sintra: quinta da regaleira

Saturday, July 20:  This morning I have another leisurely breakfast in Cafe Piela’s, where I take a picture of Manuel and Leonor, the owners of the Hospedaria.  I also catch a man having his cup of coffee standing at the glass pastry case.

Manuel and Leonor at Cafe Piela's in Sintra
Manuel and Leonor at Cafe Piela’s in Sintra

Then I take a different Scotturb bus to Quinta da Regaleira, an estate located near Sintra-Vila and classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra.”   It has a Romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, towers, fountains, and sculptures. The palace is also known as “Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, from the nickname of its first owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.

Quinta da Regaleira ~ Main House
Quinta da Regaleira ~ Main House

Quinta da Regaleira was the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family built in the neo-Manueline style.

The Chapel was also built in the Manueline style.  Its icons revolve around scenes from the Life of Mary and the Life of Christ.  There are also symbols from the Templar Order and its successor in Portugal, the Order of Christ.  The crypt has a subterranean passage that links it with the Main House.

Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira

The celebrated capitalist Carvalho Monteiro was of Portuguese descent but was born in Rio de Janeiro, at a time when Brazil was governed by an Emperor.  He graduated in law from the University of Coimbra, was a distinguished bibliophile, collector and philanthropist.  With his scientific and cultured mind, he determined the mysterious iconographical program for Regaleira, his residence in Sintra.

Main House at Quinta da Regaleira
Main House at Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Inside the Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Inside the Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira
Chapel at Quinta da Regaleira

The Quinta da Regaleira was the last commission in Portugal of Italian architect Luigi Manini.  He devoted 14 years of his life to the palace, until he returned to Italy in 1912.

Inside the Main House is the Hunting Room, which is really a dining room.  It is overwhelmed by the massive fireplace that supports the statue of a woodsman.  The mantelpiece depicts wonderfully carved hunting scenes.  The theme of the “cycle of life” is evident throughout the room from the Venetian mosaic floor to the ceiling carvings.

Hunting Room in the Main House
Hunting Room in the Main House
Fireplace in the Hunting Room
Fireplace in the Hunting Room
Hunting Room
Hunting Room
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira
Tiles in the Main House
Tiles in the Main House

I climb up to the Panoramic Terrace, surrounded by eight profusely decorated finials featuring naturalistic and fantastic figures.  From here I can see a sweeping view of the extensive gardens.

view of the garden at Quinta da Regaleira
view of the garden at Quinta da Regaleira
me on a balcony of the Main House
me on the Panoramic Terrace of the Main House
view of the Chapel from the Main House
view of the Chapel from the Main House

Outside the house, I follow the long winding paths through the gardens.  The garden is designed as an image of the Cosmos, revealed through a series of magic and mysterious places.  References to mythology abound: Olympus, Virgil, Dante, Milton and Camoes.  Leda’s Grotto is one of the first places I encounter.

Leda's Grotto
Leda’s Grotto

I climb up a narrow circular staircase to Regaleira Tower, where I can see a view of Sintra-Vila.

Regaleira Tower
Regaleira Tower
view of Sintra-Vila from the Main House
view of Sintra-Vila from the Main House

Near the Lake of the Waterfall, I find the Portal of the Guardians, a dramatic structure with twin towers flanking a central pavilion.  Under the central pavilion is one of the entrance ways to the Initiatic Well, a “subterranean tower” that sinks some 27 meters into the earth, made accessible by a monumental spiral stairway.   It is symbolic of the connection between Heaven and Earth.  Since I don’t like closed dark spaces, I don’t go inside here!

Portal of the Guardians
Portal of the Guardians

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These gardens go on forever!  It takes me a long while, but I finally make it down to the Labyrinthic Grotto, which is very peaceful and lovely, though the photos don’t do it justice.

Labyrinthic Grotto
Labyrinthic Grotto
Labyrinthic Grotto
Labyrinthic Grotto

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At the bottom of the hill, I come to the Promenade of the Gods, an avenue that links the Pisoes Loggia to the Main House, with statues of classical gods: Fortune, Orpheus, Venus, Flora, Ceres, Pan, Dionysus, Volcan and Hermes.

Promenade of the Gods
Promenade of the Gods
Promenade of the Gods
Promenade of the Gods
Promenade of the Gods
Promenade of the Gods

It’s taken me about two-three hours to make my way through Quinta da Regaleira, and it’s been truly lovely and peaceful.  Besides that, the weather continues to be perfect in Sintra.

Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira

I leave the palace and wait outside about a half hour for the next Scotturb bus to Monserrate Palace.  While waiting I have a long conversation with an English-speaking taxi driver who tells me that when I go to Lisbon, I should take a taxi door-to-door instead of hauling my suitcase on the train.  He tells me it will only cost 25 euros or so.  Hmmm.  Now he’s put a bug in my ear, and I may have to consider that tomorrow when I leave for Lisbon. 🙂

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19 thoughts on “sintra: quinta da regaleira

  1. I really wanted to go to Quinta da Regaleira, but one day is not enough to see all that old Sintra has to offer. Thanks for showing us this wonderful place, both inside and out and being so informative. You had lovely blue skies – we had overcast and humidity which I find difficult to cope with, especially combined with hills😉
    The OTT carvings look like icing on a wedding cake, but so typical of neo-manueline architecture, I especially love the photo of the chapel with the blue sky and blue agapanthus, but all your photos are great. Did you take the taxi? We did from Cascais, I think it cost us €30 but much easier than lugging suitcases on and off trains and buses.
    Jude xx

    1. Thanks so much for your insightful comment, Jude. I guess I got lucky in Sintra because, although it was HOT all through Spain and Portugal (except Barcelona) it was a lovely 75 F (25 C) during the day in Sintra and even colder at night. The air was crisp and cool and the skies a perfect blue. I loved the weather there.

      I think you’re right that one day is not enough for Sintra. I stayed three nights, two and a half days, and I could have stayed longer.

      By the way, I did take the taxi, and it was actually 30 euros but it was so nice not to have to bother with lugging my heavy suitcase. I was going to write about it on my next post.

      Thanks so much for your compliments on my photos too.🙂

  2. No wonder you didn’t want to go home, Cathy! I’ve decided I need a balcony looking down on a lush garden with a fountain backed by a mosaic of storks. I never even dreamt about it till I saw your post! 🙂

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