Overlooking from the top of a mountain in the Portuguese town of Sintra, raises the majestic Palacio da Pena. Colour, history and magic combine to create one of the highest icons of Romantic European architecture from the XIX century.
The Palacio da Pena rises from the ruins of the Real Mosteiro de Nossa Senhora da Pena that date from 1503. This monastery, belonging to the Hieronymites order, was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake that occurred in 1755, but it wasn’t until 1834 that the monks left the monastery as a result of the extinction of religious orders all over Portugal.
In 1836, Queen María II of Portugal married Fernando of Saxony. Fernando was a man characterised by his intelligence, artistic mind and modern liberal ideas, who later became known as O Rey-Artista (The Artist King).
It is said that they made a very good team together, and that despite the fact that the queen was the authority, their collaboration helped solve many issues that occurred during Maria’s reign. Fernando became a leading political figure for the the Portuguese crown, often acting as the king regent during his wife’s numerous pregnancies.
In 1893, Fernando II of Portugal acquired the Real Mosteiro de Nossa Senhora da Pena and its land in public auction, and decides to build a palace in its place as a present for Maria: the Palacio de Pena.
The building consists of two parts, the ancient convent and the wing built by Fernando II in the XIX century. There is also a third structure surrounding the ensemble, that emulates a fortified castle wall with battlements, lookout towers, an access tunnel and even a drawbridge.
The palace is a work of enormous creativity and aesthetic sense, that shows the influence of diverse styles such as Egyptian, Moorish, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque among others. These styles give this construction the unique and exotic appearance that characterises it.
In addition, Fernando ordered large romantic gardens built, that surrounded the palace with winding pathways, pavilions and stone benches, as well as trees and plants from every corner of the world. Taking advantage of the humid climate in the area, he was able to create from scratch an amazing park with more than five hundred varieties of trees.
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The most interesting building in the gardens is the Chalet of the Countess, or Casa do Regalo, ordered by Fernando to be built as a present for his second wife, Elise Hensler (Countess of Edla), whom he married in 1869 (Maria died in 1853 after giving birth to her eleventh child, and Fernando assumed the regency as the heir was just 16 years old at the time).
The Palacio da Pena is part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, World Heritage since 1995, and one of the most breathtaking destinations all over Portugal. Full of history and charm, you will be delighted by the magic that emanates from the Palace and its surrounding gardens. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this work of art. Make a note of it: next stop, Sintra.