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So, this is it, the final stop on our final day in Portugal (well, at least this visit). The Quinta da Regaleira is one a group of grand palaces with grand gardens and estates in the mountain top resort of Sintra, a few miles from Lisbon, and famous as the retreat of the royals and the rich.

It consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as “Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, from the nickname of its first owner, Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. The estate has had many owners through time, but in 1892 it was purchased by Carvalho Monteiro who then set about creating a place where he could gather symbols that would reflect his interests and ideologies. With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he installed in the 4-hectare estate a range of enigmatic buildings, believed to hide symbols related to Alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. The architecture is an eclectic mix of styles, constructed in the first few years of the 1900’s and completed in 1910.

After a number of other owners, and a period in which it fell into disrepair, the estate was bought by Sintra Council in 1997. Extensive restoration was undertaken, and the palace and surroundings were opened to the public one year later.

Most of the estate consists of a dense woodland park crossed by many roads and footpaths. The woods are neatly arranged in the lower parts of the estate, but left wild and disorganized in the upper parts, reflecting Carvalho Monteiro’s belief in primitivism. Decorative, symbolic and leisure structures are dotted aorund the park and there is also a mysterious system of tunnels, which have multiple accesses including via grottoes, Chapel, Waterfall Lake, and “Leda’s Cave” beneath the Regaleira Tower. Their symbolism has been interpreted as a trip between darkness and light, death and resurrection.

The “Initiation Well” or “Initiatic Well” (sometimes referred to as the “Inverted Tower”) is a 27 metre staircase that leads straight down underground and connects with other tunnels via underground walkways.Water is a frequent element with two artificial lakes and several fountains and the Aquarium, built as if it were naturally embedded in a rock.

I loved the playfulness of the park and children of course love its quirky touches, secret passages and tall towers. Quite a place and a fitting end to our latest Portuguese trip.

Source: Wikipedia

Old School Gardener

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