Pena Palace and Gardens

Pena Palace and Gardens

Pena Palace in the town of Sintra is famous as Europe’s most Romantic-style castle – which is of little surprise, considering that its present state dates from the mid-19th century when Romanticism was at its height.

Pena Palace began in the 14th century as a small chapel built on a hill, dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. Years later, St. Jerome’s monastery was added. In the 18th century the monastery was first struck by lightning, and then, more seriously, by the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake. The chapel, by contrast, survived virtually intact.

The king consort in the mid-19th century, Ferdinand II, was a German by birth. He was charmed and fascinated by this little chapel and the ghostly ruins of the monastery, so acquired the site and set out rebuilding what had been the old monastery as a royal summer residence.

The job of designing the new palace was given to the amateur German architect, Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, and construction took place from 1842 to 1854. King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II also had extensive say in the design. The vault arches, and the Islamic and Medieval aspects of the design are among the features ordered by the royal couple.

Architecturally it is a potpourri of styles spanning many continents and ages from Gothic, to Renaissance, to Moorish.

Pena Park was created around the Palace at the same time. Ferdinand II’s vision for the park was a blend of wild tropical forests and the grand woods of Germany. So, like the Palace, it is an eclectic, but wonderfully integrated, construct of flora from all over the world, including North America, China, Japan, and, for fern and tree ferns, Australia and New Zealand.

It became the property of the Portuguese State in 1889, and a national monument after the 1910 Republican Revolution.

The photos from this visit to Pena Palace and Gardens were taken on a rainy day, which, with the soft mysteriousness of the muted colors and darkened corners, captures the inspiration behind the royal fantasy that gave birth to this magical site in Sintra.

More on Sintra

Castle of the Moors

National Palace

Lisbon Palaces

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