Happy 2020 everyone! The first post of the year will be on one of my favorite places in Portugal 😃
Not far from Sintra Village on the Portuguese Riviera is the 19th century Quinta de Regaleira which its owner Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro transformed into a unique palace with symbols of Masonry, the Knights Templar, and Divination. The highlight here is the gardens that surround the mansion and the puzzling labyrinth of tunnels and grottoes and initiation wells lined with spiral stairways. The 27-meter Initiation Well is like an inverted tower and was never meant as a water resource, but rather built for secret ritual ceremonies. The well is said to represent the death/rebirth allegory where descending down the well is like a rebirth through Mother Earth’s womb. Monteiro was a well known Freemason and his home is filled with these mystic symbols. The spiral staircase circling down the well has 9 landings and is supported by beautifully carved columns. It is said that these 9 landings represent the “9 Circles of Hell”, the “9 Sections of Purgatory” and the “9 Skies of Paradise” as mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Each landing is 15 steps from the next and is said to be linked to Masonic principles and Tarot mysticism. At bottom of the well is a compass over a Knights Templar cross which was Monteiro’s coat of arms. I was told that one is supposed to think about one’s fears and leave them behind when exiting into a cave that leads out to another location in the park.
When I visited Sintra, the local government made all the windy roads one-way which means my poor driver had to make a loop all the way around which takes about 30-40 minutes as there is rarely any parking near the palaces. Also the order you choose to visit the different places determines how many times you have to loop around. I wanted to go to Quinta de Regaleira first so that I can photograph the Initiation Well without other tourists. So I arrived right when it opened and made a bee-line for the well. Then I decided to go to Pena Palace and then National Palace of Sintra and then Monserrate Palace. I left Monserrate Palace to the end because I was not sure if I’d have enough time for it. Leaving it last meant we had to loop around again. My driver said most people usually only visit 2 palaces especially if you had to wait for the bus. So he was quite impressed that I managed to cover so much!
In the next post I will talk about the fairytale and colorful Pena Palace, often considered the symbol of Sintra. Stay tuned!
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