Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Nossa Senhora do Carmo, also known as Church of the Nuns is located in Largo Dr. Vasco Garcias, although it occupies a good length of the Rua João Bonança.

The exterior of the church is kept very simple, in accordance of the Carmelita Order’s (and other Portuguese female order’s) architectural guidelines. They believed the building is supposed to represent the archetype of the nuns: austere on the outside, rich in the soul. Unfortunately, due to the versatile and ever changing uses of the building, the initial design is barely recognisable.

The Order of the Carmelites was established in Beja, most likely in the 16th century. This was the second feminine convent in Portugal. They chose Lagos at the time for being the most important location in the Algarve. The convent was built by Father Cristóvão Dias, and together with the Nossa Senhora da Conceição church, he made it a convent.

The sturdy shape of the building was constructed to protect the nuns. However, the 1755 earthquake killed 22 of them and injured 43. The restoration of the building was requested by the Bishop of Algarve, Frei Lourenço.

In 1833, the convent was closed down due to a new decree which abolished any religious associations with less than 12 members. In the mid 19th century they divided the building to one side belonging to the Municipal Council of Lagos, the other part to a private individual. In 1862, they became the Gil Vicente Theatre and a court building. Later on the City Council took over the building and transformed it into an industrial school. Between 1931 and 1944 the church supported disadvantaged young children, founded by Lucinda Anino dos Santos and Cesaltina Roque, supported by the Young Catholic Women and the Bishop of the Algarve. Around this time the building was also used for scouting purposes.

The church was used for religious purposes until the 1969 earthquake.

In 2004 it was transferred to the municipality of Lagos for the duration of restoration works for 25 years, and briefly opened to the public between 2007-2008.