Pena National Palace.

A Monument of Faith: The Magnificent Pena Palace in Sintra

(Read the article on one page)

Sintra is a lovely town which is found near Lisbon in Portugal. It is one of the most popular places in Portugal and is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. A beautiful castle on the top of the hill in the Sintra Mountains, called The Pena Palace, still inspires artists and attracts tourists. Its long story is so rich that it is hard to believe that all the events really happened in just one place.

The Medieval Lady of Pena

The castle was built on the site of a medieval chapel dedicated to the local Virgin Mary call “Our Lady of Pena.” This site gained religious importance after a reporting of the apparition of the Virgin Mary. The chapel to honor the Virgin was built on the top of the hill and many people pilgrimaged there. In 1493, the site had two more special visitors; King John II of Portugal and his wife Queen Leonor climbed up the mountain to honor their patron.

When the king saw the magnificence of this place he decided to found a sanctuary there, and ordered for the building of a monastery - which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. Until the 18th century it was just a small structure which housed about 18 monks and it was seen as one of the most mysterious places in Portugal. This was where people went to ask the Virgin Mary for help, but also an isolated area for the monks, whose life and death were focused in one place.

Order or Saint Hieronymus coat of arms.

Order or Saint Hieronymus coat of arms. ( Public Domain )

During the 1700s, the medieval monastery was damaged a few times by lightning. However, the heaviest damage was believed to be caused by an earthquake which damaged Lisbon in 1755. Surprisingly, when people checked the state of the old monastery, they discovered that the miraculous chapel was almost unscathed. This moved them very deeply.

Building the Castle

A few decades later, information about a miracle on the mountains arrived to the young prince Ferdinand, the future king of Portugal. He decided to not only rebuild the old monastery, but also a great castle, which could serve the Portuguese royal family and the people. He hired a German amateur architect, Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, to make Pena Palace.

The work took place between 1842 and 1854, and Eschwege used all of the knowledge he gained about architecture during his many travels. As a result, King Ferdinand and his wife Maria II could enjoy impressive decorations at the magnificent castle which became the heart of meetings with politicians and a base for many celebrations.

A view of Pena Palace seen through the arch of the Seteais Palace.

A view of Pena Palace seen through the arch of the Seteais Palace. ( CC BY 2.0 )

The palace was rebuilt many times. With the changes, architects created a complex of four sections, containing the restored structure of the oldest monastery with the clock tower, a yard in the front of the old chapel, with the walls of arches, the foundations and the walls with two gateways, and the drawbridge and a partial zone with a bastion in a cylindrical shape with interiors decorated in the “cathedrale” style.

The Arches Yard, chapel and clock tower.

The Arches Yard, chapel and clock tower. ( CC BY 2.0 )

A Tour of the Castle’s Elements

The current style of Pena Palace comes from the 19th century. As mentioned, it's a mixture of medieval, Renaissance, neo-Gothic, neo-Islamic, neo-Renaissance and neo-Manueline styles, with a Romantic style out and inside the castle. Each part of Pena Palace takes a visitor to different mysterious lands, to places that look like they’re from a fairy tale.

The interiors were adapted as the summer residence for the Portuguese royal family, but one of the most impressive elements of the construction is actually a clock tower. It was completed in 1843, and it's an element of the Queen's Terrace, which features a sundial and a cannon - which is fired every single day at noon.

Sundial cannon clock in the Queens's Terrace.

Sundial cannon clock in the Queens's Terrace. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

One of the most famous parts of the Pena Castle is the park, which spreads over 200 hectares. It was created in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II of Portugal, who brought many outstanding plants there. Ferdinand was assisted on the garden by Baron von Kessler and Baron von Eschwege, who had more experience in this area.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Bigfoot in the Patterson-Gimlin Film.
The anthropological sciences occasionally have to deal with something which has a profound but unexpected impact on our understanding of human origins. Two events are noteworthy, in part because both impacted powerfully upon our concept of human evolution, but also because they were diametric opposites. One was a truth first rejected, and the other was a false contrivance embraced as fact.

Human Origins

Kalash girls with traditional clothing.
The Kalash (known also as the Kalasha) are an indigenous people living in what is today Pakistan. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, with more than 95% of its population being adherents of Islam, the Kalash hold on to their own religious beliefs, along with their own identity, way of life, and language.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article