581: “In my Kingdoms, there are two things I have that greatly please me: El Escorial because it is very rich and the Convento de Santa Cruz because it is very poor.”

The cork lining of the cells provided protection from the cold and humidity.
The cork lining of the cells provided protection from both the cold and humidity


The architecture of the site is noted for its simplicity and harmony with nature. The number eight representing “infinity” and the number of the first monks is a recurrent theme. There are eight cells, the fountain in the Patio do Tanque (“Terrace of the Tank”) is octagonal and eight steps separate the rooms.

The doors of the cells are lower than a man’s height to encourage humility and genuflection.

The main entrance, the Pórtico das Fragas (“Portico of the Rocks”) is flanked by two large granite boulders, one of which is topped with a bell-gable. Pilgrims would ring the bell to alert the friars to let them enter.

The main complex is the Terreiro do Campanário (“Terrace of the Belfry”) close to the Chapel of Senhor dos Passos.

The Casa das Águas (“House of the Waters”) consists of a spring, cistern and the latrines.

Other buildings include a refectory, kitchen, library and infirmary.

The Chapel

The austere chapel has a single nave and presbytery carved from the rock. The interior is lined with blue and white azulejos tiles depicting the crucifixion and the Passion of Christ. The small altar is marble and the choir is also covered with cork.

The trail leading to the grotto of friar Honório.
This trail leads to the grotto of friar Honório
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business.
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business
A cork-lined doorway of a cell.
A cork-lined doorway of a cell

The Gardens

The grounds and surrounding woods of the convent were maintained by the monks along with a vegetable garden. A recent addition is a Donkey Reserve which aims to raise awareness of these animals – long part of the culture of Iberia.

Other highlights in Sintra include the National Palace, the Palácio de Monserrate, Quinta da Regaleira, the Castle of the Moors and Pena Palace.

Another palace in Sintra is the Palácio de Seteais – now a luxury, five-star hotel. Further attractions are the impressive Museu de História Natural de Sintra, the recent NewsMuseum and the Museu Anjos Teixeira, which displays the sculptures of two great contemporary Portuguese sculptors father and son Artur Anjos Teixeira (1880-1935) and Pedro Anjos Teixeira (1908-1997). The Camara Municipal de Sintra (Sintra Town Hall) is also a wonderful piece of architecture completed in 1909 in an aesthetically pleasing mix of Manueline and Romantic styles.

The Convento dos Capuchos in Sintra.
The Convento dos Capuchos in Sintra
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business.
Goods From Japan delivered to your home or business
The Convento dos Capuchos in Sintra.
The fountain in the Convento dos Capuchos in Sintra


Convento dos Capuchos
Tel: 21 923 73 00

Hours: 10 am-6 pm; closed December 25 and January 1.

From Sintra Station it is best to take a taxi the 6 km to the convent.

Book tickets for the Castle of the Moors & National Palace with Tiqets

Palacio Sintra, Sintra, Lisbon, Portugal.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Getting to Sintra


There are local buses from Sintra to Cascais (#417), Estoril (#418) and Mafra. From Sintra Station a number of buses run by Scotturb around the sights. Bus #433 (Urbana Sintra) runs into historic Sintra on a circular route. Bus #434 (Pena Tourist) leaves the station 3 (in winter) or 4 times an hour for Sintra Castle, Pena Palace, Vila and Sintra NewsMuseum. Bus #435 also connects to various destinations in the historic center. To get to Cabo da Roca take either bus #403 or the open top tourist bus, Circuito da Roca.

Sintra Station.
Sintra Station


Sintra Station connects on the Sintra Line to Rossio Station, Oriente, Entrecampos, Sete Rios and Campolide in Lisbon.

There are trains to Sintra approximately every 15 minutes from Rossio on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends, with the journey between Lisbon and Sintra taking 39 minutes. On weekdays after 8.38 pm the service is every 30 minutes.

The first train from Rossio is at 6.08 am with the last train at 1.08 am. The last train from Sintra to Rossio leaves Sintra at 12.44 am.

Tivoli Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal.
Tivoli Palácio de Seteais

Portugal Hotel & Hostel Accommodation

Recommended accommodation in Sintra must include the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais. It is a luxury 5-star hotel set on a hilltop with superb views of the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. Facilities include a swimming pool, tennis courts and an equestrian center.

Book Hotel Accommodation in and around Sintra

The four-star Pestana Hotel offers a golf course and outdoor pool.

Tivoli Sintra Hotel, also four-star, has well-appointed guest rooms and superb views complete with a recommended restaurant and bar.

With three stars the VIP Inn Miramonte Hotel has an outdoor pool and games room.

See a complete listing of hotels and guesthouses in Sintra.

Hotel Almirante

Hotel Altis

Hotel Britania

Pestana Carlton Palace Hotel

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Map of Sintra, Portugal.
Map of Sintra, Portugal

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