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Graceful archways prominent feature of Convento do Carmo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 14th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Once Lisbon's greatest convent, the Convento do Carmo was severely damaged in Portugal's 1755 earthquake. Open-air summer orchestral concerts are held beneath its majestic archways today. The convent is an evocative ruin and part of the Museu Arqueológico do Carmo. Its ruined Gothic nave, with roof arches open to the sky, stands as a silent reminder of the devastating earthquake. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lisbon"s Carmelite convent was founded in 1389 by the knight Nuno Álvares Pereira, the Constable of Portugal. Carmelites from Moura in southern Portugal entered the convent in 1392. In 1404, the pious founding knight donated his wealth to the convent and, in 1423; he also became a brother of the convent.

The Carmo Convent was founded as a convent for the Carmelite Order in 1389 by the Portuguese knight Nuno Álvares Pereira. Álvares Pereira was Constable of Portugal. At the service of King John I, Álvares Pereira commanded the Portuguese army in the decisive Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385, in which the Portuguese guaranteed their independence by defeating the Castilian army.

The Carmo Convent was initially inhabited by Carmelites from Moura, which entered the convent in 1392. In 1404, the pious Álvares Pereira donated his wealth to the convent and, in 1423, he also became a brother of the convent.

The great earthquake of 1755 killed many worshippers inside at the time. The convent suffered further damage from vandalism by Napoleonic troops. The church was never rebuilt. The convent's skeleton, however has remained mostly intact for 250 years.

The Carmo Convent and its Church were built between 1389 and 1423 in the plain Gothic style typical for the mendicant religious orders. There are also influences from the Monastery of Batalha, which had been founded by King John I and was being built at that same time. Compared to the other Gothic churches of the city, the Carmo Church was said to be the most imposing in its architecture and decoration.

The church interior has a nave with three aisles and an apse with a main chapel and four side chapels. The stone roof over the nave collapsed after the earthquake and was never rebuilt, and only the pointed arches between the pillars have survived.

A small collection of artifacts is displayed in the convent's sacristy, including ceramic tiles, medieval tombs, ancient coins, and other local finds.

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