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from a singular commitment to time


Urban Framework

Plateau on a slight hillside, partly attached, inside the city walls, on the western side, next to São Francisco Bulwark or to the Ball Game (v.PT050807050003). ). On the east side, confines with the ancient Convent of Nossa Senhora do Loreto (v.PT05080700034), incorporated in its primitive fence. The main façade is facing south and it is preceded by a small yard delimited by a wall. The western lateral façade is unhindered and open to a street, which drives out from the historical centre. The rear façade is partly attached to ground floor buildings Surrounding area mainly formed by two-storey buildings, with an irregular square in front of the Jail and the ancient Convent of Nossa Senhora do Loreto.

Source: DGEMN – Heritage’s Stock Form.



The Convent of Nossa Senhora da Glória, Monastery of S. Francisco, was built in 1518, by the then Bishop of the Algarve, D. Fernando Coutinho, dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Loreto. Originally located closer to the river, in an insalubrious and unstable area, the building quickly started to decay. In 1560, the new convent is established furthest the river, a little higher on the hillside. In 1716, the convent is dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Glória, and in 1755 suffers damages due to the earthquake, but later was rebuilt. In 1834, with the extinction of religious orders, the convent was disabled and the fence was shredded, sold and taken by several factories and warehouses.

Description: Blueprint formed by several chronologically different bodies, forming a L. Pitched-roofs with emphasis on the chimney. In the inner yard, greatly transformed with shacks, it is still possible to surmise the existence of the cloister through the evidence of 2 stone masonry walls. Baroque chimney, of square cross-section and shaped angles, finishing in a dome topped by wavy decorative motif; It is the only decorative element referent to the convent’s foundation, as well as the respective body, which is really modified inside.

Source: Heritage Information System (SIPA)

Picture: Façade of the Church and Convent of Nossa Senhora da Glória, from the 30’s of the 20 century. | Picture: Mr. José Formosinho, collection of the Engineer José Ramos Formosinho | Provided by the Lagos Municipality Picture Librar

/ Francisco Castelo I Provided by the Lagos Municipality Picture Library


Between 1910 and 1911, in the convent’s area were installed the Portuguese National Guard headquarters and next to it, in the 30’s – 40’s, in the area of the convent’s church was built the district jail, closed in 1971. Between 1982-1983, the building is inhabited by families coming from the former colonies and, after a long period without use, the space comes to life when was given to LAC – Laboratório de Actividades Criativas, in September 1996.


Statement of the jailer’s son in a message sent to his friend José Paula Borba «… there I send the picture of Lagos’s District Jail, now extinct, thanks to God […] in that building I spent good leisure moments during the holidays in Lagos[anos 40] There were people from every social condition, farmers, fishers, businessmen, engineers, etc. there was a farmer who delighted me with his improvised verses. Another one taught me the art of wickerwork; one taught me to work with the fishing line; the other delighted us in our dining room with music from his accordion. On Sundays the main door was full of men, arrested but free. The majority worked in basketry, carrycots, paintbrushes and brooms which were sold through my father and all the profit of the sales was for the prisoners. One day, I saw a prisoner coming out the jail with a new suit and money in the wallet […] in the picture, my father is watering the garden made by him, hedges, flowers and three peach trees whose fruits delighted us.

José Rosa – July 2009, Terrugem – Sintra


  • 1933, 22nd Sept – Between 1931–1932, the Municipality of Lagos receives the amount of 20.000$00, from the DGEMN – to build the civilian jail;
  • 1934, 22nd Oct – A report about the construction works in Lagos’s jail, refers that the prison is installed in a building “built, or maybe rebuilt to be a jail in 1712”, located in the centre of the town, in front of the Church of Santo António and laid out in 2 floors. “The escapes are very frequent” and the conditions are poor in the first floor and terrible in the ground floor, whose rooms have access only by open trapdoors in the first floor A new building is ongoing in a “suitable location”. The location for the jail building matches the plot, previously used by the church of the Convent Nossa Senhora do Loreto
  • 1936, 28th May – According to the decree no. 26.643, from the Portuguese prison system: “A district jail aims the fulfilment of prison sentences up to 3 months – in which there is intimidation for general prevention and “satisfaction of the sense of justice”, with continuous cell isolation (except for the prisoners with good behaviour after a month, to whom is allowed working together) – and preventive detention or “detention”, by order of the administrative or police authority and waiting trial with continued isolation in the first 30 days and always with night isolation. The construction of specific buildings for the district jails should have 2 absolutely distinct sections, for adults of both sexes, without any possibility of communication (even visual). Its capacity should not exceed the average of the preventive prisoners and convicted up to 3 months of the 5 previous years, plus 1/3. A district jail is formed, besides the individual and corrective cells, by the secretariat, the parlatory and the judge offices, the jailer’s house and, in each section of men and women, the workplaces – which can be resource to accommodate detainees and convicted, when needed or used as chapel – the sanitary facilities and the recreational and exercises areas, indoor and outdoor. The management is made by the Public Prosecutor and the daily service is assured by the jailer. The food is provided by external entities, private or public, the health service is in the hands of a municipal doctor and the assistance service is provided by the parish priest and local groups of visitors
  • 1938, 1st Feb – The DGEMN approves the projects of 17 jail buildings, including Lagos
  • 10 Out 1941 – The DGEMN approves the projects of 17 jail buildings, including Lagos; 1941, 10th Oct. – Lagos jail building construction contract (base 426,087$32)
  • 1942, 4th July – After visiting the construction works in Lagos jail, the MOPC wrote down the instructions: “It is essential to do an urban survey of the area, taking in consideration the possibility of using a monastic building available next to the jail and the need to find an appropriate solution for the facilities needed to accommodate the Portuguese National Guard headquarters”
  • 1946, 14th Set – Act of delivery concerning the building of the district jail
  • 1969, 4th Jun – Considering the high costs of the new district jail buildings, the difficulty of the shared management between the Ministry of Justice and the town halls, among others, the decree no. 49.040 defines the principles of the incremental change of some district jail recent buildings. Except the ones from Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, the effective elimination of each district jail will be made gradually
  • 1982 / 1983 – The building is inhabited by families coming from the Portuguese former colonies
  • 2001 – Entry on how “does work a painting and visual arts workshop in the building”


The district jail resulting from the project designed for the Commission of Prison Constructions from the Architect Rodrigues Lima (guided by the guidelines included in the standard project from the Architect Cottinelli Telmo) and held within the first stage of the 1 st Plan for Prison Constructions (1941). Jail for preventive prisoners and convicted to short prison, coming from the district and from neighbouring districts, in facilities separated by sex for accommodation, work, meals, leisure or hygiene, with reduced capacity, in this case, 11 men and 4 women. Morphological, the building can be classified in a specific subtype, characterized by the relative position assumed by different parts of the program, namely 2 floors including an hall, secretariat and parlatory (ground floor) and jailer’s house (upper floor with independent access to the public road and private stairs); 2 floors perpendicular to the first, including the prison area for men (4 cells in the ground floor and 7 in the upper floor, gallery with double height ceiling, narrow balcony in the upper floor); attached to this exterior side, with just one floor, for facilities supporting the men’s area (workplace, covered porch for leisure, yard); one ground floor, perpendicular to the first and separated from the second by an inner yard (lounge), including prison area for women (4 cells and workplace); and poked to this in the outside (opposite side of men’s yard) to support the women prison area, having a covered part (recreational area covered) and uncovered area (yard). Concerning the architectural structure, the district jail building expresses a set of concerns that the central government has related to representation, dignity, solidity and symbolism of the facilities included in the Justice services in general and prison services in particular, reflected in the use of masses built in cobbles of simple and well defined lines, different bodies and façades according to the surrounding and the programme content (access, parlatory and jailer’s house in a prominent position over the public road, prison areas and respective yards in bodies protected by high walls), with formal, simple and connecting lexicon, combining modernity features (openings in horizontal continuous bands, masonry design) with regional mentions (volumetric pure parallelepiped, flat finish borders, masonry in facing brick, traditional cut-out chimneys). These features represent the architectural work produced centrally for the public facilities between de 40’s and the 60’s.



The Lagos District Jail is part of a range of similar facilities, at regional level, Loulé, Olhão, Portimão and Silves, included in the 1 st Plan of Prison Constructions during the dictatorial regime Estado Novo (1941) between this date and 1946-1947. However, in contrast with those examples (built from scratch) in Lagos, the construction was based in the use of foundations from a previous structure. The standard project completion, which fits in the first experience of typified design for prison services developed by DGEMN. With the Post and new Customs buildings in Lagos, the district jail gathers a set of facilities from the Central Government during the dictatorial regime, whose symbol, within urbanism and tourism, is the peripheral avenue built in the same period.

MATERIALS plastered and whitewashed brickwork, glass, indoor and outdoor mosaic, wood, iron, tile.

A PROJECT: LAC, jan 2020
REVIEW: Sónia Felicidade
TRANSLATION: Teresa Campos

SOURCES: Ministério da Justiça I Documentação DGEMN: DRELisboa, DSARH; DESA, DSID; SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitetónico, (DGPC); PAULA, Rui Mendes, Reabilitação Urbana e Património, Câmara Municipal de Lagos, 1992; Documentação fotográfica DGEMN: DESA, DSID; CML – Fototeca do Município de Lagos.