High atop the tallest hill in the Sintra Mountains sits the storybook Pena National Palace. It’s an amazing sight to behold. What used to be the remains of a defunct, simple Hieronymite (followers of Saint Jerome) monastery was severely damaged in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 and left in disrepair until it was renovated into an elaborately decorated royal palace by the then King of Portugal, Ferdinand II. The expansive grounds canvas the entire hilltop and provide a tremendous view of the surrounding area and the adjoining ruins of the former Moorish Castle. Approaching by train, it is hard to miss the bright colors of the palace which set it apart from many other European palaces.
Though the walk through the chambers was beautiful, it was the “wall walk” that took my breath away. One is able to walk the circumference of the palace, along the lower walls atop the edges of steep cliffs. At several points, one can see the precariousness of the construction which often incorporates stone outcroppings into its design.
In the 19th century Sintra became the first centre of European Romantic architecture. Ferdinand II turned a ruined monastery into a castle where this new sensitivity was displayed in the use of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance elements and in the creation of a park blending local and exotic species of trees. Other fine dwellings, built along the same lines in the surrounding serra , created a unique combination of parks and gardens.
Though it only briefly mentions Pena Palace, the following video overview by UNESCO shows a helicopter view of the palace, the Castle of the Moors, and the surrounding countryside beginning at 1:32. Below the video are more images of my trip.
Also published on Medium.
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