Monks’ cells to luxury flats

A historic but derelict convent, that was once home to a group of English Catholic monks, is to be converted into luxury apartments. The 18th century so-called Convento dos Inglesinhos, in the heart of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto, is currently being gutted and refurbished by property developers Amorim.

However, the original proposal from the Amorim Group was to build a high quality development for the elderly. This followed an earlier plan by Lisbon-based charity, Santa Casa da Misericórdia, to turn it into a subsidised residential home for the elderly. Misericórdia has been criticised for selling the property to Amorim in October 2000 for 2.675 billion euros after buying it for 655 million euros in 1984.

This price was accepted by the English Catholic Church episcopal authorities, who owned the property, and nominally Bishop Guazzelli, the then President of the Inglesinhos College and auxilliary to the Bishop of Westminster.

At that time, the sale to Misericórdia was given the green light by the government with the proviso that it be turned into a pilot old people’s home, in conjuction with Lisbon hospitals, to help the bed-ridden elderly. Criticism has been levelled that the charity ignored the government resolution to fulfil the original mandate, signed by ex-Prime Minister Mário Soares, and create a home for the elderly and instead has sold the site to Amorim ‘in rather uncertain circumstances’.

The convent occupies a 4,300sqm site and Amorim has planning permission to develop a total area of 7,970sqm. Another 2,300sqm site, also owned by the charity in Rua Rosa Araújo, next to Avenida de Liberdade, was sold in haste in August 2000 for 3.165 billion euros.