Pena Palace – Sintra, Portugal

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We decided to take a private guided tour to the town of Sintra in order to visit the many palaces and learn more of this marvelous place.  Our guide was a lovely young Portuguese woman who had a real passion for the history of her country and knew some great places to eat!   Off we went in our minivan to find new and amazing places……….

The palace stands on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon.   It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in the world.

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The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.   It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

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.

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In 1493,  King John II, accompanied by his wife Leonor of Viseu, made a pilgrimage to the site to fulfill a vow. His successor, King Manuel I, was also very fond of this sanctuary, and ordered the construction there of a monastery which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome.   For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.

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.   Nonetheless, the chapel (and its magnificent works of marble and alabaster attributed to Nicolau Chanterene) escaped without significant damage.

For many decades the ruins remained untouched, but they still astonished young prince Ferdinand.   In 1838, as King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors

Castle of the Moors

Castle of the Moors

and a few other estates in the area, including Monserrate Palace..

Monserrate Palace

Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is an exotic palatial villa, the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. It was built in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet created visconde de Monserrate by King Luís

and the Convent of the Capuchos…

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of course we cannot forget the home he built for his second wife, The Chalet of the Countess of Edla…

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King Ferdinand then set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.

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The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer 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:  King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II intervened decisively on matters of decoration and symbolism.   Among others, the King suggested Vault architecture,  Medieval architecture and Islamic architecture elements be included.

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….., and he also designed an exquisitely ornate window for the main façade inspired by the chapter house window of the Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar

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After the death of Ferdinand the palace passed into the possession of his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla.    The latter then sold the palace to Luís I of Portugal,  who wanted to retrieve it for the royal family, and thereafter the palace was frequently used by the family.   In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.   The last queen of Portugal, Amélie of Orléans,  spent her last night at the palace before leaving the country in exile.

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The palace quickly drew visitors and became one of Portugal’s most visited monuments. Over time the colors of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace was visually identified as being entirely gray.   By the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original colors restored, much to the dismay of many Portuguese who were not aware that the palace had once displayed such chromatic variety.

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In 1995,  the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Pena Palace is so large and so magnificent.    We so enjoyed our visit …………. now off for some food!

Caldo Verde……….delightful……recipe at end of post…….

………followed by one of my favorites……….Roasted Octopus….

what a fantastic day……..oh yeah, here is the Caldo Verde recipe…

  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 6 Potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 quarts Cold Water
  • 6 ounces Linguica Sausage, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  •  1 pound Kale, rinsed and julienned

Directions

 In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil for 3 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more.  Pour in water, bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook sausage until it has released most of its fat, 10 minutes.  Drain.

Mash potatoes or puree the potato mixture with a blender or food processor.  Stir the sausage, salt and pepper into the soup and return to medium heat.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Just before serving, stir kale into soup and simmer, 5 minutes, until kale is tender and jade green.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve at once.

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14 responses »

  1. This morning a double delight. I’m sipping my early morning coffee when Lar popped two postcards from the Tin Man and Augustine on my breakfast tray – A card from Sicily and another from Avignon and all those popes. Now this lovely post . I have enormous affection and regard for all that is Portuguese – especially the people. Our son-in-law lives very close to the Portuguese area of Toronto. His factotum and general woman wonder is from The Azores. She was our tower of strength during the illness of my daughter. V.

  2. Gosh. Your top shot is amazing. Well, all of the photographs are so beautiful. I keep scrolling up and down the post. How many palaces did you manage to visit? I’m taking notes. I also love the historical tidbits, of course. And the recipe, too! And wine. I’m enjoying your magical mystery tour! T. (YES. Thanks for another lovely post!)

  3. I can see why you needed a guide for all of these amazing buildings. Great pictures and history lessons! The exotic food went perfectly with the palaces. Marvelous post!

  4. Those buildings are utterly magical. Right from a fairy tale —
    I know nothing at all about Portugal so am very grateful for your in-depth travelogue and wonderful photos.
    A score of years ago a friend used to make Caldo Verde as her go-to company potluck contribution. (She learned the recipe visiting Portugal.) But I haven’t tasted it from that day to this. Your recipe makes it sound very do-able!

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