Santo António dos Capuchos
The origins of a Convent and a religious community in Tavira
The Convento de Santo António de Tavira, like the one in Faro, was founded in the early 17th century and has different characteristics from earlier convents in the Algarve. There is a difference in relation to the proximity to the water and a relative closeness to the urban structure. In 1606, the bishop of the Algarve, D. Fernando Martins de Mascarenhas, the Tavira city council and its mayor, Henrique Correia da Silva, wrote to the Provincial of the Capuchos of Piedade, Frei Simão de Aveiro, to accept the house that was offered to him for the installation of the Capuchin friars in this city. The offer was accepted by the prelates and the following year they sent the religious to take possession of the place. The people also greatly desired the presence of the Capuchins in the city, and they, being the religious Order closest to the people, were sensitive to this request. However, they had little power to found a convent, and it was more up to them to guarantee the conditions for the support of the house and the friars. The Capuchin friars took possession of "(...) some houses, that are beyond the bridge, that unites the two parts of the city, which the river cuts in half", on their arrival in Tavira, in the year 1607. The vague location of the convent led them to stay for five years in those houses, where "(...) a hermitage was immediately ordered, in which the friars said mass, and celebrated Divine Office in the form of a perfect Community with choir, bell and cloister. Thus, they stayed five years in the above-mentioned houses, which Antonio Peres, a noble citizen of that city, offered them free of charge, helping them too with his alms". The site for the construction of the convent was initially chosen at the Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Esperança, which was also called Espinheiro or Atalaia, located in the part of the city where there were already other convents and on land enjoyed by the people, a rossio. However, even after obtaining the royal provisions, there were impediments to the beginning of the construction, as on the other side of the river there was great interest from the people to settle there and take possession of the Ermida de S. Brás, and aid was advanced for the work. They again asked for a royal provision and possession of the said Ermida. Before the beginning of the works, a definitive decision on the location of the monastery was taken when a new prelate came, who did not agree with the location of the Ermida de S. Brás, "(...) because it was a place of living rock, and reef, where there was not, nor could there be a green tree, or any vegetables, and so dry, that not even to drink in all that quarter, besides the bridge, there is a source of fresh water (...)". Thus, the initial option of the Ermida da Nossa Senhora da Conceição was taken up again and the works began in December 1612. The convent was built on part of the land of the public rose garden and on the land of a farm belonging to the nobleman Pedro de Sousa, with the fence wall built first.