In the mountains of northeastern Portugal, a region of extensive olive groves, where almond trees bloom in early spring (February and March) and in autumn (September and October) the vineyards are covered with fire-colored leaves, a tributary flowing into the Douro River whose name has become universal. Millennium after millennium, the shale rocks that delimit the Côa have been converted into art panels, with thousands of engravings left by the creative impulse of our ancestors.
Going back to the Upper Paleolithic, these outdoor panels and the identified habitats are testimonies of the vitality and mastery that brought us 25,000 years of art. This extensive art gallery also offers us records of the Neolithic period and the Iron Age, transposing after a single breath two thousand years of history to establish in the Modern Period religious representations, names and dates, in addition to the naive art of the millers in the forties and fifties of the last century.
Long known to the people of the region, especially the shepherds or millers who worked on the banks of the river in the Canada do Inferno area, the engravings of the Vale do Côa, were identified for the first time in 1991, by the archeologist Nelson Rebanda, who accompanied the construction of the Côa dam. Made public in 1994, the discovery sparked much debate as the construction of the dam would cause the area to be submerged.
Taking into account the opinion of experts about the artistic and scientific importance of Côa engravings, the Portuguese government decides to abandon the construction of the dam in 1996. The Archaeological Park of Vale do Côa was then created in order to protect and disseminate the artistic wealth and archaeological site.
In 1998, UNESCO classified the nuclei of rock engravings as World Heritage, making known to the World this treasure of Humanity, in Portuguese territory. The rock engravings of Côa changed the paradigm of the oldest artistic expression of Humanity, which, until then, was thought to be restricted to underground caves. After its identification, in the middle of the last decade of the 20th century, it was hypothesized that rock art in the open air was more common. However, due to the various natural erosive agents and human activity over the millennia, its traces will have been erased. Hence the preservation of the archaeological sites in the Côa Valley is so important.
Although there are more than 80 sites with rock art, spread over an extension of about 30 km on the bank of the Côa River and about 15 km along the Douro River, only three engraving cores are open to the public: Canada do Inferno (the first place to be identified), Penascosa and Ribeira de Priscos. The vast majority of rupestrian motifs are located in schist rocks, but we can also find engravings and paintings on granite. The techniques used for engraving were common at the time, similar to techniques identified in engravings found in Spain and France, such as the filiform incision, perforation, abrasion and scraping. As for the themes represented, animals are the most common figures – horses, cows, goats and deer – represented alone or in groups.
Originating in Cantanhede in 1974, and the result of the humorous imagination of one of its inhabitants, Luís Nuno Sérgio, the Licor de Merda (Shit Liquor) is, thanks to its eschatological name, known nationally and internationally.
In bars and taverns, when they see it on the list, the clientele thinks it is a joke or a provocation. It is not. Save a day of your lives to taste the iconic Shit Liquor. Don’t worry, what the name says is not part of the ingredients.
Its base is milk, or milk already transformed into liquor, although there is an exotic fusion of another type of alchemy, mainly of fruits, giving it a yellowish but visibly watery color.
In that respect, you will be closer to a Licor Beirão or any brand of Bitter Almond Liquor. Its label, however, does not say too much about the mixture that it is inside. On the contrary, there we can read a new provocation: “It is extracted from various shits of confidence …”. Anyway, it seems to have notes of southern fruits, especially banana and vanilla.
A homemade approach can be made by heating milk and adding sugar and exotic fruits to taste at the same time – letting the fusion take shape for a few days, while fermenting with the help of yeast. At the end, brandy can be added to increase the alcohol content and bring the drink closer to other liqueurs.
However, as is to be expected, what is most asked about it has nothing to do with the recipe, but rather with the reason of its name. There seem to be two explanations for it.
Luís Nuno Sérgio, its creator, said he had a 20 litre bottle to where he used to send waste from other liquors he was making, and this compilation of remains was called shit liquor, which obviously had a variable flavour depending on the leftovers that interned there.
This will be the beginning of everything. Then there was a second application of the name when it was decided to crystallise the recipe and officially proceed with the product.
This application would be political, which, it is said, is a challenge to this class and to party disorder, when Left and Right did not understand each other at a time of post-revolution (which still has a certain relevance), and the country walked a few meters from a civil war.
The merchant addresses himself directly to the then Prime Minister Vasco Gonçalves, as can also be read on the label: “a high quality product, whose formula belonged at the end of the 20th century to the crazy Friar Basku Gonsalbes”.
The brand was also the target of a small joke made by two well-known Spanish TV presenters, who, upon learning that Cantanhede had made a liquor with that name, decided to call the small town Beirã to ask for more information about the said shit liquor.
And if you want to try preparing this liquor at home, here is the recipe!
– 1 liter of milk
– 500 gr. of sugar
– 150 gr. cocoa beans
– 1 vanilla pod open in half
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 2 slices of orange
– 2 lemon slices
– 1 liter of brandy
Put all the ingredients in a container that allows to seal well.
Stir and cover. Keep the container closed for 20 days, stirring daily with a wooden spoon.
After 20 days, filter 2 times through coffee filter paper, placed in a strainer.
D. Afonso Henriques was the son of the counts D. Henrique – second son of Henrique, Duke of Burgundy – and D. Teresa, the illegitimate daughter of the king of León and Castile, Afonso VI. He was born in 1109, probably in Viseu, as it is in this city of Beira that, at that time, the presence of his mother, the Infanta D. Teresa, can be historically determined, taking into account the reconstruction of her itinerary based on the documentary sources of the time. The future king was educated in Entre Douro e Minho, in his master’s lands, possibly D. Egas Moniz de Ribadouro. Orphaned by father in 1112, so at the age of 3, he certainly could not keep any other memories than the memories reported by his educators. The mother’s subsequent marriage to the Galician noble Fernão Peres de Trava, and the attempt by the new court of D. Teresa to attract Portuguese territory back to Galician orbit, are factors that would certainly have contributed to remove Afonso Henriques from his mother’s conviviality.
D. Afonso Henriques defeated the anti-patriotic forces led by his mother’s lover, Fernão Peres de Trava at the battle of São Mamede, in 1128, inaugurating the first of four dynasties of kings in Portugal, symbols of the nation until the beginning of 20th century. Interestingly, it is known today that the nationalist propaganda of the 20th century turned her husband into a lover to diminish the figure of the Galician count.
On the 25th of July 1139, he won against Islam the most emblematic of his victories, in the battle of Ourique, mythified by the later historiography in an elaborate legend.
In 1144, Pope Eugénio III called for a new crusade for the Iberian Peninsula. The armada arrived in the city of Porto on June 16, being convinced by the bishop of Porto, Pedro II Pitões, to take part in this military operation. After the conquest of Santarém (1147), knowing the availability of the Crusaders to help, D. Afonso Henriques’ forces continued southwards, over Lisbon.
The Siege of Lisbon began on July 1, 1147 and lasted until October 21, culminating in the conquest of this city from the Moors with the help of the Crusaders who were heading for the Middle East, more specifically for the Holy Land. It was the only success of the Second Crusade.The Portuguese forces advanced by land, those of the Crusaders by sea, penetrating the mouth of the Tagus River; in June of that same year, both forces were reunited, the first skirmishes were wounded on the outskirts west of the hill on which the city of then, today called Baixa, stood. After violent fighting, both this area and the east were dominated by Christians, thus imposing a siege on the opulent mercantile city.
Well defended, the city walls proved impregnable. The weeks passed in sorties of the besieged ones, while the besiegers’ war machines launched all sorts of projectiles at the defenders, the number of dead and wounded increasing from side to side.
In early October they opened a breach where the besiegers launched themselves. On the verge of a Christian assault on two fronts, Muslims, weakened by skirmishes, hunger and disease, capitulated on 20 October.
But as often happens, in this part of history, a legend took the place of reality: the legend says that D. Afonso Henriques had laid siege to the city of Lisbon, helped by the many crusaders who passed through there on the way to the Holy Land.
In one of the attempts to assault one of the city gates, a knight from his army, Martim Moniz, faced the Moors and managed to keep the door open. His body was crossed between the two doors and allowed the Christians to enter the city.
Severely wounded, Martim Moniz entered the city with his companions and also made some victims among his enemies, before falling dead.
D. Afonso Henriques wanted to honor his courage and sacrifice, so he ordered that entrance to be named Martim Moniz.
The story I will tell you today is the story of one of the most beautiful churches in Lisbon and perhaps one of the least visited. But it is also the story of a queen and a promise.
The Basilica da Estrela, or Royal Basilica and Convent of the Santíssimo Coração de Jesus, is a Catholic temple and former convent of Carmelite nuns. This vast church, topped by a dome, rises on top of a hill in the west of the city, being one of the landmarks of the Lapa area.
The Basilica was born from the devotion of D Maria I, daughter of D José I (king known to have reigned at the time of the terrible Lisbon earthquake of 1755) to the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1760 when D. Maria I, still a princess, married her uncle the infant D Pedro (future D Pedro III), she vowed to the Holy Heart to build him a church and convent for the nuns of Santa Teresa, asking for the birth of a male child, who had one day to inherit the throne. D. Pedro contributes to the cause, giving the land of Casal da Estrela, in the Occidental part of Lisbon. However, from the outset a series of obstacles faced the devout princess, only overcome when she ascended the throne: technical and economic difficulties (the reconstruction of the capital was underway after the earthquake, for which Marques de Pombal had made available all means), as well as religious reasons, since the cult of the Sacred Heart, besides being controversial, was not accepted by Catholic orthodoxy, because it “revalued the human nature of Christ over the divine” which implied an almost radical change in the mentality and way of facing the dogmas of the Church of the time. In fact, only Pope Pius VI, at the end of the 18th century, will approve it.
The wish of the Queen was fulfilled and the construction of the temple started in 1779. Unfortunately, however, the boy, baptised as D. José, died of smallpox, two years before the construction was finished, in 1790. D Maria decided to move forward still with her promise and completed the construction of the church.
The project was in charge of architects from the Mafra School. The temple has characteristics of the late Baroque and neoclassical style.The façade is flanked by two twin towers and decorated in the center with a relief representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus with statues of saints (Saint Elias, Sainte Theresa de Ávila, Saint John da Cruz and Sainte Maria Madalena de Pazzi) and allegorical figures (Faith , Devotion, Gratitude and Liberality), by Joaquim Machado de Castro and his pupils.
The large interior, in grey, pink and yellow marble, illuminated by openings in the dome, instills respectful awe. Several paintings by Pompeo Batoni adorn its interior. The empire style tomb, by D. Maria I, who died in Brazil, is in the right transept. Closed in a room nearby, there is an extraordinary crib by Machado de Castro, formed by more than 500 figures of cork and terracotta.
The Basilica da Estrela was the first church in the world dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Queen Maria I is the only Portuguese monarch of the Bragança dynasty (except for King Pedro IV of Portugal, emperor of Brazil, who is buried in the city of São Paulo) who is not in the Pantheon of the Dynasty of Bragança, but in the Basilica da Estrela, which she herself built.
When winter end and spring prepares its arrival in the first months of the year, the landscape is dressed in white. And more and more people join the big almond blossom festival.
A route in the north and one in the south, which through historic villages and authentic places, transport visitors on an unforgettable journey.
Two regions in Portugal are nowadays known to take advantage of the Route of the almond trees: the Northeast Trás-os-Montes and the Algarve.
In the Northeast, at the end of winter (especially in the months of February and March) the white tone of the almond blossom blends with the green and brown tones of the landscape.
At this time, the region also promotes the “Festival of Almond Blossom”. In addition to a program of cultural and recreational activities, there is a Craft Fair, where you can also taste the local cuisine.
There is the opportunity to taste the covered almonds, one of the regional specialties, especially if you have the chance to watch the original ritual of its making. The almonds are toasted, over a low heat, in a large copper bowl where the confectioners, with their fingers protected by thimbles, patiently pour sugar and roll the almonds for several hours. There are three types of almonds: with white sugar (“pointed almond”), covered with chocolate and cinnamon (“dark almond”) or covered with a very thin layer of sugar (“peladinha almond”).
In the south of Portugal, foreshadowing the arrival of spring, the almond blossom covers the Algarve in white, in a stunning and unforgettable spectacle.
A fragile, pink and white mantle that stretches through the lands of the barrocal over the orchards of the Algarve interior, where many villages preserve the names of Arabic origin.
But how did almond trees arrive in Portugal? The explanation comes from an old and romantic legend.
Many, many centuries ago, before Portugal existed and when Al-Gharb belonged to the Arabs, the famous and young king Ibn-Almundim, who had never known defeat, reigned in Chelb, the future Silves. One day, among the prisoners of a battle, he saw the beautiful Gilda, a blonde princess with blue eyes and a proud bearing. Impressed, the Moorish king gave her the freedom, gradually gained her trust and one day confessed his love to her and asked her to be his wife. They were happy for a while, but one day the beautiful princess of the North fell ill for no apparent reason. An old captive from the northern lands asked to be received by the desperate king and revealed to him that the princess suffered from nostalgia for the snow of her distant country. The solution was within the reach of the Moorish king, as it would be enough to have many almond trees planted throughout his kingdom, which when the white flowers bloomed would give the princess the illusion of snow and she would be cured of her illness. The following spring, the king took Gilda to the castle’s terrace window and the princess felt her strength returning when she saw that indescribable vision of the white flowers that stretched out before her. The Moorish king and princess lived long years of intense love, anxiously awaiting, year after year, the spring that brought the wonderful spectacle of almond blossom.
The pilgrimage of Nossa Senhora da Agonia, which takes place in Viana do Castelo, in Minho, is one of the best-known festivals in the country: it is grand in programming, in the number of visitors, in the strength of the tradition of the Viana costume, in the weight the gold that mordomas display on their breasts.
The history of the party joins the history of the Church of the Sorrow. In 1674, in honor of the patron saint of fishermen, a chapel in invocation to the Bom Jesus do Santo Sepulcro do Calvário was built and, a little above, a chapel devoted to Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
Today, the name is associated with the queen of pilgrimages, born in 1772 from the devotion of the sailors from Galicia and the entire Portuguese coast. Later, in 1783, the Sacred Congregation of Rites allowed a Solemn Mass to be celebrated in this chapel (now known as the Chapel of Our Lady of Agony) on August 20 each year.
In 1861 the Solemn Feast is overtaken by the Pilgrimage of Sorrow, and the latter takes on more importance and becomes so big that it ends up spilling out the religious feast. It becomes a festival full of singing with the sound of violas, dances, an extravagant festival.
In 1862, the pilgrimage assumed such popularity that it was estimated that the fireworks alone were already contemplated by more than fifty thousand people. Nine years later, the bullfighting was added to the program (which since 2009 is no longer part of the party).
In 1906, in this pilgrimage the Costume Festival was born and, two years later, in 1908, the first Agricultural Parade took place (nowadays it is the famous ethnographic procession).
From then on, the pilgrimage was no longer limited to Campo da Agonia and invaded the entire city of Viana do Castelo. During the pilgrimage days the program is complete. Every year there is a Craft Fair, a musical show with well-known artists, there are fireworks every day at 24:00 always in different locations in the city, meetings of Philharmonic Bands, a Mordomas Parade that takes place on one of the days of the pilgrimage at 10 am, the Ethnographic Parade that normally takes place on Saturday afternoon and a festival of Concertinas and Challenge with songs. On the 20th there is always a solemn Eucharistic celebration followed by a procession to the sea, and on the day before there is the making of “Flowers Carpets” in the streets of Ribeira.
Mordomas: in Alto-Minho, they are the women in charge of collecting funds for the pilgrimage to the patron saint of their land. The mordomas’ costumes were usually black or dark blue. This costume would later serve as the bride’s dress (with the coat and veil) and still be buried with them. The scarf ‘carpet’ on the head in silk, vest, pouch, apron (with Royal coat of arms), black slippers and skirt at the waist.
The costumes have several characteristics and meaning:
Wedding dress: black. The bride exchanges the mordoma scarf (coloured and in silk), for a fine scarf (light fabric made in cotton or linen), crossed at the front. But also (and more usual) there is the embroidered lace veil or tulle. The votive candle, or Easter palm, is now exchanged for the bridal bouquet.
Farmer’s dress: colourful and owing their tones to the different regions of Alto-Minho. The blues are associated with lands facing the sea, the greens with mountainous and green lands, the red suit is ‘from Viana’ or “Minho style”. It’s a party outfit. There are two handkerchiefs: one drawn on the chest and tightened at the back, at the height of the belt; another pierced over the back of the neck and tied at the top of the head.
Half-lady / morgata costume: the farmer who, although she may already be married (therefore her social and economic position has already evolved), has not yet achieved social recognition, and so she was a ‘half-lady’. She takes the mordoma / bride’s coat, the skirt with flower print, adorned with ruffles and ruffles, but it can also be a black farm skirt with a bead and a gallon embroidered, finishing off the slippers black. On her shoulders is a printed natural silk scarf (usually worn on her head while dying), as well as the “confectionery jacket” hanging from her hands to replace her pouch, or a shawl.
D. Dinis is one of the greatest figures in Portuguese history. He was, at his time, one of the most respected Kings in the world. Known as the “King Poet” (because he wrote 173 poems in Galician-Portuguese) or the “Farmer King”, D. Dinis was the 6th monarch of Portugal and reigned for 46 years. He is described as cultured, just, sometimes cruel, pious, determined and intelligent. Son of D. Afonso III and Beatriz de Castela, he was born on the day of S. Dinis, on October 9, 1261, in Lisbon. In 1279, at the age of 17, D. Dinis came to the throne of a country that was living in unstable times. Between 1280-1287, in order to establish peace in Portugal, he negotiated with the Holy See. The relationship with the church was deteriorated for many years, reaching the point, for example, that King Afonso III was excommunicated. Early in his reign, in 1280, D. Dinis thought of marriage and possibly political issues. He found his ideal wife in Isabel de Aragon, popularly known today as the “Holy Queen”. The marriage would be made 2 years later, in Barcelona, by proxy. Queen Isabel was … 10 years old! Upon arriving in Portugal, the ceremony was held in Trancoso. And then they settled in Coimbra. From this marriage they had two children: D. Constança and D. Afonso, future D. Afonso IV. However, D. Dinis had several extramarital relationships, of which he had children, who were educated by the Holy Queen! D. Dinis took several measures, such as: he created a system of laws, he created fairs, he bet on fishing and other maritime activities, he gave land to cultivate to those who had no means.
In Entre Douro e Minho he divided the land into couples, each couple later coming to give rise to a settlement. In Trás-os-Montes the king adopted a collectivist regime: the lands were handed over to a group that shared the charges, certain services and buildings were communal, such as the bread oven, the mill and the guard of the flock. In 1290, he founded the first university in the country, which was located in Lisbon and later moved to Coimbra.
He established Portuguese as an official language in the drafting of documents and made an alliance with Aragon. Between 1319 and 1324 he was at war with his son D. Afonso. They ended up making peace. However, the chronicles say that, because of this conflict, the relations with his wife, the Holy Queen, was never healthy again. In 1290, after the Portuguese reconquest was over, King Dinis I of Portugal decreed that the “vulgar language” (Galician-Portuguese spoken) be used instead of Latin at court, and named “Portuguese”. The troubadour king had adopted his own language for the kingdom, just as his grandfather had done with Castilian. In 1296 Portuguese was adapted by the royal chancellery and started to be used not only in poetry, but also in the drafting of laws and by notaries. 7th January 1325, with 63 years (really old for the time) D Dinis passed away in Santarém. He was buried in the Odivelas Monastery, a building that he created. Analyses made to his tomb indicate that the “King Poet” was very healthy (he incredibly died with all his teeth), allowing to conclude that he measured 1.65 meters and had red hair and beard.
You have probably heard about the pastries in Belém, haven’t you? This typically Portuguese custard tart appeared in the early 19th century and is still considered an attractive, aromatic and tasty dessert.
Almost 200 years old, the story of Pastel de Belém is still based on tales and legends. It is believed that the sweet, appeared in the beginning of the 19th century, having been created by the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery, located in Belém, current Lisbon district.
They say that they found in this recipe a way to take advantage of the yolks that were left over because they used egg white as natural starch. Only they worked in the bakery in Belém and, therefore, only they knew how to prepare the traditional sweet, without being able to reveal the secret to anyone.
During this period, the clergy of the monastery made and sold the pastries to the population, in an attempt to survive. However, in 1834, religious orders were extinguished and all monks and nuns had to leave their convents. As a result, lay workers who lived in the space, including pastry chefs, went looking for new jobs.
Luckily, one of the monastery’s confectioners met a merchant, Domingos Rafael Alves, who owned an old sugar refinery. He, completely interested in the recipe, managed to discover the secret of the preparation, taking the monk to work with him.
The merchant then began to sell the sweets, which were called “Pastéis de Belém”. Initially, he sold them in the refinery itself and, later, in a shop called “The old confectionery in Belém”.
When Lisbon became an international tourist itinerary, the recipe’s fame crossed borders and spread to other parts of the world, from New York to Japan, always keeping the original recipe a secret.
The secret of the original recipe
Of course, over time, confectioneries and cafes around the world, especially in Lisbon, tried to discover the secret of the recipe. However, even today it is preserved by masters who have made a confidentiality agreement, including within the four walls of the “Oficina do Segredo”.
The current owners of the “Confectionery of Belém” brand, keep the mystery and do not disclose the recipe, even resisting opening others shops or working with franchises, precisely so that the secret is not shared. It is worth mentioning that in 2011 the Pastel de Belém was considered one of the seven wonders of Portuguese gastronomy.
Currently, it is possible to buy pastéis de nata (custard tart) in many shops in several countries besides Portugal, such as Brazil, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong, but only the originals receive the traditional designation “Pastel de Belém”.
About 20 thousand pastries are manufactured and sold daily. This amount doubles on weekends due to the high number of visitors who go to the traditional store to purchase the product.
The tradition of tiles in Portugal is not only old but also the most representative of the country. The story tells that it started when, in 1498, D Manuel I King of Portugal made a trip to Spain and marvelled at the splendour of the Moorish interiors and the colours of the wall coverings and murals.
Following his desire to build his residence in the image of the palaces visited in Seville, Toledo and Zaragoza, the tile arrived in Portugal. The National Palace of Sintra, which was used as his residence, became one of the best and most original examples of early Portuguese tiles, at that time still imported from factories in Seville.
Despite the archaic techniques coming from abroad, as well as the tradition of Islamic decoration in the decorative exaggerations of complex geometric patterns, its entry into Portugal denotes an influence of European taste due to the Gothic vegetable motifs and a particular Portuguese aesthetic.
But we start with order: where does the word azulejo come from? It is an Arabic term, azzelij, which means small polished stone and is the designation given to a ceramic artefact with little thickness, usually square, being one of the surfaces glazed as a result of firing the coating, called enamel, becoming this way bright and waterproof. This surface can have a single color or have several colours, be smooth or embossed.
The motifs represented vary between the narrations of historical circumstances, mythology, religion and various decoration motifs. The Portuguese overseas empire had an important influence on the diversity of forms; assimilated shapes and decorations of other civilisations.
Portuguese tiles represent the imagination of Portuguese people, their attraction to real history and their complicity in cultural exchange.The new tile industry is flourishing with orders from the nobility and clergy. Large panels are custom made to fill the walls of churches, convents, palaces, manors and gardens. The inspiration comes from decorative arts, textiles, jewellery, engravings and travels of the Portuguese to the East. Large scenographic compositions appear, a striking feature of the Baroque, with geometric, figurative and vegetal themes of exotic fauna and flora.
At the end of the 17th century, the quality of production and execution is higher, there are whole families involved in this art of making tiles, and some painters begin to assert themselves as artists, starting to sign their works, thus beginning the Masters Cycle .
After the 1755 earthquake, the reconstruction of Lisbon will impose another rhythm in the production of standard tiles, today called pombaline, used to decorate the new buildings. The tiles are manufactured in series, combining industrial and artisanal techniques. At the end of the 18th century, the tile is no longer exclusive to the nobility and the clergy, the wealthy bourgeoisie makes the first orders for their farms and palaces, the panels sometimes tell the story of the family and even of their social ascension.
From the 19th century, the tile gains more visibility, leaves the palaces and churches to the facades of the buildings, in a close relationship with architecture. The urban landscape is illuminated by the light reflected on the glazed surfaces. The tile production is intense, new factories are created in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro. Later, already in the middle of the 20th century, the tile enters the railway and metro stations, and some are signed by renowned artists.
Sintra was the first European site registered by UNESCO as a Cultural Landscape. The Universal Value of this landscape was then recognised as a romantic landscape and a precursor to the interpretation of this new way of thinking in other places in Europe.
In Sintra it is possible to go through 7,000 years of history. From the Neolithic communities, which settled on the most sheltered slopes of the mountain, to the story of Roman civilisation, whose memory is preserved in the old designation of the mountain – Mons lunae, or Monte da Lua; the time of the Muslim domain of the territory, of which the castle is the most illustrious representative; that of the Christian reconquest, present in the history of what would become the Royal Palace of the Portuguese Crown and which originated in the old Moorish palace.
Sintra, which survived the 1755 Earthquake, has its golden age between the end of the XVIII century and the whole XIX century.
At this time the rediscovery of the magic of Sintra began, whose oldest known medieval form “Suntria” will point to the Indo-European luminous star or sun. It has been called Monte Sagrado and Serra da Lua.
The story shows also how this mountain has always awakened in Man the desire for contemplation, which has its purest materialisation in the Convent of Santa Cruz da Serra where, for almost 300 years, Franciscan friars worshiped nature as the ultimate expression of work of the Creator. And it was the special atmosphere of this place that brought to this mountain, in the XIX century, D. Fernando II of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty (1836-1885). Very connected to Sintra and its landscape, this king-artist would implant Romanticism here in a splendid and unique way. The king acquired the Convento da Pena located on a rugged mountain and transformed it into a fabulous and magical palace, giving it the maximum dimension that only a romantic with a great artistic vision and great aesthetic sensitivity could dream. In addition, D. Fernando II surrounded the palace in a vast romantic park planted with rare and exotic trees, decorated with fountains, water courses and chains of lakes, chalets, chapels, false ruins, and magical paths. The king also took care to restore the forests of the Sierra where thousands of trees were planted, mainly oaks and indigenous pines, Mexican cypresses, acacias from Australia, and so many other species that contribute perfectly to the romantic character of the Serra.
It is in the third quarter of the century XVIII that the romantic spirit of foreign travellers and the Portuguese aristocracy exult the magic of Sintra and its places, in addition to the exoticism of its landscape and climate.