As I left home Saturday morning I had no idea I'd end up at the Convent of São Pedro de Alcântara, whose main entrance arcade I had so often passed by yet never ventured in, but I am particularly happy I finally managed to visit a fairly well "hidden" treasure of religious Art I am sure many Lisbon city dwellers like myself had no idea it existed.
Its foundation is said to have been due to the initiative of the 1st Marquis of Marialva, 3rd Count of Cantanhede, who in 1665 on the eve of the Battle of Montes Claros made a vow to have a convent dedicated to St. Peter of Alcântara erected, if the Portuguese were to win that battle. Some years later, to be more precise, in 1670 the site was offered to the Capuchin Franciscans Order as in accordance with a Royal authorization with Verissimo de Lencastre (1615-1692) Cardinal and Grand Inquisitor of the kingdom supporting the foundation by means of donations.
The church atrium walls are covered with 18th century tile panels depicting scenes of charity carried out by the Franciscan monks.
To its right is the Chapel of the Lencastres bearing the family name of the Cardinal, who had shown a particular interest in being buried in the Convent.. His brother together with a nephew are said to have had this particularly sumptuous chapel built with inlaid marble walls and ceilings.
The church itself, which was built in 1681 was worth looking at thoroughly. The side walls were covered with baroque glazed tile panels depicting scenes on the life of St. Peter of Alcântara, some of which were quite impressive. Equally impressive was the tromp d'oeil ceiling said to have been made by the French painter Pierre Bordes and some of the paintings, namely the ecstasy of Saint Peter of Alcântara to be seen in the high altar
I must say I was impressed with this little Convent, pertaining to Santa Casa da Misericordia since 1833, which I had no idea could be visited, and more so because I would have never imagined the richness and beauty that could lie inside such a humble looking entrance.