The founding of the São Francisco Convent was completed in 1275. Located next to Praça da República in Portalegre, it is one of the oldest buildings in the city and was one of the first houses of the Order of the Friars Minor to be founded in Portugal.
It began as a convent for male mendicants in the 12th century, with additions during the Renaissance (the sarcophagus and altarpiece), in the Mannerist style (the altarpiece in the Gaspar Fragoso chapel and murals in the nave chapels) and Baroque style (the high altar and Baroque tile panels in the chancel).
The abolition of religious orders led to the convent’s rapid decline, and it was partially adapted as a barracks. The church passed into the hands of the military in 1910, after which it was no longer open for worship.
In the 19th century, however, the wings of the convent were changed and extended to house a facility linked to the cork industry, the Robinson Factory, the oldest and one of the largest cork-processing plants in the world. Its two chimneys are a landmark in the city.
In addition to these and the building opposite are the warehouse buildings and the ‘block’, which served as annexes to the main convent, the bark workshop and bark warehouse, used both to store and handle raw cork bark, and the cork building, dating from the end of the 19th century.
The factory complex provided employment to thousands of workers in the town. Homes for employees and factory owners were added to the original convent buildings, together with supporting infrastructures, such as a nursery.