Convento São Francisco de Mértola
The Convento São Francisco de Mértola is an artist & scientist residency housed in a historic 400-year-old Franciscan monastery. It is a fantastically well sited retreat, overlooking the Oeiras and Guadiana rivers on the outskirts of Mértola, in the southern province Alentejo, Portugal. The building still has archeological remains from its Roman and Moorish occupants.
The word convento derives from the Latin convenire, to gather, and here it is a gathering of life, art and nature. This is what the founders had in mind, a place where the senses are stimulated, meditation is possible and creativity vitalized. An achievement that took over 35 years of dedicated, ongoing work.
The architecture of the Convento is traditional with the use of natural materials that give a rustic and comforting feeling of community. In the adjacent chapel, which is now an art space, this feeling is very strong. History is felt here in one of its deepest meanings; the continuous work of men as a will to create art and architecture and to enjoy natural beauty. In the gardens and buildings we find traces of different civilisations that go back beyond Roman times.
The garden of the Convento is a real joy for the senses and a work of art in itself. The originally Islamic irrigation system has been restored and the terraces were planted with a great variety of organically grown herbs, trees, grapes etc.. All this with the deep conviction that ecology is not just something we do, but something we are part of. This is also reflected in the interesting bird population of the in total 40 hectares surrounding the convento and in the shelter that has been set up for birds to recover. Philosophy is a praxis here that echoes a spiritual idea of nature that St. Francis once preached and wrote poems about.
The Convento thus offers an environment where tranquillity is enjoyed in harmony with nature and wildlife, an ideal place for artistic creativity and regeneration of the senses.