news: Future of historic convent in limbo

The future of a dilapidated 16th century privately owned monastery overlooking the Arade River in Portimão, which is considered to be a building of importance to the patrimony and history of the region, is still uncertain despite an online appeal for the authorities to initiate action to save the building from total ruin.

The Portimão local authority has sided with local citizens who have called for urgent intervention to preserve the Convento de São Francisco, which they claim would increase the appeal of Portimão as a tourist attraction.

The monastery is the first monument of historic value tourists arriving by boat see, and therefore important for the local economy, and a financial investment is crucial to its survival.

Negotiations with the owners to buy the convent have reached a stalemate position as the asking price is said to be excessive.

Dated from 1530, the monastery was founded by Simão Correia, Governor of Azamor and the construction involved the adaptation of existing houses and church at the time.

Its architecture of the late Manueline and Mannerist period is considered of great value to the patrimony and historic heritage of Portimão.

A spokesman for the pressure group calling for urgent action said: “The monument is the first thing cruise tourists see when they arrive at the city’s ‘gates’ so a rehabilitation programme would create an added tourist attraction as well as boost the local economy.”

A total of 250 people signed the original petition, which was directed at several public bodies including the Portuguese Government, the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Culture, the Institute for the Management of Patrimonial and Archaeological Heritage and the Portimão Municipal Authority.

The initiative was prompted by the increasing decline of the building where drug addicts and down-and-out individuals were squatting, and police were advising people not to enter the building.

The protesters claim that the convent could be restored and would be the ideal venue as a museum or cultural centre.

The coat of arms of the founder in stone is located at the entrance to the convent and it was in 1541 that the monks moved there.

In 1755, the building was severely damaged by the great earthquake, and in 1884 the church was being used for cork storage and a fire destroyed the interior of the monastery.
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