Upon first seeing images of Quinta da Regaleira (Palacio da Regaleira) online, I could only think of the Guillermo del Toro movie Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno). Quinta da Regaleira was the primary reason for my visit to Sintra, Portugal and it did not disappoint.
Quinta da Regaleira is the fantastical work of Antonio Carvalho Monteiro and Italian architect Luigi Manini. Set on 4 hectares of land, the palace was the summer residence of the Carvalho Monteiro family. Building of the current estate commenced in 1904 and had mostly been completed by 1910. It has changed hands several times over the last hundred or so years. The Sintra Town Council acquired it in 1997, when it underwent extensive restoration, and opened to the public in 1998.
Enter the Labyrinth – Quinta da Regaleira
Entry to the estate is via the Old Stable block – a beautifully constructed structure in its own right, and far bigger than most people’s houses. A myriad of paths criss-cross the estate, providing a labyrinthine feel above ground. The sensation intensifies once you head into the subterranean maze beneath the estate. The tunnels have several lavishly crafted entrances – all give a feel of journeying deep into the dark depths of the underworld.
The Initiatic Well is probably the most iconic and impressive structure in the Quinta da Regaleira gardens. The 27 meter spiral shaft, an inverted tower, descends deep into the darkness below. What did people use for light before they had torch apps on their phones? To quote the guidance map you get free with your ticket “this hallowed space full of esoteric and alchemical associations, makes the relation between Heaven and Earth intensely felt”.
While not as grand as its bigger sister, the Unfinished Well was actually my favourite part of the gardens, possibly because there are fewer tourists to get in the way of photographs, but also because it is not as refined. Carefully laid, but natural looking rock pieces make up the Well walls. It is as if a shaft naturally formed within the bedrock, the result of an underground river having eroded it over millennia.
Grotto of the East
The Grotto of the East is well hidden beneath the surrounding, overhanging shrubbery, and is another beautifully constructed artefact that appears as if nature has simple done her own thing.
This post is Part 1 of 2 — stay tuned for more images of the castle and estate.