The Santa Clara Convent in Funchal

The Santa Clara Convent in Funchal

The Santa Clara Convent in Funchal, was founded at the end of the 16th century. The convent was already partly built at the end of the 15th century and was fully constructed around the Our Lady of Conception chapel. It is classified as a National Monument and we can understand why.

History of the convent

The convent, dedicated to Franciscan nuns, was founded by João Gonçalves de Câmara and Donna Isabella (the convent’s first Abbess). They were the grandchildren of Zarco, who discovered the island of Madeira. Zarco is buried underneath the convent’s high alter.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the convent played a major role in the lives of the aristocrats. Indeed, the nobles who left the island for long periods of time would leave their unmarried daughters at the convent to ensure their safety. The convent was the richest one on the island and became one of the French pirates’ target when they attacked the city during the 16th century. As a result, the nuns who lived in the convent had to flee to Curral das Freiras (also known as the Nuns’ Valley) to find seclusion.

The convent became a touristic attraction during the 19th century, and some parts of the building now form a nursery school.

Santa Clara convent in Funchal

Visiting the convent

One of the reasons why the convent is absolutely worth visiting is the convent’s church. The interiors are stunning with walls covered in 15th century hand-painted tiles (azulejos) and painted wooden ceilings. The church is a true hidden gem. Whilst the exterior of the convent looks rather simple with few visible artifacts, the insides of the building are absolutely stunning, and you will quickly notice the gothic architecture of the place.

By visiting the convent, you will get an idea of what it was like to live as a nun on the island in a secluded place. In one of the chapels, you will find a somewhat unique painting of a black Madonna and child, which dates from the 17th century. This painting is from Tenerife and was a gift to the convent.

Church of Santa Clara convent

For an entrance price of €2 you can follow a guided tour of the Santa Clara convent in Funchal. Don’t forget to ring the bell at the entrance door before entering.

Address: Calçada de Santa Clara, 15

Opening times: 10 a.m. – noon and 3 p.m. – 5p.m. (everday except Sundays and holidays)