By : May 11th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The oldest funicular in the world, endless staircases, fountains and baroque statues, surrounded by a mantle of vegetation, make Bom Jesus do Monte (or Bom Jesus de Braga) one of the most popular destinations for people from Braga and visitors.
In 1373, there were signs of activity and construction of a Chapel in Bom Jesus. However, Bom Jesus as we know it today appears in 1722 when, on the initiative of D. Rodrigo de Moura Teles, the project of the current Santuary began, with the construction of the chapels of Via Sacra, Portico, and the steps of the Five Senses. In 1784, with the increasing flow of pilgrims, Archbishop D. Gaspar de Bragança entrusts to Carlos Amarante the task of designing a new basilica, completed in 1811.
Portico Staircase
At the lower end of the Portico staircase there is an arch 7 meters high and 4 meters wide and the staircase meanders through dense vegetation along 376 steps up to the square that precedes the next stairway – the Cinco Sentidos.
The Cinco Sentidos (five senses) staircase starts next to the Fonte das Cinco Chagas or Fonte das Cinco Correntes and from there, in each flight of stairs there is a fountain corresponding to one of the human senses.
Stairway of Virtues

After the allegorical staircase of the sensory system comes the Escadorio das Virtudes. The staircase starts at a square atrium. Here you can find sources alluding to Faith, Hope and Charity

Pelican Square

In Largo do Pelicano we can admire the beautiful baroque garden

Church of Bom Jesus

Here lies a set of statues representative of biblical characters linked to the Passion of Christ: Anas, Caifas, Herod and Pilate on one side and José de Arimateia, Nicodemos and Pilatos.

Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross is represented throughout the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary with 17 chapels that show various moments linked to the passion of Christ

Funicular (or Bom Jesus Elevator)

A project by Niklaus Riggenbach and was opened in 1882. The only one in the Iberian peninsula and the oldest in the world in activity. A funicular powered by water, by counterweight. Two cabins, both with water tanks, are connected by a cable. When a cabin is at the top, the cabin tank is filled with water (the volume of which depends on the number of passengers), while the cabin cabin at the bottom is emptied. When the driver releases the brakes, the weight difference causes the lower cabin goes up.

This Sanctuary is a World Cultural Heritage from Unesco

By : April 29th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

Memorial monument of the battle of Aljubarrota and royal pantheon, whose construction began in the late 14th century with the patronage of D. João I, the Dominican Monastery of Batalha is the most significant building of Portuguese Gothic. Its vast outbuildings today are an excellent example of the evolution of medieval architecture until the beginning of the 16th century, from the unprecedented experience of the late Gothic to the decorative profusion of the Manueline.
The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, also called Batalha Monastery, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful works of Portuguese and European architecture.
This exceptional architectural ensemble resulted from the fulfillment of a promise made by King D. João I, in gratitude for the victory in Aljubarrota, a battle fought on August 14, 1385, which secured the throne and guaranteed the independence of Portugal.
Dom João I is buried there, in the Founder’s Chapel, next to his wife, D. Filipa and their children.
The works lasted more than 150 years, through several phases of construction. This duration justifies the existence, in his artistic proposals, of Manueline (predominant) Gothic solutions and a brief Renaissance note. Several additions were introduced in the initial project, resulting in a vast monastic ensemble that currently features a church, two cloisters with outbuildings and two royal pantheons, the Founder’s Chapel and the Imperfect Chapels.
The abyssal Chapter Room reveals an immense vault, without any central support. The project is considered one of the most audacious in European Gothic architecture.
The story goes that the architect Afonso Domingues, already blind, soon after having made this vault, would have stayed there for three days and three nights to see if he resisted, to watch his greatest work or die with it.
Made by D Duarte are the Imperfect Chapels which, despite the name, are absolutely majestic. Only that they were never finished and remained so, incomplete but spectacular.
National monument, the monastery is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, since 1983.

By : April 22nd, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

In 1983, UNESCO declared a priceless jewel of Western history a “World Heritage Site” monument: the Templar Castle and the Convento dos Cavaleiros de Cristo in Tomar. This vast monumental complex, built on an ancient Roman place of worship, tells us about seven centuries of Portuguese history and the most salient moments in Western history.

Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, donated a vast region between the Mondego and Tagus rivers to the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem. Legend has it that, in 1160, the knights who arrived on the spot chose a mountain to build a castle and the name they would have given it: Tomar. In 1314, the Order of the Temple was extinguished due to the persecutions of the king of France, Philip the Fair. But thanks to D. Dinis, in 1319 people, goods and privileges were completely integrated into a new order – the Militia of the Knights of Christ – which together with the Infante D. Henrique would support the Portuguese nation in the great enterprise of maritime discoveries. of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Tomar Castle then became a Convent and seat of the Order and the Infante Henry the Navigator their Governor and perpetual Administrator.

Originally it was a fortified castle that served to defend the Christian kingdom from the aggression of the Moors, who were pressing on the borders.
Today the Convent of Christ order is a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, Manueline and Renaissance styles, but you don’t need to be an architecture expert to appreciate its beauty.
Strolling through its eight courtyards, each one different from the other, and admiring the richness of the sculptures and decorations makes you feel inside a time machine.
One of the most extraordinary parts of the Convent of Christ is the Charola, a 16-sided Templar church, built in imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is said that its circular plan is due to the fact that the riders could participate in the functions remaining in the saddle of their horse.

Seen from the outside, the church and the chapter house are a riot of Manueline decorations: capitals, sculptures, gargoyles, ropes, Templar symbols … A beautiful example is the Manueline janela, a richly decorated window on the western side of the church, which can be best admired from the adjacent Closter of Santa Bárbara.

Among the eight courtyards of the Convento de Cristo, the Renaissance-style Main Closter or of  Dom João III leaves you speechless. It is a two-storey cloister, connected by helical staircases on the four corners, with a fountain in the center in the shape of a Templar cross. The atmosphere is truly suggestive, you feel transported back in time.

By : April 18th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The Jeronimos Monastery is the most famous and visited monument in Lisbon, and not only is it an exceptional architectural work but also an important symbol of Portuguese identity and culture.
This masterpiece of the Manueline style, an exquisitely Portuguese artistic expression that mixes late-Gothic and Renaissance elements and Arabesque elements, was founded by the will of King Don Manuel I near the place where Henry the Navigator, a key figure for the overseas expansion of Portugal , had built a church dedicated to Saint Mary of Belém, Our Lady of Bethlehem. When the sailors were about to make a long journey, they went to this church to entrust themselves to the Madonna. Vasco da Gama was no exception before his expedition to the Indies. It was then that King D Manuel promised, if successful, to build an even larger church on that church, and then decided to turn it into his family’s pantheon.
It was built in 1502 on a project by the architect Diogo Boytac and dedicated to San Geronimo; many Portuguese, French and Spanish artists collaborated in its realization. The order of Jeronimos  was dissolved in 1833: from then until 1940 the monastery was used as a school and orphanage; in 1907 it was declared a national monument and in 1983 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In its five centuries of history, the monastery has attracted poets, navigators, kings and artists and was the burial place of nobles and explorers: today it is one of the main tourist attractions of Lisbon.
The Gothic-looking Church of Santa Maria houses the cenotaphs of Vasco de Gama and the poet Luís Vaz de Camões (whose bones were transported here); the choir is also of considerable value, with finely carved wooden seats.
The cloister is probably the monastery’s most amazing attraction: one of the most beautiful in Europe, it is square in shape and measures 55 meters on each side, with two rows of windows along all sides. It is a triumph of Manueline decorations, the fantastic creatures of the upper balustrade and the symbols of the era in which the cloister was built, such as the armillary sphere and the cross of the military Order.
The entrance portal, although smaller than the south portal, is the most important: symbolically oriented to the east, it is the access point to the church, perfectly in line with the main altar. Designed by Boitaca, it was built by Nicolau Chanterenne in 1517. On both sides of the door there are statues of a monarch in the respectful act of prayer: Don Manuel I with San Geronimo on the left and Queen Maria with San Giovanni Battista on the right. On the upper part it is possible to see three niches with sculptural groups depicting the Annunciation, the birth of Christ and the adoration of the Magi. It is difficult to believe that the south door is, technically speaking, only a secondary entrance: its magnificent decorations make it the element of greatest visual impact of the entire facade. The central figure represents Our Lady of Belém with the Child, at the bottom the saints and apostles and at the top a statue of the Archangel Michael dominates the entire composition.

By : November 28th, 2020 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

Located 30 km northwest of Lisbon, the Palace was built in 1711 on the initiative of King D. João V and conceived as a representation of the monarchy and the State. This impressive quadrangular building includes the Palaces of the King and Queen, the Basilica in Italian Baroque style, the Franciscan Convent and the Library with 36,000 volumes. The monumental ensemble also includes Jardim do Cerco in geometric composition and Tapada. The Real Edifício de Mafra is one of the most admirable works carried out by King João V, which illustrates the power and reach of the Portuguese Empire. João V adopted architectural and artistic models in the Italian Baroque style and commissioned works of art that make Mafra an exceptional example of this style of architecture.

Its construction work began in 1717 on the initiative of King D. João V, due to a promise he had made in the name of the descendants that he would obtain from Queen D. Ana Ana of Austria.

The building designed by the main architect of the kingdom, João Frederico Ludovice, occupies an area of ​​approximately four hectares (37,790 m²). Built in abundant limestone in the region of Mafra, it consists of 1,200 rooms, more than 4,700 doors and windows, 156 staircases and 29 patios and foyers.

Due to real will, the initial project of a convent for 13 friars was successively extended to 40, 80 and finally 300 friars, a Basilica and a Royal Palace.

The monumental ensemble of Mafra, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is an extraordinary example of Portuguese art and architecture and a truly magnificent work.

Since the choice of the architect (Johann Friedrich Ludwig, known as Ludovice, trained in Rome), the project has established itself as an international affirmation of the Portuguese reigning house. The monarch’s continued fascination with Rome led him to hire important artists for Mafra, who thus became one of the most relevant places in Italian Baroque outside Italy.

At the time of the consecration of the Basilica, on October 22, 1730, the king’s birthday, the ensemble was not yet completed, not all works of art had arrived, but the plan was long outlined: a Royal Palace endowed with two turrets that, functioning independently, were the chambers of the royal couple; a Basilica decorated with statues of the best Roman artists and with an unusual set of French and Italian vestments unparalleled in the country; two towers on the façade that house two chimes ordered to be built in Flanders and which constitute a unique bell heritage in the world; a Library consisting of works of great scientific interest and of the few that foresaw the incorporation of “prohibited books”, as well as a bibliographic collection from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

Considered one of the most beautiful in the world, this library was born in the reign of D. João V, the king who privileged culture and knowledge.

The largest room in the Mafra convent is lined with more than 40,000 books, arranged and lined up in Rococo style shelves. Bindings in leather, engraved in gold. Numerous works were commissioned by D. João V, because the king wanted to concentrate on this palace, which was very special to him, which was best printed in the kingdom and abroad.

The 88-meter-long library and a cross-plant has a little bit of everything: works of medicine, philosophy, literature, law, grammars and dictionaries, encyclopedias, travel books. In the southernmost wing are the religious themes, and to the north, on the opposite side, are the profane of the pure sciences. Unique or very rare copies are handled with care, as is the case with the first edition of the Qur’an in 1543, the polyglot Bible of 1514 or even a first edition of “Os Lusíadas”.

The preservation of these ancient works, on the other hand, is in charge of an army of tiny bats that, during the night, hunt for insects that eat paper, ink and glue.

The Palace continued to perform the functions of Paço Real until the end of the monarchy, and it was in Mafra that D. Manuel II, the last king of Portugal, spent the night before embarking for exile. The Convent was extinguished in 1834 and, since then, has hosted several military units that constitute, in itself, another chapter in the history of this group, as they are linked to the great military clashes in which Portugal participated and to the very memory of the Portuguese army.

The life of Corte in the Mafra Palace at the time of D. João V was relatively scarce, since the King became seriously ill in 1742 and died in 1750.

His son D. José I maintained the habit of coming to Mafra, almost always to hunt in Tapada. But, since the 1755 earthquake he did not like to live in stone buildings, the entire Royal Family settled in a tent built next to the Palace.

In the reign of D. Maria I, the court’s visits to Mafra were related to the celebration of religious festivals or to the Queen’s taste for riding horses in Tapada, a habit she maintained until she became ill in 1792.

Originally decorated with Flemish tapestries and oriental rugs, the Palace will undergo a profound modification by the will of D. João VI, still Prince Regent, who orders a mural decoration campaign in several rooms.

Here the entire Court settled in 1806/1807, in the troubled time that preceded the French Invasions. The need to make the large spaces of the Palace more habitable also led to the division of some of the large spaces into smaller rooms, divided by wooden panels of Brazil “richly painted”.

The departure of the Royal Family to Brazil, on November 27, 1807, days before the arrival of the French troops in Lisbon, resulted in the impoverishment of much of the Palace filling, transported to the colony for the service of the Royal House and there having been left when the Court returned to Portugal in June 1821.

In December 1807, the French troops took up residence in the Palace and, a few months later, were replaced by a small fraction of the English army that remained here until March 1828.

After the troubled period of Liberal Struggles, in the reign of D. Maria II, the Court resumed the habit of returning to Mafra. Her husband, D. Fernando, a true pioneer in the defence of national heritage, carried out several recovery works at the Real Edifício.

The building has an imposing monumental presence, the result of its exceptional architectural project, particularly the central part, the Basilica, and a careful choice of materials and decorative elements, which provided it with an almost unique splendour in the Europe of its day: polychromatic marbles from different origins; the remarkable group of sculptures in the Church’s portico – the largest of its kind in the world, with 58 marble statues commissioned from the main Roman sculptors of their time; the two chimes, each with 48 bells, from Antwerp; the exclusive grouping of six organs, with its own repertoire, designed and built for the same space, between 1792 and 1807; the Parque de Caça Real, a vast, walled enclosure with a perimeter of 21 km, surrounding agricultural and forest land, which today is an important genetic reserve boasting a biogenetic diversity and variety of species, the result of the considerable amount of work that has been invested in its management.

In the palace, you can visit the pharmacy, with beautiful medicine jars and some surgical instruments, the hospital, with sixteen private cubicles from which patients could see and hear mass in the adjacent chapel, without leaving their beds. Upstairs, the palace’s sumptuous rooms extend the entire length of the western façade, with the king’s rooms at one end and the queen’s rooms at the other, 232 m apart, separated by a hallway that is the largest in Europe.

In the center, the imposing façade is enhanced by the towers of the basilica covered with a dome. The interior of the basilica is lined with marble and equipped with six organs from the early 19th century, with an exclusive repertoire that cannot be played anywhere else in the world. The basilica’s atrium is decorated with beautiful Italian sculptures. There was also the Mafra Sculpture School, created by D. José in 1754, there were many Portuguese and foreign artists who studied there under the guidance of the Italian sculptor Alessandro Giusti.

And if the art exhibited here is not enough, the palace of Mafra is also linked to a literary work by the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago. Memorial do convento, a work known internationally, where the writer crosses history, fiction and fantastico, with invented characters and historical figures with the scenario of the construction of the Convent of Mafra.

By : August 30th, 2020 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

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.