About the Capela do Monte

March 2018

The Capela do Monte (“Hillside Chapel”) is the focal point of the future Monte da Charneca Center. The Center, scheduled to open in early 2021, is a privately funded initiative that will offer visitors to Portugal’s Algarve region a peaceful, spirit-restoring retreat. Conceived by Matthias Stiefel and Rebecca Irvin, who have lived in the area since the mid-1980s, the Center has a non-denominational Christian chapel designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Alvaro Siza Vieira, who also has advised on the Center’s master plan. The Capela do Monte (Hillside Chapel) opened in March 2018 just before Easter.

Seven typical houses, sensitively restored over the past 30 years with a local heritage architect, already form the renewed core of Monte da Charneca, a farming hamlet that like many others in the region fell into abandonment and ruin. In addition to encompassing the seven houses — grouped around a traditional cobblestoned square that was the original heart of the village — the 7-hectare Center (17.3 acres) has its own water supply, is energy self-sufficient through solar power, and maintains an orchard with citrus, almond, fig, and olive trees.

The next phase of development will add a handful of new residential structures in a consistent architectural style, along with a second village square (linked to the first by gardens) and facilities to help revitalize traditional agricultural activity and welcome visitors. Together with the Siza chapel, these elements will make the Monte da Charneca Center a destination for spiritual retreats, conferences, eco- and agro-tourism, and rural holidays, only 10-20 minutes from the beaches and historic sites of the Algarve coast.

In 2016, Alvaro Siza Vieira accepted the commission to design the Capela do Monte as the focal point of the Center, at the highest point on the property. Siza has spoken about the beauty of the site, his desire to create a design in the Algarve where he has never before realized a building, and his pleasure at being asked for what he calls “a pure architectural project.”