Chalet Biester – the film set for Johnny Depp’s ‘Ninth Gate’
Just a bit above the village, in our view, there is a mansion called Chalet Biester. Its black roof with turquoise trimming causes a lot of questions and awakes the curiosity of many Sintra visitors. No, it cannot be visited; yes, it is a private house. No, I don’t know who lives there now; yes, it is where the Roman Polanski thriller ‘The Ninth Gate’ was filmed, starring Johnny Depp. There and a bit of everywhere in Sintra.
Ernesto Biester, a Portuguese journalist and playwright of German origin, famous in his time, ordered this mansion to be built in around 1880 from the architect José Luis Monteiro. Its interior was conceived by the famous Italian that worked on Quinta da Regaleira, also in Sintra, and the sceneries of La Scala Opera in Milano, and theater São Carlos in Lisbon: Luigi Manini – and the sculpture Leandro Braga. Biester asked Monteiro to use the English style called ‘Queen Ann’ style, a mixture of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romantic. The result is one of the most important buildings of his career and of Portuguese revivalist architecture, the Biester Chalet. Interestingly, all the four façades are completely different from each other, using a harmonious composition of various elements and of various architectural and decorative styles.
The chalet sits on the way to Pena Palace, perfectly fitting its surroundings. Its gardens are simple and perfect, adding to the artistic effect of the chalet. The house became an attraction and a landmark for Sintra, and is one of the first buildings and finest examples of chalets of its kind. I was lucky enough to visit it in about 1994 when it was rented by an American family. Impressive. The inside has a centralized plan with a large staircase. The house is well organized by use, practical, has a couple of kitchens, a second ‘service staircase’ more in hiding and an interior chapel. Even if every tenant changes some of the furniture, they cannot change the impressive woodwork and stain glass windows, yet the house was still ‘homey’. If you want to see its inside, watch the movie, the Ninth Gate!
But no, I don’t think it’s for sale, if that was your next thought!