Ph. Anna Rapisarda
Located in Portugal, in Sintra, a hill town just a few kilometres from Lisbon, this enigmatic place exerts a considerable charm. Its name is Quinta da Regaleira.
A palace and a park where an initiation path snakes through architectures, caves, fountains, loggias, labyrinths, ponds, statues and wells connected by underground passages.
The dream of António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the estate changed several owners over the centuries, until 1892 when it was bought by the entomologist António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.
After a few years, in 1904, he commissioned a project to the architect and set designer Luigi Pietro Manini, from Cremona, to realize his dream, that is transforming the whole property into a work that would reflect not only his concept of the world, but also the glorious Lusitanian past, with its architectural styles and the geographical discoveries of its navigators.
This is how Quinta da Regaleira, as we see it today, was born.
Architectural styles and gardens
From the gothic-Manueline in the decorations in the palace, to the Renaissance and Romanesque, different styles merge and alternate between large trees such as sequoias and magnolias, exotic plants, giant ferns and a collection of Fuchsia scattered in luxuriant and symbolic gardens, where, among the thick wooded areas, countless and tortuous paths climb up to where one can easily lose the perception of time and space.
Esotericism, alchemy, mythology and religion
Everywhere esoteric, alchemical and mythological references are throbbing. Here every stone is shrouded in mystery, as in the case of the two wells, also called the “Inverted Towers”, which penetrate deep inside the earth through a passable spiral architecture.
Beyond the stories about the allegorical meaning, the real use and the rituals that took place, the two wells are different, but united through underground passages.
The “Unfinished well” seems to have been created with irregular blocks of bare stone, while the paving on the bottom of the “Initiation well”, which winds up 139 steps, shows a wind rose on a templar cross in polychrome marble. Its path is marked by columns and niches with round arches.
Other crosses are repeated in the whole complex, such as the Cross of the Order of Christ on the paving of the “Chapel of the Holy Trinity”, that same military monastic order, heir of the Knights Templars in Portugal, thanks to which the maritime enterprises at the beginning of the age of discoveries were realized.
In fact, in Monteiro’s vision of the world live the neo-templar ideals, which have a long tradition in Portugal.
Quinta da Regaleira is therefore a romantic work, reflecting the spirit of the times in which it was conceived. Its esoteric symbolism is strong and powerful, the passage from light to darkness, the path of “death and rebirth” is continuous.
The inspiration for mythology is told by the statues, the sculptures, the fountains and the caves scattered throughout the park: from Greece to the ancient Rome, to Egypt.
Among rocks and lakes
Among the direct accesses to the underground passages, the “Lake of the Waterfall”, set among stones and surrounded by vegetation, can be crossed walking on fifteen flat stones that emerge from the surface.
Another body of water, the “Lake”, is crossed by a bridge and partly surrounded by the “Labyrinth cave”, a series of tunnels dug into the rock between steps and stairs that seem to end in total darkness. Entering and going through the darkness, we find the light, emerging at other points in the garden.
Quinta da Regaleira is a journey into the mystery, between discovery and magic, art and symbolism.