Convent devastated by fire re-opens

LISBON’S BEATO Convent re-opened to the public recently, following a devastating fire in July 2004 that severely damaged the entrance, staircase and dome.

Listed as a Building of Public Interest by the Portuguese Architectural Heritage Institute since 1984, the restoration work cost an estimated 750,000 euros. The convent has been owned by Cerealis SGPS since 1999, which, up until the fire, had ploughed half a million euros into restoring and improving the historic site.

The restoration mainly concentrated on the entrance to the convent and its dome, using original materials where possible. The 15th century building had to be completely cleaned to remove the black soot that covered the interior.

The renovation of the ancient dome had proved easier than previously anticipated, since the fire hadn’t affected the master beams. The oldest archway, dating from the 15th century, has been completely restored, although work on three others, dating from the 16th century, will only be completed later this year. The heat from the fire and subsequent cold water from the fire pumps cracked the marble arches. They will have to be dismantled piece by piece, cleaned, restored and catalogued before being reconstructed. C.G.