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sexta-feira, 30 de março de 2012

Sintra … always

Sintra’s charms have long been celebrated. Once the summer residence of the kings of Portugal, today Sintra is a romantic getaway for people from all around the world. Both the town and its monuments were classified as Unesco World Heritage in 1995.

Sintra National Palace used to be the residence of the Moorish governors of Lisbon. When King Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, reconquered Lisbon in 1147, Sintra surrendered and the Palace became the property and residence of the Kings of Portugal.

In the 14th century King João I, who was married to Philippa of Lancaster (daughter of John of Gaunt), had the kitchens built with the huge conical chimneys that are the landmark of the palace's exterior. He also added a series of rooms around the central patio. He lived there with his wife and Palácio Nacional became the Palace of the House of Avis.

In the XVI century King Manuel I had the east wing built with the distinctive window decoration, called Manueline style. The interiors were redecorated with some of the oldest and most valuable tiles in Portugal, Mudejar style.

The Park and Palace of Pena are the finest examples of 19th century Portuguese Romanticism.
King Fernando II of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, the husband of the Portuguese Queen Maria II, purchased a monastery situated on the top of the hill, that was in ruins after the earthquake of 1755 and transformed its remains into a palace.
The Moorish Castle nearby was also restored. The work of reconstruction was given to the German architect Baron Von Eschwege.  The Palace of Pena and the surrounding park, with many different tree species from all around the world, were designed and constructed as a single entity. The Portuguese Royal Family used the Palace as a summer residence till 1910. Following the implantation of the republican regime  the Palace was converted into a museum.

The Chalet of the Countess of Edla opened recently to the public after a long process of recuperation. It was built by King Fernando II for his second wife, Elise Hensler, the Countess of Edla between 1864 and 1869 and it is influenced by Swiss chalets and the Romantic spirit of the time.

The Palace of Monserrate is situated in a botanical garden of exotic trees and tropical plants. The gardens were landscaped in the 18th century by William Beckford when he rented Monserrate between 1793 and 1799.

In 1856 Francis Cook, an English textile millionaire bought the property and built the magnificent Victorian mansion inspired by the Royal Pavilion in Brighton with an exotic and extravagant architecture. Cook also transformed the gardens with trees from all over the world. In 1949 the property was acquired by the Portuguese state and quite recently the Palace was subject of an intense recovery program.

Renowned foreign visitors of Sintra

Arthur William Costigan was born in Scotland in 1734. He left a book about Portugal: Sketches of Society and Manners in Portugal (1778-1779).

James Murphy (1760-1816) was born in Ireland. He visited the Monastery of Batalha and published a book about it in 1795. In the same year he published Travels in Portugal and later A General View of the state of Portugal.

Carl Israel Ruders was born in Stockholm in 1761. In 1798 he came to live in Portugal and learned to speak Portuguese. He sent many letters to his family and friends that were compiled in 1803 in the book Observações sobre Portugal.

William Beckford (1769-1844) was known as “the wealthiest young Englishman of his time”. He was a talented person with many interests: music,  (he had piano lessons with Mozart) languages (he learned to speak Portuguese quickly on his first visit) and literature. He was also a writer and author of the Gothic novel Vathek. According to tradition he built in Monserrate a stone arch called Vathek’s arch, a waterfall and a cromlech.
Robert Southey (1774-1843) was born in England. He was one of the Lake Poets who published Letters Written during a short residence in Spain and Portugal with some account of Spain and Portuguese poetry: "I never beheld a view that so effectively checked the wish of wandering. Had I been born at Cintra, methinks no inducement could have tempted me to leave its delightful springs and shades, and cross the dreary wilderness that insulates them". He considered Sintra to be “the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe”. In 1960 Journals of a residence in Portugal 1800-1801 was published for the first time.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) is considered one of the best poets in the English Romantic movement. He came to Sintra in 1809 and stayed at Lawrence´s hotel.
                                                   Byron´s suite at Lawrence´s

 He deliberately visited Monserrate to see the place where his friend William Beckford had lived. He referred to Sintra in his correspondence: “… the village of Cintra, in Estremadura, is the most beautiful perhaps in the world.” Sintra is immortalised in Byron’s work in the poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, as an Eden, a paradise. The publication of this poem led to the romantic reputation of the place and as a consequence many English visitors came to Sintra.

James Edward Alexander (1803-1885) was a Scottish military who travelled to many countries. He was the author of the book about Portugal: Sketches in Portugal during the Civil War of 1834  where he shows his geographer side and presents detailed descriptions of Portugal at the time.

Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875) was a Danish writer who visited Sintra in 1866 and wrote: “The whole mountain road is a garden, a wonderful combination of nature and art, the most beautiful walk you can imagine.” Monserrate is “a true vignette of the Thousand and One Nights, a fairy-tale vision”. In short, “unrivalled Sintra, the most beautiful and lauded part of Portugal”.

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was born in England. He is considered the greatest English poet of the 19th century.Tennyson visited Pena and Monserrate and left his impressions in letters to his wife, Emily Sellwood.

Lady Jackson (1824-1891) was married to a diplomat that was posted in Portugal. In 1874 she published the book Fair Lusitania about her stay in this country.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949) the German composer visited Sintra in 1909 and was very impressed with its beauty: “Today is the happiest day of my life. I know Italy, Sicily, Greece and Egypt, and I have never seen anything, anything, to match the Pena. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. This is the true Garden of Klingsor and there, up above, is the Castle of the Holy Grail”.
He describes Pena Palace as beating “all the records for extravagance. Built on a rock on the highest point of the Serra (mountains), the building, which seems to come straight out of a fairy-tale, looms out of the greenery with its vivid colours of scarlet and canary yellow”.

                                                                   The Moorish Fountain

 Sintra´s view by W. Burnett                                                         Sintra, 2012

Sintra is all this and much more...Go and discover for yourself!


Ramalho, Margarida de Magalhães. Escrever sobre Sintra. Parques de Sintra, 2010.

Freitas, J. Sande on behalf of the Association of Friends of Monserrate. Palace and Gardens of Monserrate. Parques de Sintra, 2010.

http://www.sintraromantica.net/index.php/en/museus/43-figuras-romanticas consulted on 29th March 2012

William Burnett:oamigodecolares.blogspot.com

Cook Family:tweedlandthegentlemansclub.blogspot.pt/

Photographs: Maria Teresa Relva

1 comentário:

  1. Once more, it was very informative:) However, I do think that you forgot to mention a famous Farmer/Grass family that was staying at Lawrence's recently!