Initiation Wells

The unique architecture of the Quinta de Regaleira combines a wealth of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance features, however one of its most fascinating features is located beneath the ground – a pair of wells spiralling deep within the earth.

The pair of wells, known as the ‘Initiation Wells’ or ‘Inverted Towers’, consist of ‘winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meanings possibly including the idea of death and rebirth.

It is these wells that piqued my curiosity so many months ago and so our Portuguese trip took root!

The smaller well, called the “Unfinished Well,” contains a set of straight staircases, connecting the ring-shaped floors to one another.

It is believed that the spacing of the landings, as well as the number of steps in between were dictated by Masonic principles. However other sources believe they relate to Tarot mysticism.

The wells were never used, nor intended for water collection. Instead, these mysterious underground towers were used for secretive initiation rites.

 

 


The second Initiation Well is completed and is an atmospheric place that can be reached by underground tunnels or on foot through the estate.

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The completed well contains nine platforms, which are said to be reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.

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At the bottom of the well there is a compass over a Knights Templar cross, which is said to have been the estate owner Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism.

The Rosicrucians were a community of mystics who studied and practiced the metaphysical laws governing the universe.

The completed well is 27 metres deep and you can enter from the bottom via a subterranean tunnel and work your way up into the light.

Alternatively you can locate it from above and wind your way down into the ever increasing darkness…

Whichever way you approach them, the initiation wells are incredible feats of architecture that still have the power to enthrall and bewitch.

Regardless of the truth behind their origins the Initiation Wells will enchant and puzzle even the most jaded of travellers.

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A Quirky Quinta

Trying to top the incredible Pena Palace is pretty much impossible but there are other inspiring, quirky and fascinating places to see in Sintra.

Quinta da Regaleria is just one of them. Another whimsical slice of Portuguese real estate!

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Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”.

*Wikipedia alert* The property consists of a ornate, romantic palace and chapel, and a verdant park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of fantasical constructions.

The palace is also known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.

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The land where the estate now stands was sold in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro

He was eager to build a bewildering place where he could collect symbols that reflected his interests and ideologies.

With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he created the 4-hectare estate.

In addition to other new features, he added enigmatic buildings that allegedly held symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.

The architecture Manini designed evoked Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline styles. The construction of the current estate commenced in 1904 and much of it was completed by 1910.

The whole estate is a wonderland of walls, follies, underground tunnels, hidden waterfalls and more.

Lots of fun! Next up the quirky sight that set our sights on this part of the world to be begin with!

Bird’s eye views

Here’s the final batch of Pena Palace photographs. I couldn’t get enough of this magical place.

Even though we had a panicked hour when we managed to lose my mother!

Lesson learnt – never allow a 65 year old out of your sight, not for a second!

For a pensioner she can be remarkably swift and tricksy . .  . finally located on a rampart.

Above are a few shots from the palace interior including an impressive pan set in the kitchen.

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I absolutely love the textured sky in the picture above. It contrasts with the zigzag of the steeple and the scalloped details of the walls.

The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the wider park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth.

We took a stroll through the gardens to enjoy another impressive vista of the palace from a distance.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s an incredible spectacle to see and definitely not too be missed if you make it to Sintra.

Fairytale in vivid colour

Here’s lots more colourful pictures taken at the magical Pena Palace in Sintra.

From exotic bird of paradise plants to Moorish turrets and a child’s paintbox palette, the palace is a tourists dream.

All set against a perfect blue sky we couldn’t have picked a better day to immerse ourselves in the crazy world of the Pena Summer Palace.

Below you can see an ornately carve window that shows  a newt, symbolizing the allegory of creation of the world.

The palace is located high on a hill with a one way traffic system and relatively small amounts of parking, making it a bit difficult to get to if you have mobility issues.

However once inside the estate gates a shuttle bus will ferry you further up the hill to the actual castle although there is still a bit of a walk at the top.

Below you can see the clock tower and details from a tiled window.

Apparently Palacio Pena translated into English means the Feather Place, a whimsical, apt name for such a flamboyant display.

As you wander the palace walls you have wonderful views across the countryside and you can also glimpse one of the other castles – the Moorish Castle, a magnificent ruin that we’ll visit later.

I’ll finish on yet more magical colours. Next up we check out the interior and also wander the wider palace grounds.

Fairytale Sintra

Finally we arrive at the town that inspired the entire trip – Sintra! Sintra is known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments.

One of the most eyecatching is the Pena Palace, perched high above the town it is a Disneyesque riot of colour and architectural quirks.

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We visited on a perfect sunny day, the blue of the sky contrastingly stunningly with the child’s paintbox colour of the palace.

The palace is a national monument and is one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world.

The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and unsurprisingly is also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

The palace had humble beginnings, starting as a small chapel it then became a monastery before being reduced to ruins.

In 1838, King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the ruins, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors and a few other estates in the area.

He then set out to turn the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.

The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege.

The palace really is an architectural and photographic dreams. It has a wild mix of styles in line with the exotic taste of  Romanticism. The intentional mixture of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance.

References to other prominent Portuguese buildings such as the Belém Tower are also present.

The construction took place between 1842–1854.King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II had quite a few opinions of their own on matters of decoration and symbolism.

Among others, the King suggested vault arches, Medieval and Islamic elements be included in the sprawling, epic design.

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Over time the colours of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace became entirely grey.

But thankfully at  the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original vivid colours restored.

In 1995, the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Lots more photos to come!