The Royal Palace of Ajuda

The Royal Palace of Nossa Senhora da Ajuda was built by D. José I (1714-1777) at the top of the Ajuda hill. This building, built in wood to better resist earthquakes, became known as Paço de Madeira or Real Barraca. It replaced the sumptuous Paço da Ribeira that had been destroyed in the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in November 1755.

The new Palace, habitable since 1761, became the residence of the Court for about three decades. In 1794, during the reign of D. Maria I (1734-1816), a fire completely destroyed this royal home and much of its valuable contents.

 The project for the construction of a new stone and lime palace, started in 1796 under the regency of the prince royal D. João, but was suspended after five years of construction, when, in 1802, Francisco Xavier Fabri and José da Costa e Silva, architects trained in Italy, they were charged with adapting it to the new neoclassical trend.

The Court’s departure for Brazil in 1807, following the Napoleonic invasions, and the periodic lack of financial resources did not allow the project to continue on a regular basis.

The clashes between liberals and absolutists plunged the country into fragile stability and, in 1833, construction came to a complete standstill. After the liberal victory, D. Pedro assumed the Government as regent, in the minority of his daughter, D. Maria da Glória, and swore the Constitutional Charter in the Throne Room of Paço da Ajuda, in 1834.

It was with the accession to the throne of D. Luís I (1838-1889), that a new stage began, finally acquiring the true dimension of royal palace when chosen for the official residence of the court. The real changes in the decoration of the interiors began in 1862, the year of the king’s wedding with the princess of Savoy, D. Maria Pia (1847-1911). Then, a long reformulation work was initiated that extended to several levels: from walls to ceilings – lined, plastered or painted again -, to the covering of floors with parquets and carpets, to the choice of furniture for the rooms. Everything ordered from specialized houses, Portuguese or foreign, that supply Casa Real. The wedding gifts and goods brought from Italy by the queen helped decorate the refurbished apartments.

The spaces were now wanted to be more intimate and protected. New rooms were added on the ground floor: the Dining Room, for daily family meals, a living room – the Blue Room – and leisure areas, such as the Marble Room and the Billiards Room; finally, the bathrooms have running water, hot and cold. The noble floor was reserved for gala receptions and the ground floor, from the Music Room and along the west façade, intended for private rooms. The Palace became the stage for the meetings of the Council of State, of the days of great gala – banquets and official receptions – and of family life: here were born the princes D. Carlos (1863-1908) and D. Afonso (1865 -1920).

After the death of D. Luís I, in 1889, the agitated life of the Palácio da Ajuda changed profoundly. In the new reign, the Court was divided between three Paços: Ajuda, where D. Maria Pia remained with D. Afonso; Belém – where princes D. Luís Filipe (1887-1908) and D. Manuel (1889-1932) were born – and Necessidades, alternative residences of D. Carlos I and D. Amélia (1865-1951). The prime floor of Ajuda was reserved for official ceremonies.

In 1910, when the Republic was established and the Royal Family was subsequently exiled, the Palace was closed.

In 2007, the Palace, together with the other national palaces, became part of the group of properties under the tutelage of the Institute of Museums and Conservation.

Today it is the scene of the protocolary ceremonies of representation of the State.


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