Quinta da Regaleira, description of the Portuguese wonder

Quinta da Regaleira – Portuguese Miracle

The palace and park group Quinta da Regaleira, also known as Monteiro Castle, is one of the most famous and visited sights in the Serra da Cintra in Portugal. The word “quinta” in Portuguese means nothing else than “farm”, but after seeing this complex no one would be able to call it a farm.

Photo: Quinta da Regaleira Palace

Historical Information

Villa Regaleira in Portugal has an interesting history, beginning in 1697. It was at this time that José Leito bought a large plot of land on the edge of Sintra, where the now famous estate is located.

In 1715, Francescu Alberto de Castres bought the land at a city auction. He planned to build a water network to supply water to the city.

The farmstead changed hands many times and in 1840 it came into the possession of the daughter of a rich merchant from Porto, who received the title of Baroness Regaleira. It was after her that the farm was named. According to historians, it was at this time that the construction of the farmstead began.

Nevertheless, all the large-scale construction work on Quinta da Regaleira took place under the next owner of the land. He was the Portuguese millionaire and philanthropist Antonio Agusto Carvalho Monteira. The entrepreneur bought the estate in 1892. And most of the buildings were built in 1904-1910 with the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini.

In the XX century the mansion Regaleira in Sintra has changed a few owners, and in 1997 it was bought by the municipality. After renovation it became a tourist attraction.

Regaleira Palace

This is the palace that opens to the eyes of tourists right from the entrance to the territory of the complex. In the midst of the surrounding nature, the white stone of which the Regaleira castle is built, darkened by the passage of time, looks particularly spectacular.

Photo: architecture of the manor

As with many other buildings in Portugal, Quinta da Regaleira is characterized by a fusion of different styles. In the architecture of Villa Regaleira (photos of the castle clearly demonstrate this), you can see Romanesque and Gothic styles, there are elements of Renaissance and Manuelino (Portuguese Renaissance). The four-story palace has a luxuriously decorated facade: it is decorated with Gothic turrets, gargoyles, capitals, various figures of fantastic animals. The rich decoration of this stunning structure is the handiwork of sculptor Jose de Fonesca.

On the first floor of the palace were the master bedroom, dressing room, living room, as well as the hunting room and the Hall of the Kings. After the 1910 revolution in Portugal and the abolition of the monarchy, Monteiro kept the throne in the Hall of Kings, never ceasing to believe in the return of the king. In the same hall, as can be understood from the preserved chandelier, a billiard room was arranged.

The hunting room was used by the owners of the villa as a dining room. In this room is a huge fireplace, topped with a statue of a young man with hounds. The fireplace, the walls, the ceiling – everything here is decorated with images of hunting scenes, figures of animals.

The second floor of Quinta da Regaleira Palace was reserved for the private rooms of the Monteiro family.

A library with a very rich selection of books and a collection of musical instruments was set up on the third floor. There was also an alchemist’s room, a small room with access to the terrace.

What remains of the Quinta da Regaleira now? The windows are boarded up and covered with dark cloth, and the heirs have sold off all the books (a selection of Camoens’ volumes are in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.). No one knows what happened to the alchemical laboratory and the equipment in it. The laboratory is now closed to the public, and only from the roof of Regaleira Castle can one see the terrace and the sculptures of mythical creatures located there.

The basement of Quinta da Regaleira’s palace contained the servants’ bedrooms, storage rooms, a kitchen and an elevator to bring food to the dining room.

Park, grottos, tunnels

Photo: Quinta da Regaleira park

There is a unique tiered park, the upper portions of which are unimproved woodlands and the lower portions of which are a man-made ennobled area. Next to the lakes, caves and underground passages, there are towers, alcoves and benches along smooth paths in the park. There is also an alley with classical sculptures depicting the gods Vulcan, Hermes, Dionysus, and others.

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This part of Quinta da Regaleira hides many symbols related to different religions and religious rituals, alchemy, Freemasonry, the Templars and the Rosenkreuzers as well as world famous works (such as the “Divine Comedy”).

The Well of the Dedication

The most mysterious object, thanks to which many call Quinta da Regaleira the Portuguese wonder, is the Well of the Dedication or the Inverted Tower, 30 meters deep. The spiral gallery surrounding the descent has 9 levels, each with 15 steps. These levels are symbols of hell, of which Dante wrote.

The well bottom is decorated with the coat of arms of Monteiro, a Templar cross placed inside a star. The wall is carved with an image of a triangle, recognized as the sign of the Freemasons. It is believed that in the Upturned Tower they were initiated as Freemasons, although no documentary evidence has been found.

There are four tunnels from the well bottom – they extend to the grottoes and to another well. These tunnels are cut into the stone massif, their walls have brown and pink tones – the color of marble. In some places their vaults contain inclusions of stone imported from the coastal area of Peniche. They all fulfill a certain functional purpose: they symbolize the way from darkness to light, from death to resurrection, they seem to unite the different components of an outlandish world. The tunnels accessible to visitors are illuminated.

On the territory of the complex there is another well, which is called Imperfect. If you look at it, you can immediately conclude that an unskilled builder haphazardly stacked a pile of stones against the wall. But behind the “clumsy” windows of the well is a spiral ramp, which is another road from darkness to light.

The portal of the two guards is a most interesting structure, consisting of two towers and a pergola between them. Under this pavilion is a tunnel to the underworld, and the entrance is guarded by newts. Not far from the Portal, you can see the unique Terrace of Heavenly Worlds, where you can see the palace, the park and most of its buildings, lakes and waterfalls.

In Quinta da Regaleira, in Sintra, there is a small building opposite the castle that is in the same style as the castle. A high relief of the Annunciation is placed above the entrance to the chapel. The back wall of the chapel is decorated with a relief image of a castle standing above the flames of hell – it is a symbol of the trinity between the higher world, the intermediate spiritual world and hell.

In the interior of the chapel, the mosaic deserves special attention. On it the crowning of Mary with the resurrected Jesus is depicted, and to the right of the altar there are images of Saints Teresa of Avila and Anthony of Padua. The floor of the chapel is decorated with a tiled emblem of the Order of Christ and an image of an armillary sphere (one of the main symbols of the coat of arms of Portugal).

Landscaping of the park

A tour of the park can make the bizarre grottoes and lakes appear to be the work of nature. This is not the case: they were all man-made and the stones were imported from the Portuguese coast. As for the lakes, the two artificial reservoirs are made as if they were a natural part of the cliff. Unfortunately, now this most interesting object is in a state of conservation. In this park even the vegetation has been selected for a reason: Monteir collected plants mentioned in the books of Camões.

How to get there

The best way to get to the estate is from Lisbon. Quinta da Regaleira (Portugal), located in the town of Sintra, is not a problem to get to from the capital. There are 2 options.

Suburban trains to Sintra leave from Lisbon at 10-minute intervals. You can choose wherever you want to board – Oriente, Rossio and Entrecampos stations. The ticket costs 2,25€ and travel time is about 45 minutes. From the train station in Sintra you can get to the farmstead as follows:

  • walk in 25 minutes – the way is not at all difficult, the road goes along a picturesque hillside with relict forests;
  • To go 1.3 km by cab;
  • Take bus 435. One-way fare is 1€, round-trip is 2.5€.
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By car to Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra from the Portuguese capital, take the A37 to Mafra and from there take the N9. Travel time is about 40 minutes.

Note that there are several other palaces in the city that have a lot to see. One of them was home to the royal family for a long time – it is the National Palace of Sintra.

Opening times and cost of a visit

The location address of the Quinta da Regaleira complex is R. Barbosa do Bocage 5, Sintra.

  • From April to the end of September it is open to the public daily from 9:30 to 20:00 (admission until 19:00),
  • From October to the end of March from 9:30 to 19:00 (admission until 18:00).

Be aware that Sintra is always cooler than Lisbon. Before you go be sure to check the weather forecast to be prepared for rain and fog, which are a regular occurrence here.

  • Entrance to the Quinta da Regaleira palace and park complex is free for children under 5 years of age.
  • For children aged 6-17 years old ticket costs 5 EUR, the same amount will be for pensioners.
  • Adult ticket costs 8 EUR.
  • Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) is 22 EUR.
  • Guide services – 12 EUR.

All prices are for March 2020.

What else should you know?

At the entrance to Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, visitors are given a free map of the manor, which is especially useful if you intend to take a self-guided tour. Keep in mind that it will take at least 3 hours to walk around and see it: it has a vast territory, a fairytale castle, and a large number of underground grottoes. Walk around the estate is very interesting, you can climb the towers, take interesting photos.

A visit to the mansion is a must on any tour of Sintra.

Useful tips
  1. It is best to visit the attraction in the morning, immediately after opening. In the middle of the day, the number of tourists increases many times over.
  2. If you want to see all castles of Sintra, buy a complex ticket – it will help to save both money and time.
  3. On your own it is difficult to understand the meaning of different symbols, and there are a lot of them: the symbols of Freemasonry, mystical signs of alchemy and ancient religions. This is why it is preferable to visit Quinta da Regaleira with a guide.

A walk around the castle and useful information for tourists – in this video.

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Quinta da Regaleira Estate

Like many other structures in Portugal, the Quinta da Regaleira estate contains the fingerprints of different styles. Here, as in Pena Palace, you can see a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, Renaissance and Manueline elements. I paid attention to this ensemble because of the mystical and mysterious spirit with which it is imbued. And after visiting it for a long time I could not forget the feeling of magic, when you find yourself inside and contemplate with rapture the fabulous structure. After all, one of the last owners, under whom Quinta da Regaleira acquired its modern appearance, was a member of the Masonic lodge, and therefore wished to reflect his interests in the architecture of the estate.

But I will not argue with the fact that this ensemble is widely known for the well of the Dedication, which is shown in many photos on the Internet. And I was even more impressed by it than by the palace. Thanks to this amazing architecture, I felt away from reality. In addition to the palace and the well, surrounded by forests, lakes and caves on a relatively small territory there is a chapel, various decorative structures. I propose to take a little trip: to see the Regaleira palace and its surroundings.

A Tour of History

Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most remarkable structures of the Serra da Cintra. The word quinta itself translates from Portuguese as “farm”, but after visiting the ensemble you won’t be able to call it a farm. This fabulous complex boasts an interesting history. It began in 1697, when Jose Leitu bought a large plot of land near the center of Sintra. The palace and park ensemble is now located within the territory purchased by Leitu.

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Eighteen years later, at a public auction, the land is bought by Franchisca Alberto de Castres to channel water from the mountain to feed the fountains in the city. The change of owners does not end there: in the 19th century alone, the land changed hands four times. A landmark event during this period was the purchase of the land in 1840 by the influential and wealthy Alain Regaleira, who soon after the purchase became a baroness and gave her name to the farm. According to some speculations, the construction of a country estate on the land began at this point, as evidenced by the images of the time.

However, the rapid development of the farmstead is still associated with the name of its next owner, the Portuguese entomologist, philanthropist and collector and Freemason Carvalho Monteiro, who gave the place that halo of mystery. Most of the buildings on the grounds were built between 1904 and 1910 by an Italian, Luigi Manini.

The farm changed hands several times during the twentieth century and was finally bought by the Sintra City Council in 1997, restored and opened to the public.

The influence of esotericism

Monteira was a man of scientific spirit, outstanding culture and rare sensitivity, in addition to being a bibliophile, a collector and a great philanthropist. He was also a lover of astrology, esotericism and the occult. I believe that for that time his knowledge was admirable. Thanks to his education and hobbies, Monteira was able to create a stone masterpiece. The entire complex ended up being something like the Garden of Eden, and of the prevailing styles here, the most prominent are the quaint Neo-Mauritanian and Renaissance. Because Monteira built the complex to reflect his inner world and views, symbols of the Freemasons, Templars, alchemists and various allusions to esoteric teachings and rituals are found at every turn here.

In Jewish mysticism, which became widespread in the 16th century, esoterism is based on the law, the aim of which is to find a correspondence between the divine and the earthly, man and the universe. The transition from one dimension to another takes place through rituals through which the newly initiated gains access to secret knowledge. The Dedication Well on the estate is a prime example of such a symbolic structure. This inverted tower, sunk deep into the earth, is a symbol of birth and death; a symbol of the mother’s womb from which life came, and the grave where the body will return. As I mentioned above, the well is certainly worthy of your attention–it is delightful in its singularity. Feel yourself in the place of Virgil in Dante’s work!

In XVIII century another esoteric doctrine is finally formed – Freemasonry in its modern sense, or speculative, which was no longer connected with the real masons, and the ranks of Freemasonry were joined by people of nobility and wealthy. At almost all times it was resisted by the Catholic Church, although it preached belief in the virtues of charity, the immortality of the soul and the existence of the great architect of the universe. And most of the Masonic symbolism is inspired by esoteric currents, such as alchemy, Templarism and Rosencrucianism. These are the symbols that we will find in all corners of the Regaleira Estate.

Regaleira Palace

This is probably the first thing a traveler sees when entering the farmhouse. The palace stands out very clearly against the surrounding nature, as if the architect had applied a filter of edge detection to the building. The darkened white stone of which the palace is built looks particularly picturesque against the lush flora. The octagonal tower and the rich decoration by sculptor José de Fonseca are noteworthy. Manuelino (Portuguese Renaissance) style with many figures of fantastic animals is most noticeable here.

Many travelers leave a visit to the palace for later, if not pay any attention to it. And it is too bad, because its interiors are no less beautiful than the exterior and the park spread out nearby. I was close to not going inside, too: a walk through the park takes a lot of energy. But at a certain point, a keen interest took hold of me, and I have never regretted it. Much of the original wall decoration has been preserved here. However, the old library has lost its original decoration over time.

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The first floor in Carvalho Monteira’s days had a dining room, living room, dressing room, billiard room and bedroom. On the second floor was the study and the housekeeper’s room. On the third floor was a small room with a terrace and an ironing room. The basement had rooms for the male servants, a kitchen with an elevator to bring food up to the dining room and a utility room.

Take a look at the hunting room with a fireplace of impressive proportions, which is crowned by a statue of a woodcutter. Above the fireplace are depictions of hunting scenes. A “cycle of life” theme runs through the room, from the Venetian mosaic floor to the ceiling.

The design of the octagonal room was inspired by the Convento de Cristo in Tomar.

The ceiling of the former billiard room is decorated with portraits of twenty kings and four queens of Portugal, as well as the coats of arms of Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and Braga.

A walk through the park

The park is a reflection of a microcosm and all its corners are imbued with magic and mystery. As we walk here we will experience the harmony of the heavenly and earthly spheres, we will encounter references to the legends and myths of ancient Greece, references to Virgil, Dante, Camões and the works of mystics and alchemists. This intricate tangle of paths descending the slope through trees and shrubs will surprise us at every turn with a new marvelous view.

The upper park is a vast wild forest, while the lower one has been ennobled by man and is rich in various architectural structures. Not a single structure here was erected by chance, everything has its meaning and high purpose, and the elegant buildings are adjacent to artificial caves and lakes.

The portal of the two guards is a picturesque structure of two towers and a pergola in the center, under which hides one of the tunnels to the underworld. The entrance to the tunnel is guarded by two newts who, according to Greek mythology, blow music from a seashell.

The terrace of heavenly worlds with an observation deck is located next to the Portal of the Two Guardians.

Above the grotto of Leda rises the Tower of Regaleira. According to the architect, it was intended to give the observer the illusion of being on the axis of the world. And indeed there is an excellent view of the Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors.

The picturesque Plateau of the Gods with its alley surrounded by nine statues of Greek and Roman deities cannot be overlooked. Classical mythology was undoubtedly one of Carvalho Monteiro’s sources of inspiration.

An important place among the whole ensemble are several buildings, about which I would like to tell in more detail.

Chapel

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity is the second grandiose building in Quinta da Regaleira after the palace. This Christian temple is fairly small in size, but is ornate with many symbolic elements. The Gothic and Manueline facade is particularly notable, featuring figures of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Anthony. There is a high relief of the Annunciation above the entrance.

One can see here images of fanciful harpies with the body of a bird and the head of a monster. And at the back of the chapel, also in relief, is a castle with two towers resting above the flames and the throat of hell. It is a symbol of the trinity: the higher world, the intermediate spiritual world and the lower world, or hell.

The interior is dominated by a mosaic depicting the coronation of Mary with the risen Jesus.

On the right side of the altar are repeated images of Teresa of Avila and Antony, but now in mosaic. On the floor is the emblem of the Order of Christ – a cross in a celestial sphere, surrounded by five-pointed stars.

Here again we find the emblem of the Freemasons: an eye in a triangle and shining rays, the symbol of the great architect of the universe.

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Note the beautiful stained-glass windows, thanks to which the daylight penetrating inside creates a sense of phantasmagoria.

The Well of Dedication

The vast spiral gallery of the well is supported by numerous columns of precise work which mark the regular rhythm of the stairs. The capitals of the columns are topped with intricately curved acanthus leaves.

In each of the nine flights of stairs the attentive tourist will count exactly 15 steps. These nine flights of stairs symbolize the descent to the abyss or the ascent to heaven, according to the chosen path of initiation. They are also a direct reference to Dante, who wrote in The Divine Comedy a detailed description of the afterlife, which consists of nine circles of hell, purgatory and paradise.

The marble floor of the well is decorated with the Templar Cross, which is inscribed in turn in the eight-pointed star and is the heraldic emblem of Carvalho Monteiro.

Tunnels, Wells and Grottoes

Four tunnels from the well lead the traveler to the grottoes and to another well through a mysterious underworld once inhabited by bats. These man-made structures, hollowed out in the Sintra massif, reveal marble rock colored in pinkish and brown hues. In some places, stone from the coastal region of Peninsula is embedded in the vaults of the tunnels. The tunnels are not part of the labyrinth, but they carry a functional load and connect several parts of this wonderful world. In symbolic terms, the tunnels are the path from darkness to light, from death to resurrection. The tunnels, which are open to tourists, are lit, but it did not take away from the feeling that I was in ancient and hidden from the eyes of man caves.

In addition to the Well of Dedication, there is the Imperfect Well, the name of which speaks for itself. At first glance, it looks as if a hapless builder accidentally piled up a pile of stones along the walls. However, behind the indistinctly shaped window openings of the well there is a spiral ramp, another path from darkness to light.

One branch of the tunnel leads you to the East Grotto.

Not far from it is the picturesque Aquarium Grotto.

In the wall below the Regaleira Tower in a grotto lurks a miniature statue of the beautiful Leda, whose beauty Zeus himself had once been enchanted and visited her in the form of a swan.

And at the farthest wall of the estate, far from the main structures, the grotto of the Virgin is hidden.

In addition to tunnels and grottoes, there are lakes in the park that symbolize the eyes of the earth. Through them, the inhabitants of the underworld observe the life of the earth.

Such “eyes of the earth” in the farmstead are Labyrinth grotto and Lake with a waterfall. In addition, the water on the farm is seen as an element that leads to spiritual purification.

Lastly

Once in Sintra, don’t hesitate to choose the Quinta da Regaleira. The train ride to Sintra is inexpensive and it’s within walking distance of the center.

The place is inspiring and Carvalho Monteira’s history is impressive. So after a visit there is a reason to be fascinated by something new. For example, open a book about the Templars or the history of Freemasonry.

How to get there

There are several options:

  • By train Lisbon to Sintra. From Lisbon trains to Sintra leave every 10 minutes from Oriente, Rossio and Entrecampos stations. The trip takes about 45 minutes and the ticket costs 2,20 EUR. Next:
    • At the train station of Sintra you can take bus number 434. Ticket should be bought from the driver or at special ticket offices. One way ticket costs 3 EUR, round trip ticket – 5,50 EUR.
    • From the railway station you can walk on foot. The farmstead is located near the city center and the walk will take 25 minutes.

    Useful information

    Opening hours :

    • April 1 to September 30 from 9:30 to 20:00;
    • October 1 to March 31 from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    Ticket prices:

    • Children under 5 years old – free;
    • Adolescents 6-17 years old – 4 EUR;
    • adults – 6 EUR;
    • Pensioners – 4 EUR.

    At the entrance together with the ticket you get a free map of the manor, which can also be downloaded here.

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