Portuguese Splendor: Pena Palace

Larger than life: Art that inspires us through the ages

In 1755, a devastating earthquake destroyed much of the monastery at the site where the Pena Palace now stands. The monastery site remained abandoned until Ferdinand II began the construction of his vision. Tradition has it that the chapel was built after an apparition of the Virgin Mary. (Luis Duarte/PSML)
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By Phil Butler

Sitting high on a lush green hilltop overlooking Lisbon and the Portuguese Riviera, Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena) is a UNESCO World Heritage site, an exclamation point of Portuguese national pride, and a fascinating example of Romantic architecture. This colorful castle is often referred to as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

Built between 1839 and 1854, on the orders of King Ferdinand II, the palace sits on the foundations of the sacred chapel Our Lady of Penha and later, a Hieronymite monastery. Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Schewge is the German architect who created this iconic blend of Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Indo-Gothic, and Neo-Moorish styles. With active involvement from King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II, the well-traveled architect imbued Pena Palace with an exuberant and eclectic architectural style.

The palace’s exterior retains many of the original elements of the Hieronymite convent that once stood here. The Queen’s Terrace and the unmistakable red clock tower rise in stark contrast to the other sections’ vivid yellow, purple, and pink colors. The palace’s festive appearance seems strangely harmonious, festooned with allegorical carvings, religious icons, and varicolored Portuguese tiles.

01 Pena Palace Dreamy

Built by Ferdinand II, the king consort of Portugal’s Queen Mary II, Pena Palace is a reflection of the Austrian prince’s dedication for fostering the arts in his adopted country. (Luis Duarte/PSML)

Palais National de Pena, Sintra, Portugal

The level of workmanship, the idyllic location, and the vision of the palace creates a dreamy effect for many visitors. (Gilles Messian/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Palais National de Pena, Sintra, Portugal

All around the palace, the eccentricity of King Ferdinand II is evident in the synergy that blends myth, artistic style, and a sense of fantasy. The king was an avid artist, and his highly eclectic taste can be seen all throughout. (Gilles Messian/CC BY-SA 2.0)

5 Grand Hall

The Great Hall and interior rooms of Pena Palace are as extravagant and unique as the exterior. (Angelo Hornak/PSML)

06 Pena Chapel

The chapel at Pena Palace was incorporated from the monastery into the later palace about 1840. The Renaissance alabaster retable by French sculptor and architect Nicolau Chantereine was placed there by Ferdinand II. (EMIGUS/PSML)

07 Palacio_Nacional_da_Pena,_Sintra,_Portugal,_2019-05-25,_DD_134-136_HDR

The royal dining room at Pena Palace is the former refectory of the Hieronymite monks. The dining table and other furnishings were commissioned from Casa Gaspar in Lisbon in 1866. (Deigo Delso/CC BY-SA 4.0)

08 Valley of the lakes

In the park surrounding the castle, the Valley of Lakes is illustrative of King Ferdinand’s romantic ideas. Here the king planted species from every continent. (Luis Duarte/PSML)

09 temple of columns

The park (Parque da Pena) is a labyrinth of paths and roads that connect Pena Palace with a wonderland of little lakes, fountains, belvederes (architectural structures situated to take advantage of scenic viewpoints), and points of interest like the neoclassical Temple of Columns. (EMIGUS/PSML)

10 Chalet_of_the_Countess_of_Edla_credits_PSML_Luis_Duarte

After the death of Queen Maria II, King Ferdinand II married Elise Hensler, Countess of Edla, and had this chalet built for her between 1864 and 1869. A romantic garden surrounds the chalet with exotic plants and winding paths. (Luis Duarte/PSML)

Phil Butler is a publisher, editor, author, and analyst who is a widely cited expert on subjects from digital and social media to travel technology. He’s covered the spectrum of writing assignments for The Epoch Times, The Huffington Post, Travel Daily News, HospitalityNet, and many others worldwide.

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