The Pena Palace, as most people know, is located in the town of Sintra, stands on a huge rocky mountain, and was elected in 2007 as one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. This distinction is validated by the majority of tourists who visit it, but most famously by Richard Strauss, the famous German composer and conductor of the early twentieth century, who, during his visit to the palace and its surroundings, said: “Today is the happiest day of my life. I know Italy, Sicily, Greece and Egypt, and I have never seen anything, anything, to match the Pena. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. This is the true Garden of Klingsor and there, up above, is the Castle of the Holy Grail“.
Pena Palace – History
The Pena National Palace was the first palace in Europe to be designed in Romantic Style, being considered one of the nineteenth century’s main representations of this architectural style in the world.
The first construction on top of the cliff where the Palace stands dates back to the fifteenth century, by the hand of the king D. João II, but it was only a chapel to honor Our Lady of Pena. This construction evolved later in the sixteenth century, at the behest of Manuel I of Portugal, into a convent made of wood, which was quickly replaced by a building of cantaria, which is the art of carving rough stone blocks into geometric solids.
The most significant transformation in the building, however, emerged in the nineteenth century. King Fernando II of Portugal fell in love with the place, which was vacant after being struck by a lightning that destroyed its tower, chapel and sacristy in the eighteenth century. Fernando II was not deterred by the state of the building and wanted to make it his holiday house. For this he hired the German mineralogist Baron von Eschwege, an amateur architect, and acquired the convent and all the surrounding buildings.
The result of this rebuilding is today in plain sight and continues to charm people from all over the world. For us, it’s a mandatory stop in the Blue Coast – Sintra and Greater Lisbon tour, where we delight ourselves in the landscape and absorb each the architectural details that make up this palace. All while exercising our legs in a bicycle tour, of course.