I like history. Yeah I am a geek, it hasn’t escaped my notice. But there is something indescribable about standing on, in or around historical sites. For just a moment maybe you get a glimpse of being there at another time, hundreds, possibly thousands of years ago. As yet its the only pratical version of time travel available.
Something about castles function evolving into form is so immediately compelling. Some castles were to keep people out, some to keep people in and others the product of design bloat running unchecked.
Sintra in Portugal is castle central, the region itself steeped thousands of years in history. It’s castles and palaces dating back to Moorish times are as majestic and vibrant today as they were at their peak.
Pena Palace in Sintra is no exception of vibrance and insanity that accompanies being wealthy and powerful.
If Pena palace was used in a fantasy movie, people would ask the CGI artists to tone it down and stop taking the piss.
If anywhere is deserving of making it on the Seven Wonders of Portugal list its Pena Palace. Although its construction is one of the more recent historically the site itself has been of one of significance since the 1500s where a monastery was constructed. Over the course of a severe lightning strike (at the highest point on a hill, who knew?) and the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, it was further reduced to a pile of rubble.
It wasn’t until 1838 when a young prince Ferdinand was so taken with the ruins and the area itself he acquired the old monastery, the estate it was on and the Castle of the Moors nearby.
Ferdinand was a prince with a plan and that plan was a summer home to rule them all!
So the prince found himself an amature German architect Baron Wilhelm Eschwege who’s inexperience was not yet overshadowing his enthusiasm basing it on several castles architectural stylings from along the Rhine river.
Constructed over nearly a decade between 1842 and 1854. Much like an episode of Grand Designs the completion was prolonged by (now titled) King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II requesting further changes and additions in decoration and symbolism.
Including vault arches, Medieval and Islamic stylings to be added to the constructions.
It was after the Revolution of 1910 classified as a national monument and in 1995 the palace and the rest of Sintra’s wonders were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you are visiting Portugal Pena palace and Sintra should be high on your list, just to get a taste of the surreal design gone mad ethic and marvel at how much the tower looks like The eye of Sauron.