“Once upon a time in Sintra, there lived a king and queen…”
Sintra, Portugal. May 2019. (15 photos)
Recently I spent a month visiting France and Portugal, with a short visit to Singapore for good measure. To start this series I posted about the almost fairy-tale-like location of Mont Saint-Michel. I’ll have another post about Mont Saint-Michel later, but for now let’s move onto another fairy-tale-like location, Sintra in Portugal, just outside of Lisbon.
“The Pena Palace”
In 1838, King Ferdinand II transformed the remains of an old monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. Thus was born the Palácio da Pena; the Pena Palace.
“Something for everyone, architecturally”
The Pena Palace has a profusion of styles much in accordance with the exotic taste of the Romanticism Era. The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance.
The surrounding grounds are known as Pena Park, and are a beautiful place for a stroll and wander.
The Pena Palace stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon, easily accessible by train.
Poor, paltry slaves! yet born ‘midst noblest scenes –
Why, Nature, waste thy wonders on such men?
Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah, me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?
…Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by Lord Byron.
Once upon a time in Sintra, the Moops built a castle on top of a hill…
“The Moopish Castle”
“Moops? Let me see that. That’s not Moops, it’s Moors! It’s a misprint”
…The Bubble Boy
“The Moorish Castle”
The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) is a ruinous castle set amidst the forests of the Serra De Sintra. Established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra, it fell into disrepair after the Christian conquest of Portugal.
The castle was restored in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II, who transformed it into a romantic ruin and a major feature of the gardens of the Pena Palace. The castle retains the charm of an ancient ruin, with dense forest surrounding the crumbling battlements that offer views over the Sintra region.
“A commanding view”
The walls are open and able to be walked upon, assuming you have a head for heights.
Once upon a time in Sintra, there were Knight Templars…
“Quinta da Regaleira”
The Quinta de Regaleira estate, which is sometimes referred to as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” after its best known previous owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, consists of a palace and chapel with exquisite décor including frescoes, stained glass windows, and lavish stuccoes. Over about 10 acres, the estate grounds feature lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and an extensive and enigmatic system of tunnels that connect to two spiraling wells.
“Only the penitent man will pass”
Via a small entrance in the side of a hill, one enters the largest of the “initiation wells” of Quinta da Regaleira which consists of a ‘9 platform winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meaning including the death/rebirth allegory common to many hermetic traditions. It is said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.”
At the bottom of the well there is a compass over a Knights Templar cross, which is said to have been Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism. Apparently several of the remaining Knight Templars sought refuge here as the rest of the order was arrested across Europe.
“A test of faith”
Having passed through the initiation well, there is a complex of tunnels to negotiate and contemplate at the bottom. The exit from the tunnels concludes with a walk “across water” with obvious religious symbolism.
I was informed that up to 5 people per day fall into the water. Fortunately I wasn’t one of them.
“Sintra at ground level”
Descending from the hills, there’s plenty to appreciate in Sintra.
Narrow lanes, steps, multicoloured buildings, peeling paint, hanging laundry and cobblestoned paths. That’s Portugal in a nutshell.
Heading out of Sintra one finds plenty of cork trees.
In the distance is the lighthouse of Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of the Portuguese mainland.
This is Part 2 of this photographic series and Part 1 of the posts about Portugal.