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”. Along with other palaces in this area (such as the Pena, Monserrate and Seteaispalaces), it is one of the principal tourist attractions of Sintra. It consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as “Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, from the nickname of its first owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.
The land that is now Quinta da Regaleira had many owners through time. But in 1892 it belonged to the Barons of Regaleira, a family of rich merchants from Porto, when it was purchased that year by Carvalho Monteiro for 25,000 réis. Monteiro wished to build a bewildering place where he could gather symbols that would reflect his interests and ideologies. With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he designed the 4-hectare estate with its enigmatic buildings, believed to hide symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians. The architecture of the estate evokes Roman,Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architectural styles. The construction of the current estate commenced in 1904 and most of it was concluded by 1910.
The estate was sold in 1942 to Waldemar d’Orey, who used it as private residence for his extensive family and ordered repairs and restoration works for the property. In 1987 the estate was sold once again, to the Japanese Aoki Corporation and ceased to serve as a residence. The Aoki Corporation kept the estate closed to the public for ten years, until it was acquired by the Sintra Town Hall in 1997. Extensive restoration was promptly initiated throughout the estate, which opened to the public in June 1998. Cultural events also start to be organized in Quinta da Regaleira. In August that year, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture classified the estate as “public interest property”.
The Regaleira Palace (Portuguese: Palácio da Regaleira) bears the same name as the whole estate. Sometimes, the name “Regaleira Palace” is used to refer to the entire estate.
The façade is characterized by exuberantly Gothic pinnacles, gargoyles, capitals, and an impressive octagonal tower.
The palace has five floors (a ground floor, three upper floors and a basement). The ground floor contains a series of hallways connecting the living room, dining room, billiards room, balcony, some smaller rooms and several stairways. In turn, the first upper floor contains bedrooms (Carvalho Monteiro’s bedroom used to be the one with a balcony) and a dressing room. The second upper floor contains Carvalho Monteiro’s office, and female servants’ bedrooms. The third upper floor contains the ironing room and a smaller room with access to a terrace. Finally, the basement contains the male servants’ bedrooms, the kitchen (which possessed an elevator for lifting food to the ground floor), and storage rooms.
The Regaleira Chapel is a Roman Catholic Chapel stands in front of the palace’s main façade. Its architecture is akin to the palace’s. The interior of this Roman Catholic temple is richly decorated with frescoes, stained glass windows and lavish stuccoes. On the frescoes are represented Teresa of Ávila and Saint Anthony, as well as other religious depictions. The floor contains representations of the armillary sphere of the Portuguese discoveries and the Order of Christ Cross, surrounded by pentagrams. Despite its size, the chapel has several floors.
Most of the four hectares of land in the estate consist of a densely treed park crossed by myriad roads and footpaths. The woods are neatly arranged in the lower parts of the estate, but left wild and disorganized in the upper parts, reflecting Carvalho Monteiro’s belief in primitivism. Decorative, symbolic and leisure structures can be found everywhere throughout the park, all located within a few minutes walk from the palace.
The park contains an extensive and enigmatic system of tunnels, which have multiple accesses including the grottoes, the chapel, the Waterfall Lake, and the “Leda’s Cave” beneath the Regaleira Tower. Their symbolism has been interpreted as a trip between darkness and light, death and resurrection.The “Initiation Well” or “Initiatic Well” (sometimes referred to as the “Inverted Tower”) is a 27 meter staircase that leads straight down underground and connects with other tunnels via underground walkways.
Lakes, Fountains and the Aquarium
Water is a frequent element in the estate. Two artificial lakes and several fountains were designed in the property. One of the most interesting and extravagant features of the estate is the Aquarium, built as if it were naturally embedded in a rock. Once one of the most important naturalist presences in Regaleira, the Aquarium is nowadays in poor state of conservation.
Quinta da Regaleira – Portugal