Sunday, 2 August 2009

Cintra 1839

Monday 30th, found us at Cintra. It is needless to describe here this chaos of rocks, cliffs, mountains, dells, mingling with the cork, the pine, the vineyards, the geraniums, and the wild heaths of every description.

The three great pyramidal heights that crown this craggy, singular, and almost marvellous locality are known to have on their tops three old buildings or convents. The first in note is the Cork Convent, made entirely of that tree. Here, till very recently, eighteen or twenty monks resided ; but they were banished and sent adrift by Don Pedro's laws. When the reader is told that in order to view this building, he must bestride a donkey or mule, and wind round the circumference of the mountain, enduring the broil of the sun's burning rays, and subject to all the désagrémens of such an undertaking, it must be allowed that they who undertake it, especially if ladies, ought to be richly repaid for their labour : and it is so, with those who admire the sublime or romantic, and can be satisfied with figuring to themselves times that are passed ; but at present the Cork Convent is an entire ruin, and not worth the trouble of ascending the rocky pinnacle to examine.

The Col de Penar Convent, which is in the centre, and comes next in succession, is higher than the other, and the general view stupendous, vast, and wild. The king is now repairing this strange place, formerly a monastery, and means to establish it as a summer residence.The third old convent or building is not worth visiting. When the British army was in Portugal, a capital inn was kept at Cintra by a [442] Mr. Carey, and many an officer on sick leave of absence can doubtless revert to his recovery and to scenes of renewed health in that establishment. Now this house, like every thing else here, contains only a sad picture of the past. There is another hotel, kept by Madame Belem; a third by an Italian: and to these the visitors to Cintra resort.

The best mode of seeing the place in the shortest space is to get your donkeys in the morning early and start for Montserrat, an edifice built by that singular person, Mr. Beckford, who seems to have created wonders only to have them pulled down and destroyed. Montserrat Palace, as once Fonthill Abbey, sleeps in solitude: tombs of a similar cast in different climes. After beholding this, the palace of former luxury and bygone greatness, you can proceed to the Cork Convent; from thence to the Col de Penar, by the back road, behind the mountain : and finish your labours with the palace of Marialva, the only respectable edifice in the place; not excepting the palace of the queen.

These two last buildings we visited on the 1st of October. The royal residence is more miserable than can be conceived ; destitute of even commonly decent furniture, and composed of a number of small apartments, one more insignificant than another. At the top of the palace there is a large salle de Billard. The walls are lined with blue tiles, on which are painted old historical events; the manufacture of this kind of china is handsome, and dates from the time of the Moors. On the first floor of the palace is the dining-room; and adjoining it the bath-room, which is likewise lined with the blue-painted tiling before described: and by some mechanical apparatus, on your touching a spring or screw, the room is immediately inundated with torrents of water, as if pouring from the heavens; which has a singular effect. The Marialva Chateau celebrates now the room in which the Cintra Convention was signed. It is sadly gone to ruin since I saw it in 1809.

New monthly magazine
1840 Aug. Vol. LIX. Nº CCXXXVI
Journal of a Tour to the South of Spain in the Autumn of the year 1839

by the Marquis of Londonderry

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