Tag Archive: baroque


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The second garden visit on our last day in Portugal took us a little further towards the mouth of the River Tagus, but still within the town of Oeiras. The Gardens of the Palace of the Marquis of Pombal convey an even more prosperous feel and are altogether larger – almost a ‘landscape’ scale. It is easy to imagine these high baroque walks, lawns, borders and water features as the scene of some serious 18th century showing off, flirting and general fun. 

The 1st Marquis of Pombal
The 1st Marquis of Pombal

The Town Council now occupies the former palace. The Marquis of Pombal, one of Portugal’s most famous leaders, was rewarded with the palace, the title (and the title Count of Oeiras) for his service as first minister to the Portuguese King Dom Jose I in the mid- late 18th century. The surrounding gardens are typical of Portuguese landscape art, inspired by eighteenth century European designs but holding to the tradition of the Portuguese stately house. They are richly decorated with marble busts and statues, low walls and marble staircases along with many murals composed from azulejos (glazed tiles).

Here too is the Poets’ Waterfall, with excellent busts of the four epic poets (Tasso, Homer, Virgil and Camoes) looking out over the gardens and carved in marble by Machado de Castro. At the fountain’s centre lounges the figure of a ‘river god’ modelled on the one that existed at the Belvedere Gardens, in the Vatican, Rome. As in the garden we visited earlier at Caxias, the fountain is a fantastic structure made out of pitted stone which conveys a truly antique feel. There are also splendid views of the surrounding gardens from the stairs that wrap around the sides of the construction.

The gardens form one part of a wider estate which is planned to a rigourous geometry and divides recreation spaces, great gardens and surrounding farms, all reflecting the style of the well-to-do families of the age.  The gardens saw cultural events such as theatre, ballet and musical performances, a tradition kept up to the modern day (Roxy Music performed here in 2010!).  Here are some pictures of the formal gardens lying to the side of the Poets’ Fountain, with empty pools resting near to the remains of a ‘bousquet’ (a sort of woodland in miniature) and the wonderful (empty) pools and fountains of a large water garden with some beautiful glazed tiles that must look really vibrant when wet.

Related article:

Portuguese Gardens: Baroque Splendour at Caxias, Portugal

Old School Gardener

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IMG_8032Our October visit to Portugal concluded with a day packed with garden visits to the west of Lisbon and in the regal suburb of Sintra to the north- home to many a splendid palace and garden.

We began at a restored baroque garden in the riverside  town of  Caxias. The Quinta Real de Caxias is located quite close to the train station (direct services to and from Lisbon). It was a leisure residence of Queen D. Maria I, as well as the home of King Luís for a few weeks, before he moved to the Ajuda Palace (which we’d visited a few days before).

Inspired by the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, the formal parterres- woven in intricate patterns – are interspersed with various water features, statuary and tall Brazilian pine trees.

The waterfall, ornamented with terracotta statues (of the Machado de Castro school), is the centre piece. Set out at the end of the principal avenue the fountain itself (made out of weather – beaten limestone), is flanked by two wings of tiered terracing, accessed by staircases at either end – the perfect spot form which to view the patterns of the box parterres.

Awarded a European Prize for the Recovery of Historical Gardens, the local Council has done a superb job in restoring much of the baroque splendour of this ‘off the beaten track’ haven. I could have spent hours here ‘chilling out’ – and it would have been even more alluring if the water features had been in operation. Maybe that’s something for the next phase of restoration?

Old School Gardener

Bom Jesus de Mont

Bom Jesus de Mont

I was fortunate to visit the northern Portuguese town of Braga about 10 years ago, though it was a rather cold and wet November, so it wasn’t an ideal time for garden viewing! And as I was on a study visit focused on social enterprise, gardens and gardening were not really on my mind.

Having said that one of my hosts, a lovely lady called Isabelle, did take me to the very impressive religious centre of Bom Jesus do Mont (Good Jesus of the Mount). Braga is a noteable religious centre and this Sanctuary is a famous pilgrimage site with a monumental Baroque stairway that climbs 116 metres and is flanked by several fountains. Pilgrims were traditionally  encouraged to climb the stairs on their knees as they took a journey that contrasted the senses of the material world with the virtues of the spirit. At the same time they experienced tableux scenes of the Passion of Christ (or Stations of the Cross), and the fountains suggested purification.The culmination of their efforts was found in the Temple of God – the church on the top of the hill. This sanctuary was begun in the 18th century and work proceeded over many decades, with the stairway and area around the church being turned into a park in the 19th century.

The other major space I visited was the Garden of Saint Barbara (Jardim de Santa Bárbara). In the early winter weather this was lacking in colour or any significance, but its layout looked interesting and there was some winter structure afforded by the evergreen topiary. Some of the pictures I’ve seen since show what a wonderful colourful oasis this is in summer. The garden was laid out in 1955 and the space was formerly part of the medieval Arch Bishop’s Palace, the remains of which adjoin the garden. The layout consists of geometric designs carved from beds of boxwood, decorated with cedar topiaries and filled with summer flowering plants.

There’s another important garden in Braga – the garden of the Biscainhos Palace (Casa dos Biscainhos – today a museum). I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this, but it appears a to be a lovely example of a mid 18th century Rococo style garden, created at a time when the area was home to some of Portugal’s finest granite sculptors. The resulting garden is both ‘lighthearted and flamboyant’ (so writes Helena Attlee). Built on three levels it includes a flower garden and some typical Portuguese elements – wall planting troughs, azulejos (colourful tiles), complex box parterres and granite statues. The garden’s most notable feature, though, is its ‘Cool Houses’ (Casa do fresco) sculpted from living Camellias to form summer retreats. I do hope that I can see it, one day.

Other articles in this series:

Portuguese Gardens: Tropical Botanical Gardens, Belem

Portuguese Gardens: Estrela Gardens, Lisbon

Oranges and Azulejos: Portuguese Heritage Gardens

Old School Gardener

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