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.
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.
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.