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Convento das Bernardas

Symbiosis between history and natural beauty

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Building work on it, next to the Ria Formosa, began in the year 1509, commissioned by Brites Pacheco – a widow from Tavira. Today, 510 years later, the Convento das Bernardas, totally renovated with the excellent input of architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, which has already earned it the European Award for Intervention in Architectural Heritage 2017, remains a building with history. Retaining its history was only possible because neither the existing architectural nor heritage qualities were compromised in the renovation of the convent. It stands right in Tavira, in the south of Portugal.
The location is truly a privileged one. The Ria Formosa serves as a backdrop. Historical and natural beauty has been perpetuated in time. The contemporary comfort and the carefully prepared design ensure this is a place of quality and well-being. It is a monument with history. Initially owned by Brites Pacheco, subsequently, once the works were completed, in 1530, it was handed over – by the then Bishop of Silves D. Fernando Coutinho – to the sisters of the Order of Cistercians.

In the mid 17th century major works were carried out, with the aim of enlarging it to house a greater number of nuns. Later, in 1862, the extinction of the religious order meant that all assets of the convent went to the state. This was the moment in which the decline of the convent began and its reclassification. After 28 years, the convent was transformed into steam powered factory. It remained in operation until 1968. But until the renovation, many other activities passed through there: bakery; barber shop and the former headquarters of the Tavira cycling club. The intervention conducted by the architect Souto de Moura began at the start of the 21st century. It was based on the construction of 78 units (57 already existing and 21 new). Made up of free modules, the construction features triplex houses with two floors and a mezzanine. 

The 20x20-metre salt water pool is located in the central cloister, where the three-century-old palm trees and the aroma of jasmine add to the setting. The views of the Ria Formosa and the mouth of the River Gilão, and the centuries-old salt pans provide a memorable backdrop. The convent is currently owned by Millennium bank and sold exclusively through CENTURY 21 Plaza. The units are mainly for holiday use and some are for permanent residence or Local Accommodation. A unique heritage site, noted by UNESCO, which remained to be preserved.

Maria Cruz
T. Maria Cruz
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