Monday, 3 August 2009

Pena, 1851

But let us back to Cintra. The summit of the mountain in the neighbourhood of the convent has been laid out in delightful shrubberies, interspersed with flowery parterres and pools of clear water: the soft nature of the rock greatly facilitated these various improvements, particularly where it had to be cut for pathways, or winding walks had to be made. From these graceful gardens there is a path that conducts the excursionist to the old Moorish Castle; the remains of this are on the peak, to the westward of that on which stands the convent " da Pena," and they overhang the town of Cintra. They comprise little but the fragments of venerable walls, curiously constructed along the rocky ridges and above the cavities. There are some ruins about half way up the hill, which are thought to be the remnants of a mezquita, or Moorish mosque. Part of the roof is still to be seen; and dim vestiges of stars, traced on a ground of blue, may be detected. Saracenic characters in some parts may be discovered scattered over the walls.
A quadrangular cistern, supposed to have been a bath in the time of the Moors, is found in another portion of the same enclosure. It is seventeen feet broad and fifty feet long, built of stone, and with a vaulted roof. The water it contains is always clear and limpid, and of almost exactly the same height at all seasons of the year. It is about four feet in depth. It is matter of surprise to all tourists, that so inexhaustible and copious a body of water should be found at this elevation, but a yet more considerable natural repository must be concealed somewhere in the " serra," to provide for all the abundant fountains and streams that in different places spring from the sides and the base of the steep, and which are stated to be unfailing, even after seasons of the severest drought.
These perpetual streams do not a little contribute to the charm of this neighbourhood, by the freshness and fertility they scatter around them with their playful and pearly spray. Cintra is celebrated for the extreme purity of its water, its diamond clearness, and its delicious coldness, which affords a charming contrast to the Lisbon water, which so often is tepid, that most horrible of states,—shillyshallying between cold and hot.

The Pena convent formerly belonged to the monks of the Jeronymite convent of Belem. It was King Emmanuel who built it on this steep and craggy rock—that rock which he had so frequently climbed in hopes of descrying the returning squadron of the enterprising Vascol da Gama, and from whose summit at length he had the good fortune to perceive it; for the king was the first to discover the homeward- bound fleet. After the monastery had been, like others, secularised and sold, the " Pena" became transferred to the hands of a private individual. His present majesty purchased it afterwards, in a dilapidated and neglected condition, and soon occupied himself in having it restored; or, rather, converted into a castellated palace, somewhat in the Norman or Gothic style, which flourished towards the end of the twelfth century.
Dr. Pflendler D'Ollensheim, in his little work entitled " Madera, Nice, y Andalucia," informs us that this building was undertaken and the works carried on beneath the superintendence of a German—Baron Eschiwege—in imitation of some of the ancient castles of Germany, such as the Rhein- fels and the venerable Schloss of Lachsembourg, in the neighbourhood of Vienna.
The same author declares that the air of this charming locality would be exceedingly beneficial to nervous or hypochondriacal patients. I dare say the medical information and observations of the doctor are very correct, but he made some mistakes in his book regarding persons.

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But once more I must back to Cintra.
A large, fine tower, together with several lateral turrets, and noble walls, adorned with machicolated battlements—I believe that is the term—appear to be already quite completed. These and an open court enclose the two chief buildings. The whole of the palace is constructed, and bears the appearance of being shut in, between the elevated peaks of the rock and huge basaltic masses. The part of the roof we climbed up to was partially surrounded by a very handsome and richly-carved species of stone fence, half balustrade and half battlement.
Fair spread the varied scenes, far, far below us. We had not yet had climbing enough, and clambered still higher to a lofty turret. Thence the view was naturally even more magnificent than from the roof. The monastic features of the interior of the edifice have been, in many respects, revived or preserved. Both the chapel and the cloister remain almost precisely as they were in the days of the monks, save that a few partly-dilapidated portions have been restored, and several slight defects that originally were to be found there have been rectified with much skill and care. There is in the chapel a fine altar-piece of transparent jasper, richly inlaid with alabaster; this is carved in relievos, and it is surmounted with niches, for the reception of groups strikingly representing various passages of the New Testament, and environed by festoons of flowers, supported by pillars formed of black jasper. If a lighted candle is held behind the tabernacle, which is placed in the centre, it will reveal its transparency. An Italian artist is supposed to have executed the work by command of Dom John III.
The apartments of the palace, according to their majesties' particular directions, have been adorned with considerable simplicity, and have no pretensions to regal splendour. The guide who conducted us through the palace was a very quiet one, and did not worry us, as occasionally happens, with long accounts of uninteresting trifles. What a pest they sometimes are ! In fine old cathedrals, for instance, when you would pause and feel the dread religion of the place, you are teased by their constant interruptions; in some, I have been persecuted, by various interlopers and hangers-on, besides the legitimate tormentor,—the rightful plague, the generally necessary evil,—all anxious to do the honours of particular pictures or relics, and determined on trotting out certain poor, desecrated saints, who had anything remarkable about them, or their effigies,—for the inspection of the visitant.
A road of good breadth in the Cintra rock, partly exposed and partly walled in, after many serpentining bends, conducts to a drawbridge leading to the chief entrance of the castle, over which are suspended the royal arms of Portugal, together with those of Saxe-Coburg.

Stuart-Wortley, p. 132

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