REDONDO, Portugal -- If all convents were like Hotel Convento de
Sao Paulo, there probably would be a lot more nuns.
The Church of the Loios in Evora has a stunning collection of
azulejos -- blue-and-white tile painted with varying motifs -- but
the church is a poor cousin compared to the nearby convent hotel of
The property features the world's largest private collection of
azulejos from the 18th century.
Every hall and stairway of the enormous property is bedecked
with tiles, which makes the convent more akin to a castle than a
The hotel has 54,000 tiles in all, decorated by many different
masters of azulejo painting.
The convent, first a monastery, was built in 1182 by monks of
the order of St. Paul the Hermit.
Three major renovations from 1400 through 1796 left the convent
in its present state.
Like many other convents and monasteries in Europe, Convento de
Sao Paulo served as an accommodation for royalty and other
prestigious guests in the days when grand hotels did not exist.
Set on the slopes of the Serra de Ossa chain, one of the few in
the flat Alentejo region, the hotel grounds boast more greenery
than I saw in most of the south.
The monastery was converted into a four-star hotel in 1993.
Seventeen monk cells are now equipped with air conditioning,
satellite television and direct-dial telephones.
The rooms are one-and-a-half times the size of the former cells,
but they still have a monastic quality about them.
Room interior flourishes include bathrooms with marble tile from
the Alentejan town of Estremoz, one of the world's largest
producers of marble.
The only really luxurious room is the honeymoon suite, which is
elaborate in design and color scheme.
The suite comes with a patio, a fireplace and an antique poster
What really thrills most guests here are the public rooms,
winding staircases and massive white stone corridors, which can
take half a day to explore.
All retain their medieval or baroque architectural details
without the negative decorative influence that modern tinkering can
sometimes leave on renovated historic hotels.
Contemporary pastimes, however, are offered. A game room
includes a snooker board and a library as well as an enormous
The cloistered restaurant, Hermite, one of the best and most
formal in the region, serves traditional Alentejan wine and cuisine
using products and livestock from the convent grounds.
A monks' refectory now serves as space for corporate meetings
and wedding parties for up to 200 guests. Restored recently for
group events was a church and a monastery kitchen.
Besides exploring the surrounding 2,400 acres, guests can take
advantage of a small swimming pool behind the convent.
The hotel serves an international clientele and English is
spoken by most of the staff.
Rates in high season, from April through October, start at $150,
double, including buffet breakfast.
Hotel Convento de Sao Paulo
Phone: (011) 351-266 989-160
Fax: (011) 351-266 999-104
Operators specializing in Portugal also can book the hotel from
Pinto Basto Tours in New City, N.Y., which showcases the property
in its Portugal brochure.
Pinto Basto Tours
Phone: (800) 526-8539
Fax: (914) 639-8017
E-mail: [email protected]