About Carmo Convent
Carmo Convent (Convento do Carmo) is a part-ruined medieval convent in Lisbon which is now used as an archaeological museum.
Built in 1389, Carmo Convent was the work of Nuno Ãlvares Pereira, an important figure in Portuguese military history – including in the victory at the Battle of Aljubarrota – turned member of the Carmelite Order.
In 1755, Carmo Convent was devastated by an earthquake and its picturesque ruins are now open to the public. The convent is also now home to the Museu Arqueologico do Carmo, with its collection ranging from prehistoric to medieval artefacts.
History of Carmo Convent
The monastery was founded in 1389, with the following decades seeing the presbytery and apse being added. By 1423, the residential cells were completed, allowing the Carmelites friars to inhabit the building.
It is known for its plain Gothic style, and compared to other churches in the area, the convent was known to be the most imposing in both its architecture and decoration. By 1551, the convent housed around 70 clergy and 10 servants.
A devastating earthquake in 1755 caused the arches and roof to cave in on the congregation as they were attending mass. It also completely destroyed the library, which housed approximately 5,000 volumes.
Minor repairs were carried out, but the convent was never fully repaired; instead, it was occupied by quarters of the Guarda Real de Policia (Police Royal Guard), used as a law court, rented out as a sawmilling shop, and, in the mid-19th century, used as a station for a municipal guard and cavalry squadron.
In 1864, the buildings and site were donated to the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists, who turned it into a museum.
Carmo Convent Today
Today, locals and visitors alike can enjoy the convent as a museum. In the place of the former main altar is a small archaeological museum with an eclectic collection of tombs – the largest one is of King Ferdinand I – ceramics, statues, and mosaics.
There is also an ancient Visigoth pillar and a Roman tomb carved with reliefs depicting the Muses. There are also shrunken heads, South African mummies, a jasper sculpture of the Virgin Mary, ancient tombstones, Visigothic artefacts, and coins which date back to the 13th century.
Getting to Carmo Convent
The best way to reach the convent is by using the Metro, and stopping at the Baixa-Chiado Station. By foot, it’s a 20 minute walk from the centre of Lisbon, via the Calçada Santana road. By car, it’s a 10 minute drive via R. dos Douradores, though it might prove difficult to find parking nearby.