Quotes of the week
But I believe above all that I wanted to build the palace of my memory, because my memory is my only homeland.
Art is longing. You never arrive, but you keep going in the hope that you will.
Anselm Kiefer (German painter and sculptor)
Back home again after three weeks in Portugal. We were quite lucky with the weather, considering it being the winter time. We saw so many wonderful things and after two weeks of extensive sightseeing we did take five days by the sea. Portugal is full of palaces so a very good place to be for someone like me. One of the most beautiful places must be Sintra, and its 19th-century historic estates, villas, garden, royal palaces and castles. High, on one of the ridges surrounding the village, lies the medieval Castle of the Moors. Built in the 8th century it had a great military importance. Taken back from the moors in 1147, by King Afonso Henriqes, the first king of Portugal. On the next hill you find the romantic Pena Palace surrounded by the National park. Let’s go palace hunting.
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We talk about fairy tale castles and I think that is a good description when you see Pena Palace from a distance. Its red and yellow colours lights up the hill on which it is situated. It is high on a hill and a long walk up from the village in the valley. I do recommend the bus ride. Once inside the castle it is more ‘rustico’ than ‘fairy tale’. But the sheer architecture is overwhelming. The day we visited it was foggy and parts of the towers were hidden in haze. Talk about a surreal impression.
From the beginning it was a monastery and after the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, not much remained. It was left untouched for many years until the King consort Ferdinand II decided to buy the old monastery and transformed it into the palace we see today. It remained in the royal family until it was purchased by the Portuguese State in 1889. After the Republican revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum. The last queen of Portugal, Queen Amélia, spent her last night here before leaving Portugal to go into exile.
The tour around the rooms gives you a rather gloomy impression, furnished as it is with heavy, dark furniture, in rooms that cannot be warmed up, even on a hot day. Not all furniture are from the time, but rather gives an impression of how it could have been. Well worth a visit.
Regaleira Palace and Quinta
Built in the beginning of the 20th century by Carvalho Monteiro to fulfil his mythical and magical dreams. There is not so much to see in the castle, or mansion itself, but the park surprises you with tunnels, wells, creeks, churches and even a ziggurat.
The park holds a mysterious system of tunnels which you can reach from various points; grottoes, the chapel, Waterfall Lade and “Leda’s Cave”. It is connected to the Initiation Wells which are underground towers holding stairs, leading down into the underground. They were never used as water sources, which one might think, but for ceremonial purposes, including Tarot initiation rites. It was somewhat spooky to walk down the 27-metre spiral staircase with small landings here and there. It seems that the spacing of these landings, combined with the number of steps in the stairs, are linked to Tarot mysticism.
As you can imagine, other references could be to Freemasonry or Knights’ Templar rituals. Coming down to the bottom it was covered with some water. You could look up to the sky through the walls of the well. From the bottom of the well you follow different tunnels, hoping you will find a way out. Quite amazing and nothing we have seen before.
Biester Palace is located next to Regaleira palace and that is how we discovered it. It is a private property and is only open to the public since April 2022. Built at the end of the 19th century as a private mansion, it was designed by a Portuguese architect and decorated by the best artists at the time. That is visible inside the rooms, which have not much furniture. But the walls, the floors and the ceilings are beautifully decorated and tell us that the family really cared to make this a cosy home.
Decorated in a romantic spirit in tune with the surrounding landscape, including modern features and aiming at functional living. There is even a private chapel and a library, both “enclosed in intricate and profound mysticism, where art and religion meet in most peculiar and unexpected ways, constructing a path with themes as intriguing as the Knights Templar, Rome and Christendom, or even through esoteric connections to the spheres of Occultism” (from Biester Palace website). They also have an initiation room in the cellar for new Templars.
It was a treat to see this house. Even if there were no furniture you felt the love for this house through the decorations, which seem in tune with the owners’ beliefs and life style. Situated in a beautiful park where you can easily, or not so easily considering that it is built on a hill, walk around and enjoy exotic plants and trees. On top of this, a magnificent view over the valley and Sintra.
I think that is enough of palaces for this week. There might be another surprise next week.
Now to something totally different. Faust is a well-known character in literature. I think most of us know that he sold his soul to the devil for advantages. There are two famous books about him; one by Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) and one by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). They have been on my reading list for a while. It turns out that these two classical giants are not the only ones who have written about Faust. There is a long list of candidates who have portrayed this man, in various art forms.
Faust is actually based on a real person, at least according to the legend. Namely, Johann Georg Faust (c. 1480-1540), who was a German itinerant alchemist, astrologer, and magician of the German Renaissance. Although a learned man, Faust is not pleased with his life, which leads him to make a pact with the Devil. Exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. The story, or legend, has even generated the adjective “Faustian” implying “sacrificing spiritual values for power, knowledge, or material gain.”
For those interested in reading more, I found this interesting analysis from the web-site of CS Canada, Studies in Literature and Language. It compares the Faust of Marlowe and Goethe. From the Abstract:
“Marlowe’s Faustus and Goethe’s Faust are the most outstanding of all Faust characters. Created by different writers, the two characters are contrasted sharply with each other: While both started as rebels at religious dogma, Faustus ended up distinguishing himself from Faust by ignoring his human limits and pursuing the unattainable. This difference is a reflection of the contrast in their writers’ character: Marlowe was decried for his defiance of God while Goethe known for his deference to God. Though they lived in different times, both articulated in their plays a vehement revolt against dogmatic religion. Both treated in favor of their heroes by lauding their intense aspiration to transcend themselves.”
An interesting struggle between good and evil. The eternal struggle one could say. I will get back to you, once I have read the books.
What has happened this week on my blog? Only two new posts.
Books I save on my shelves - Letter G
My encounter with Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago
Take care. See you next week.
Philip was there this yera and he also loved it.
I've always heard how beautiful Portugal is. Glad I could "visit" it a little with your help.