I’d say Quinta da Regaleira it’s a place that leaves you with a lot of questions and no answers. Composed of a neo-gothic ornate mansion, and gardens filled with symbolism, it could be just a way for the wealthy to satisfy their eccentric tastes or maybe a bit more than that.
I like to think that is a “bit more than that”. There are two amazing initiation wells, secret tunnels that lead to lakes, and who knows what else might exist there that either hasn’t been discovered or is instead hidden to the public.
Definitely, the gardens were likely at some point the place where extravagant, Gatsby like parties would happen. I couldn’t stop imagining how grand it must have been. How many conversations happened in those corners, how many interesting people met, or how many others simply got themselves drunk to the point of waking up with their faces in the humid grass.
But how many other secret, exclusive things happened in there? Why the wells? Why the symbolism, mostly masonic? My imagination was running wild, and how could I stop it with so much meddling with it, exciting it. I wanted to be part of those secret societies, I wanted to share their knowledge, be part of the wheel that makes the world move. And how good or bad were their intentions? Were any crimes committed or organised within these gardens? Or, the opposite, any wars that were instead stopped? How powerful were the men and the women visiting these grounds. Yes, a lot of questions and so little answers.
What we do know is that this land had many owners. It first belonged to the Viscountess of Regaleira, a family of wealthy merchants from Porto, but it was when it was sold to Carvalho Monteiro that the place became interesting. He was born in Brasil, a son of wealthy Portuguese parents, and he enlarge the fortune he had inherited by selling coffee and precious stones. As a freemason himself, he had a lot of eccentric interests and he wanted to reflect them in this place – constructions started in 1904 and were completed by 1910.
Symbols from alchemy, Masonry, the Templars, the Rosicrucians can be found everywhere, if you just look close enough. And the entire places has many different architectural styles evoking Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and the Manueline.
But there is so little we know about what actually happened in the grounds and, as morbid as I can be, that’s all I really wanted to know…
The estate had other owners afterwards, serving as a residence, and finally it was acquired by Sintra Town Council in 1997. I find that is definitely a place to visit, however I was quite disappointed with the condition of certain points of interest that have been neglected – a lot of lakes and fountains were muddy and sludgy.
If you’re visiting Sintra, try and pin this one in, especially if you’re a sucker for the more eccentric side of History 🙂
Have a peek at my other Sintra posts: