Monday, February 17, 2014

Convent of the Capuchos

We couldn't resist.  The description from Lonely Planet's Portugal guidebook was just too enticing:

Visiting here is an Alice in Wonderland experience as you squeeze through low, narrow doorways to explore the warren of cells, chapels, kitchen, and cavern where one recluse, Honorius, spent an astonishing but obviously healthy 36 years (he was 95 when he died in 1596).

We were not disappointed.  The Convent of the Capuchos is a secretive, enchanting place.  Finding it is not easy.  We had rented a car in Lisbon to drive over to Sintra for a few days.  The convent is located 7 km away from the center of town in a remote forest of oak trees.  As you see from the above pictures, once we parked our car and walked in, we still couldn't see it.  If it weren't for another traveler, just leaving and pointing out the secret gate behind a moss covered boulder, we might have missed the entrance entirely.
It was founded in 1560 by eight monks and no more than twelve of them ever lived here at one time. (They wouldn't have fit!)  Over the years, because of its seclusion, it served as a retreat.  Many writers and artists found their way here and  I can understand its appeal.  The simplicity of the rooms are in perfect harmony with the nature surrounding it.  I'm not sure why they were built to house Hobbits, but we had to duck to gain entrance to the tiny cells.  The intention, I suppose, was to spend your time on your knees, praying, meditating, writing, dreaming . . . and dream, I did.  After walking through the narrow, winding passageway, I sat outside by the fountain in perfect contentment.  And wrote a poem in my journal.

I want to tango with the shadows of the moon
Dance all night
Sleep til noon
My blood will flow with a vampire's bite
I will laugh
and twirl
Learn to fight
the demons that bind me to the earth
Discover love


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