The Convent of Bom Sucesso was founded in 1639, during the reign of King Phillip of Spain, who was also king of Portugal at that time. The origins of the Convent are unique as an Irish Dominican priest named Father O’Daly and a Portuguese countess. Iria de Brito, sought to establish a convent for young women. In the autumn of 1639, they agreed to create a convent for young Irish women, who were unable to become nuns in their homeland because of religious persecution. The building was known for its beautiful interiors rendered in a transition style that borrowed from both the baroque and neoclassical. The high choir is adorned with wall and ceiling paintings on copper and canvas, and ornate altars, which are in a poor state of conservation.
How We Helped
In September 2003, Word Monuments Fund Portugal began supporting work to repair the High Choir, a fundamental step to guarantee the success of other subsequent restoration efforts. The project included conservation of the High Choir’s walls, window openings, ceiling, spandrels and coves, oil paintings on canvas, golden frames, altars, and twelve paintings by Bento Coelho da Silveira on the copper tabernacle. These elements required cleaning, removal of extensive repaints, chromatic reintegration, and application of a protective layer. The project was completed in May 2004.
Why It Matters
The seventeenth-century Convent of Bom Sucesso was built as a safe haven for young Irish nuns at a time when they faced religious persecution in their homeland. During the twentieth century, the nuns established an English language co-educational school in the complex, which later moved to a larger site. Bom Successo is one of the few churches in Lisbon that survived the earthquake of 1755 and remains today as an important institution for the local community. It also is an important reminder of an easily forgotten chapter in religious history and the international assistance made possible by two bold individuals.