Monday, 19 October 2015 10:43

Sintra

Culturally very rich area where you can easily spend a whole day

On the 'edge' of the Costa de Prata you can find one of the most de meest interesting places of Portugal.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra

This palace is one of the most important Portuguese examples of royal architecture. It is topped by two large twin chimneys built over the kitchen, which have become the symbol of Sintra. It is the best preserved medieval Royal Palace in Portugal. It is part of the Cultural landscape of Sintra, designated World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Palácio Nacional da Pena

This palace is the most remarkable example of Portuguese Romantic architecture. 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 one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also still in use for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

Castelo dos Mouros

The Moorish Castle dates back to the early days of the Moorish occupation of the Peninsula (the 8th century). The current building is the result of a renovation carried out in the 19th century. The views from its walls and towers are breathtaking.

Convento dos Capuchos

The monastery was built in 1560 by Dom Álvaro de Castro, in fulfillment of a vow by his father, Dom João de Castro. Its tiny cells, small chapel, refectory and other dependencies, installed in the rock and lined with cork, are a telling example of the humble and austere existence of the Franciscan friars who lived here.

Other places of interest in Sintra are: Parque da Pena, Quinta de Monserrate (park), Museu de Arte Moderna (museum of modern art), Museu do Brinquedo (toys museum), and Quinta da Regaleira (palace and gardens).

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Published in Nature and Culture
Monday, 12 October 2015 13:57

Palace of Mafra

Palace is baroque heart of Mafra

In Mafra you can visit the Palacio Nacional de Mafra, a beatiful palace and monastry. João V demanded the construction in the 18th century, the profits of gold- and diamond mines in Brazil financed the construction.

This vast complex is among the most sumptuous Baroque buildings in Portugal.

The palace is open to the public, although only by guided tours. The tour through the palace takes about one hour, and gives you a good impression of the palace, convent and basilica.

The highlight of the tour is the very impressive Rococo library: 88 m long, over 35,000 leather-bound volumes. Besides natural techniques of conservation for the books, such as the lack of space between the wall and the book (so it doesn't create humidity), there are also a few bats that inhabit this library eating any insect that could destroy this invaluable treasure!

Portuguese writer José Saramago wrote a novel about the construction of the monastry: Memorial do Convento (Memorial of a Convent).

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Outside you can walk around the Tapada Nacional de Mafra, the king’s former wildlife and game reserve. It is a unique nature reserve, over 800 hectares in size, completely enclosed by a wall.
The variety in flora and fauna is impressive.

www.tapadademafra.pt

Published in World Heritages
Sunday, 11 October 2015 15:35

Origins of the Templars monastry

Arise of the Castelo dos Templários and Convento de Cristo

After the conquest of the region from the Moors in the Portuguese Reconquista, the land was granted in 1159 as a fief to the Order of the Knights Templar. Its Grand Master in Portugal, and Tomar's somewhat mythical founder, Gualdim Pais, laid in 1160 the first stone of the Castle and Monastery that would become the headquarters of the Order in Portugal.

The feudal contract was granted in 1162 by the Grand Master to the people. The Templars ruled from Tomar a vast region of central Portugal which they pledged to defend from Moorish attacks and raids. Like many lords of the unpopulated former frontier region of central Portugal, the villagers were given relatively liberal conditions in comparison with those of the northern regions of Portugal, in order to attract new immigrants. They were not allowed the title of Knight which was reserved to the monks. Women were also admitted to the Order, although they didn't fight.

In 1190 a Moroccan caliph and his army attacked Tomar. However the crusader Knights and their leader kept them at bay. A plaque commemorates this bloody battle at the Porta do Sangue at the Castelo Templário (Castle of Tomar).

Castle and Convent of the Knights Templar of Tomar (transferred in 1344 to the Knights of the Order of Christ)

In 1314, under pressure from the Pope Clement V, who wanted the Templars banned throughout Europe, King Dinis negotiated instead to transfer the possessions and personnel of the Order in Portugal to a newly created Order of Christ. This Order in 1319 moved south to Castro Marim, but in 1356 it returned to Tomar. In the 15th century the position of (cleric) Grand Master of the Order was henceforth nominated by the Pope, and the (lay) Master or Governor by the King, instead of being elected by the monks.

Henry the Navigator was made the Governor of the Order. The cross of the Order of Christ that was painted in the sails of the caravels that crossed the seas, and the Catholic missions in the new lands were under the authority of the Tomar clerics until 1514. Henry, enriched by his overseas enterprises, was the first ruler to ameliorate the buildings of the Convento de Cristo since its construction. He also ordered dams to be built to control the river Nabão and swamps to be drained. This allowed the burgeoning town to attract more settlers. Henry ordered the new streets to be designed in a rational, geometrical fashion, as they can still be seen today.

(source: Wikipedia)

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Published in World Heritages
Sunday, 04 October 2015 14:11

Monastry Batalha

The monastry Santa Maria de Vitória is Portuguese late gothic and manuelino masterpiece

On 15 August 1385 a battle started at Aljubarrota between the Castilian army and the Portuguese army lead by Nuno Álvares Pereira. On the square you see his statue. Mainly with help of English archers the Spanish army was defeated, and Portuguese independence could be maintained.

The first king, João, promised to build a monastryto thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory.

Many architects were involved in the construction, reason why the buildings have 3 different styles: late gothic, manuelino and renaissance. In the cloisters is the monument for unknown soldiers who died in the first world war. Every hour you can see the the change of the guards.

Together with Alcobaça and Tomar, Batalha forms the Golden Triangle of abbeys in the Costa de Prata (Silvercoast). These three monastries are on Unesco’s World Heritage list.

The municipal museum of Batalha was opened in 2011. It was founded to support the cultural heritage of the village. The museum has some interactive features, and takes you on a journey through the past to the present.
In the historical archives you can also see the excavations of the Roman city of Collipo, that once was built in the Batalha area.

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Published in World Heritages
Sunday, 04 October 2015 11:49

Monastry Alcobaça

The history of the monastry, a lovestory

The Real Abadia (royal abbey) de Santa Maria is in many ways the heart of Alcobaça.

It all started when King Afons I promised to give some land to saint Bernard if he would succeed in conquering the city of Santarém from the Moors. He succeeded in 1147, and in 1178 the Cistercians started building the monastry, and finished it some 45 years later. Soon it became the most important cistercian monastry in Portugal. Both church and monastry are originally gothic buildings. Later new parts were added to the monastry in different styles, like the 2 baroque towers.

Originally the complex was much bigger, but the earthquake of 1755, and the occupation by the French early 19th century, destroyed large parts of the monastry. What remained however is still a large complex, partly open to the public. A visit is certainly worthwhile, you can see things like the cloisters, the lavatory, the impressive kitchen, the dormitory, etc.

A lovestory

In the church lie the remains of Pedro I and Inês de Castro, each in their own tomb. Their love story is the most famous story in Portugal.
Pedro, son of Afonso IV, was about to marry the galician Constança. She arrived at the Portuguese court together with her maid of honour Inês. Pedro and Inês fell totally in love with eachother. This worried Afonso IV so much he decided to send Inês back to Burgos. Pedro and Constança got married, but Pedro could not forget Inês.

When Constança died in 1345, Pedro and Inês reunited, and the secretly got married. Together they hd 4 children. Afonso IV however still could not accept their love, and ordered Inês to be killed in 1355: she was decapitated by hitmen. Pedro was furious and wanted revenche. After his accession to the throne in 1357 he immediately ordered the hitman, who fled to Galicia, to be extradicted. After they arrived in Santarém Pedro demanded them to be tortured until death, and put their bodies on display afterwards.

In 1361 Pedro ordered Inês' body to be balmed, dressed as a queen, and put her on a throne next to him at the cathedral. All members of the nobility and the assembly were forced to kiss her hand, and by that Inês was posthumously crowned. Then her royal body was brought to Alcobaça and placed in a sarcophagus. On Pedro's command his own sarcophagus was put opposite of Inês so that when they both rise on judgment day, the first thing they see will be each other.

Life in the monastry of Alcobaça

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Published in World Heritages

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