Quinta da Regaleira, the mystical place of masonry, art and master landscaping
One of the most visited places of Sintra is right there, opposite our pool, on the other side of the valley. Quinta da Regaleira is probably the best ranked monument to visit in Sintra by our visitors.
It never was a royal anything. A private house, used as a summer residence, of Carvalho Monteiro, who bought it in 1892 from the barons of Regaleira and transformed it to its glory with the famous architect Luigi Manini, known for his theatrical works. There is a lot to be said about Quinta da Regaleira, or Palácio dos Milhões, as it is also called. It is not only beautifully built in neo-manueline style with strong ties to the discoveries – the 4 hectar grounds are beautifully landscaped, going from very groomed and formal to progressively wilder, almost primitive as you advance from the palace towards the mountain. After several changes of owners, Sintra city hall bought it in 1997 and in 2002 it was declared a building of Public Interest.
There are many facets to the Quinta. Art and architecture are obviously important – from the palace itself to the statues, paintwork, inlayed woods, gothic arts, and even some classical elements. You can see the works of some of Portugal’s best artists: António Gonçalves, João Machado, José da Fonseca, Costa Motta and Rodrigo de Castro as sculptors in stone and Júlio da Fonseca in wood. There is a part of the garden with 9 statues of Greek gods. The classic mythology was one of the inspirations of Carvalho Monteiro, and the garden has been divided into areas inspired by the gods, through color schemes and form. The Esoteric themes are an other interesting part of Regaleira: the house and the gardens are full of masonic symbolism, related to alchemy, the templars and the 8-tipped templar rose (croix rose). The symbolism is easiest seen in the initiation well. Its 9 levels symbolize the 9 circles of hell, or of paradise. It is believed to have been used in masonic initiation ceremonies.
Many tunnels and caves lead from the well to other parts of the grounds. They are covered with maritime rock brought in from the seafont from Pencihe region to give an air of submerged world. The chapel is beautifully painted with themes of Mary; Mary receiving the message of bearing God’s child from angel Gabriel, Jesus resucssitated crowning a woman, supposedly Mary or Magdalena.
The grounds are managed by Fundação Cultursintra. In addition to keeping everything up, they organize cultural events in the grounds. In the summer they have months of outside theater, ranging from the Tempest and Romeu and Juliet of Shakespeare to Alice in Wonderland on weekend evenings. There are concerts from jazz to classical as well as courses and conferences regularly. Thematic visits are organized (treasure hunts for children etc) as are exhibitions and educational activities. Visit their website www.regaleira.pt for events near your visit to Sintra so you can plan ahead.
Regaleira is definitely worth the visit! You could spend a day or two easily in the quinta. The whole family enjoys it. The secret passages appeal to the young, the art to all ages, the gardens especially to the gardening enthusiasts.
Some helpful tips:
- You can walk to Regaleira rom Casa do Valle in 15-20 minutes, it is about 1 km from us. Parking is very scarce there, so better not take your car. If you prefer a taxi, it should be about 5 euros from Casa do Valle to there.
- I would strongly suggest a guided tour first to visit the gronds so as not to miss all the symbolism, they are available in many languages but must be booked in advance, you can often do it from a day to another.
- There is a nice restaurant on premises, so it is easy to spend a long time there.
- Kids usually love this place, they can run around and discover a lot. Make sure you do not lose sight of them, though – esasy to get lost there
- Do bring a flashlight (we can lend you one if necessary) to explore underground tunnels, as not all of them are lit.
- Wear good shoes that you don’t mind getting wet as some of the tunnels have small puddles and you may fall off the stepping stones if you venture on the ponds.
- Plan to spend at least two hours to visit, many spend the whole day once they get started.