Religious orders represent a long-standing phenomenon, since the 12th century, with a strong impact
on the political, social and cultural spheres. The legacy of St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226)
characterised the European and global culture, and still survives through his rules, spiritual texts,
built architectural structures and their surrounding landscape and territory.
In Portugal, the monasteries’ dissolution decree of 1834 led to the loss of their original function and
values. In most cases, decades go by between the secularization and the sale by the State. Therefore,
structures are left in a state of neglect and degradation, exposed to the weather and, in some cases,
valuable cultural elements are lost. Most of the over 150 Franciscan complexes – identified through
previous research – have been altered, abandoned or in a ruinous state. Sometimes they are unknown,
even for the local inhabitants.
This communication aims at present an overview of the scattered Franciscan conventual cultural
heritage. After the settlement’s identification, a census of the existing physical structures and their
adaptive reuse, along the last decades, has been carried out.
First results display a tendency to rethink functions for tourism purposes. However, generally, no
adequate analysis has been carried out before proceeding with works that profoundly transformed
the ancient conventual structures. Thus, there is a lack of in-depth integrated studies (combining
History, Architecture, Conservation, Tourism, etc.). For this reason, the definition of a
multidisciplinary research group is demanded.
A correct adaptive reuse of these structures could benefit local communities, by strengthening the
local economy and the social cohesion. Moreover, cultural heritage, when carefully managed, can
attract investments in tourism in a sustainable way, involving local communities without causing
damage to heritage areas (OSD 11), promoting a sustained and inclusive economic growth (OSD 8).