Sintra and the Pena Palace

Mar 1, 2019Sintra

Not far from Lisbon you will find a place of romance, history, and wonder.

Sintra is a small village, with old palaces and exotic proprieties. There is an aura of mysticism and romance in every corner.

Wander the streets of the old town and experience the climb through the park up to Pena Palace or the Moorish Castle. Breath in and get ready to a one day tour through Sintra and its wonders. Get set. Get ready. Go!

Sintra – The historical center

Sintra’s Palace is part of the landscape since the beginning of Portugal as a nation. Of course, it didn’t look like it does nowadays but it has grown and developed into the amazing building you see since it was a Moorish castle, in the 12th century. As years and dynasties changed, so did the palace.

The picturesque village, characterized by its palaces and villas used to be the holiday retreat for the royal family and wealthy families. It is considered as the Portuguese Riviera. The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and beaches makes it the perfect spot for the summer.

Nowadays, Sintra is one of the most sought after touristic destinations in Portugal, for the perfect combination of nature and architecture, for the historical and architectural value and the unique quietness.

Pena Palace

Looking up the hill from the old village center you will see a colorful building that might remind you of a fairy tale princess’ palace. That is the Pena Palace. Surrounded by the Park, with trees and vegetation from all over the world. The dream-like building is the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s love for architecture and the Romanticism style. This is the best example of this 19th-century style in Portugal.

King Ferdinand II was an Arts lover. After acquiring a former Hieronymite monastery in Sintra, built in 1511, he started repairing it and turning it into the palace that we can visit today. The original building consisted of the cloister, the chapel, the sacristy, and the bell tower, known, today, as ‘the Old Palace’.

 

The Palace grew and new additions were made. The new quarters are the result of an enlargement of the Palace, in King Ferdinand’s demand. This new wing with larger rooms and ending in a circular tower, next to the new kitchens.

There is no doubt that the most interesting feature at Pena Palace is the architecture. There are numerous details to admire and plenty of styles to recognize.

The Triton

As you go up the ramp towards the entrance of the Palace, the Triton will be looking down on you and there is no way of escaping his fierce and look.

Take some time to appreciate the intricate stone carving work. Youll be able to recognize some aquatic elements, as well as some plants and if you look closely you’ll realize that this arch also represents the theory of evolution.

The Chapel

The chapel is the architectural element that has remained mostly unaltered throughout the centuries. There are two mandatory features inside: the altarpiece and the stained glass windows. The chapel is one of the original features of the monastery that existed up the hill and people came up from the village to attend religious services, making their way through the Pilgrim’s Way.

The altarpiece will leave you speechless. It is made entirely of white alabaster and black limestone and structured like a Roman triumphal arch, with a central niche and smaller side niches. The scenes represented are the birth of Christ and (in the central niche) there is a reference to Christ’s death.

 

The stained glass window was commissioned by King Ferdinand II in 1840. The images refer to the history of the  Monastery and also refer to the King’s plans for the new palace, based on Portuguese history.

If you look closely you can find King Manuel I holding a plan of the Monastery of Pena. The construction started under his order in 1503, on the spot where he had first seen the return of the second armada, led by Vasco da Gama,  back from India.

You can also find Vasco da Gama kneeling facing the monarch.

The dining room

This is the place were King Ferdinand took his meals and after he abdicated the throne, this room continued to be part of his daily routine. Don’t miss out on the Manueline rib-vaulted ceiling and the tiled walls.

Take a closer look at the centerpiece on the table. It’s ship-shaped and entirely made of silver and was a gift to Princess Amelia of Orleans and is a designated National Treasure.

The centerpiece was made by the most famous Parisian goldsmith and Portuguese caravel, symbolizing Portuguese history and the role of the country in world history.

Queen Amelia’s apartments

Queen Amelia’s apartments have outstanding decoration and this is the most interesting feature, alongside with the furniture. If you look to the walls and ceiling you will realize that these are decorated in stucco with Neo-Mudéjar geometric interlacing motifs, in shades of blue, red and gold.

On the keystones of the ceiling vaults you’ll find the coats of arms of both the Queen – a fleur-de-lis, representing the French monarchy and the House of Orleans) and the King’s arms – the arms of Saxony. They are both combined with the arms of Bragança, as they were consorts.

Surrounding the Palace you can walk around and through the Park. It is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved natural parks in Portugal and will contribute to a romantic stroll. There are more than 500 different species of trees that were brought here from the four corners of the world.

This is a place of wonder and romance, that witnessed Portuguese history and inspired many love stories.

It has also inspired famous Portuguese writers such as Eça de Queiroz, who wrote “Os Maias”, an intricate romance where you can find perfect descriptions of Sintra and it’s palaces. A 131-year-old masterpiece that is still very much up to date.

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