The Pena palace stands on the top of a hill, on a rocky outcropping, above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. The palace’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, the construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The original building, once occupied by the Jerónimos monks, dates from 1503. In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning. However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterwards, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins. Palácio da Pena originated in 1839, when the king consort Fernando II acquired the ‘Our Lady of Pena Monastery’ ruins to adapt it to a palace. The Pena palace is one of the best examples of 19th-century Romantic revivalism in Portugal.
To get to the palace, you must take a bus up a steep and winding road. They let you off at the Queen Amelia garden and you must hike another steep grade to get to the entrance. The Parque da Pena, surrounding the palace with over 500 acres, is filled with gardens, ponds, bridges, caves, greenhouses and other small houses.
The exotic taste of the Romanticism was applied to the park as it was to the palace. The king ordered trees from diverse, distant lands to be planted there. Those included North American Sequoia, Lawson’s Cypress, Magnolia and Western Redcedar, Chinese Ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria, and a wide variety of ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand, concentrated in the Queen’s Fern Garden (Feteira da Rainha).
As you come up to the palace, you become aware of the challenges that faced the architect of the palace, Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. Eschwege, a German amateur architect, was much traveled and likely had knowledge of several castles along the Rhine river. The construction took place between 1842–1854, although it was almost completed in 1847.
A large part of the construction of this castle consists of supports and foundations for the actual building, all appropriately shaped to look like a castle.
The palace has two gates, the one to the right is the Lizard arch, the one to the left is the monumental portal equipped with a drawbridge. As you can see, there a variety of architectural styles represented here, attributed to the eclectic taste of the Romanticism. The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Islamic and Neo-Renaissance. References to other prominent Portuguese buildings such as the Belém Tower are also present. The crazy thing is that it is so over the top kitch that it is sort of beautiful and typically Portuguese.
A large courtyard lies between the two gates with the gift shop in the yellow building. They have a great little terrace cafe on top with nice views.
As many elements as possible were preserved of the remains of the Hieronymite convent including the cloister, the dining room, the sacristy, and the Manueline-Renaissance chapel. All were embedded in a new section that featured a wide terrace and a clock tower. The clock tower was completed in 1843.
The Queen’s Terrace is perhaps the best spot for obtaining an overall picture of the architecture of the palace. This is the terrace facing the entrance. Great views of the surrounding forest.
This doorway is photographed by almost everyone who visits. It apparently symbolizes a newt, symbolizing the creation of the world.
On the other side is the arches terrace. The view is pretty spectacular. This side contains most of the buildings of the original Abby.
For those who are not afraid of heights, this cool little door takes you out to the top of the castle walls.
The actual living quarters are centered on this cloister, I am not going to show the interiors, the rooms are small and sort of cramped for a King’s residence.
The one exception was the kitchen, which was large and filled with absolutely beautiful hand made old copper pots. I could live in this kitchen.
After the death of Fernando, in 1885, his second wife, the Countess of Edla, an opera singer and single mother, inherited the palace causing, at the time, a huge public controversy. In 1889, the widow of Fernando accepted a purchase bid by the King Luís I, although still reserving for herself the Chalet of the Countess, where she continued to live. After this acquisition, the Palace became part of the Portuguese national heritage.
Sintra Parks: http://www.parquesdesintra.pt/en/#.UQc5H3y9KK1