The Masonic Initiation Wells of the Quinta da Regaleira

The Masonic Initiation Wells of the Quinta da Regaleira

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Located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal lies the Quinta da Regaleira- a spectacular estate that sits in a World Heritage protected landscape.  While thousands of tourists flock to the castle every year to admire the unique architecture of the Quinta de Regaleira that combines Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance features, one of its most fascinating features is located beneath the ground – a pair of wells spiraling deep within the earth. The wells were never used, nor intended for water collection. Instead, these mysterious underground towers were used for secretive initiation rites. 

The Quinta de Regaleira

The Quinta de Regaleira. Credit: liljc716 / flickr

The cultural landscape upon which the Quinta da Regaleira sits dates back thousands of years. There are archaeological sites in the area dating back to the early Neolithic (5 th millennium BC) and extending all the way through to the Iron Age (4 th – 2 nd centuries BC). The Roman occupation of the region began in the mid-2 nd century BC and it was later conquered by the Moors.  Sintra finally yielded to Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal after the conquest of Lisbon in 1147. Afonso built an imposing royal Palace there which served as a summer residence until the late 16 th century. After the suppression of the Templars in 1312, the lands passed to the Order of Christ. In the late 15 th century, Sintra was associated with Leonor, one of the greatest Queens of Portugal. Succeeding monarchs spent much time in the town, but after the Restoration of 1640, Sintra lost this link and the Royal palace served only as a prison for Afonso VI. Sadly, most of the built heritage of the region was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, though there are some outstanding court and military buildings, examples of religious architecture and archaeological sites.  

The Quinta da Regaleira is a vast estate that sits within this historical landscape. It has had many owners throughout the years, each contributing their own personal touch. But it was not until 1904, after being sold to António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, a wealthy Portuguese entomologist, that the estate was transformed into a unique palace adorned with symbolic carvings associated with Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.

Gargoyles perch on the rooftop of the Quinta de Regaleira

Gargoyles perch on the rooftop of the Quinta de Regaleira. Credit: Daniel Boa Nova / flickr

The Quinta de Regaleira estate, which is sometimes referred to as "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire” after its latest owner, consists of a palace and chapel with exquisite décor including frescoes, stained glass windows, and lavish stuccoes. The estate grounds feature lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and an extensive and enigmatic system of tunnels that connect to two spiraling wells.

A system of tunnels - Quinta de Regaleira

A system of tunnels and caves connect to two deep and spiraling wells. ( Wikipedia)

The pair of wells, known as the ‘Initiation Wells’ or ‘Inverted Towers’, consist of ‘winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meaning including the death/rebirth allegory common to many hermetic traditions.

One of the wells contains nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.” A smaller well, called the “Unfinished Well,” contains a set of straight staircases, connecting the ring-shaped floors to one another. It is believed that the spacing of the landings, as well as the number of steps in between were dictated by Masonic principles.

The Initiation Well

The Initiation Well consists of a spiraling staircase with nine platforms. Credit: nieos / flickr

At the bottom of the well there is a compass over a Knights Templar cross, which is said to have been  Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism. Very little is known about how the wells were used and what exactly went on there, though it is clear to see that great effort went into their planning and construction.

The bottom of the Initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira

The bottom of the Initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira. ( Wikipedia)

The beauty and symbology of the Quinta de Regaleira is like an open window into the past, and one of the last buildings in Sintra that carries the memory of the region’s rich and varied history. The initiation wells leave one to wonder about the events that once transpired there.  

Featured image: Quinta da Regaleira initiation well. Credit: nieos / flickr

Sources:

Initiation Well in the Town of Sintra, Portugal – Abandonedography. Available from: http://abandonedography.com/post/36881050362/initiation-well-in-the-town-of-sintra-portugal

Quinta da Regaleira – Virtual Portugal. Available from: http://www.portugalvirtual.pt/_tourism/costadelisboa/sintra/regaleira.html.

Comments

The article wrongly states the date of the suppression of the Templars as 1181. This is an error. The beginning of the suppression of the Order was on Friday, October 13th, 1307. The Order was officially dissolved by the Pope in 1312. The Order of Christ, which was the successor to the Templars in Portugal, was founded in 1318.

aprilholloway's picture

Yes, this was a typo. Many thanks for pointing it out. It has been updated now.

The templars were dissolved by the pope so that the roman church could take over the masons, and make it a secret organization of their own.

Do you even know history. The Templars were subject to the Pope anyway. The Pope responsible was in the pocket of the King of France. That King wanted the Templar wealth for himself, as well as debts owed to them to vanish. Freemasons didn't even yet exist at the time of the suppression of the Templars. Why did the Catholic church prohibit and I believe still prohibits membership in masonry for it's members if it is a Vatican controlled organization? Try reading a book and engaging in critical thinking.

rbflooringinstall's picture

That is beautiful and amazing architecture.

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

DeAegean's picture

I can't help but imagine the hands that designed and built this.. such a shame we've converted to steel and concrete jungles. Ritualism and Masonry keep the mysteries flowing!

Perhaps a ritual resonant chamber for vocalized ceremony? Each alcove for an individual voice/vibration?
Frequency is everything...

sounds like this eminated from inside the well.....
SOUND CONNECTS AND TRANSFORMS THE SPIRIT , MIND and BODY.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv_2x6JmuaE

THE RITUAL INCLUDED AN INCENSE BURNER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL.....as the smoke rose up to the top , the deep breathing while singing made a special magic of an altered state of consciousness....... a communion with GOD.

It is by will alone that we set the mind in motion...... but it is with music / sound and the smoke of hashish that we give it wings to fly...... HIGH.

Say what you will, but modern architecture doesn't hold a candle to the incredible complexity of ancient masonry like this-- these wells would be equally mindblowing if constructed today.

angieblackmon's picture

I agree with Brian. Who wants to see another eyesore skyscraper or crappy apartment complex. We need to figure out how these builders worked their magic!

love, light and blessings

AB

Cool tower, though . Where does all the water go when it rains?

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