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Monserrate is a large, romantic and exotic garden. In there are many wonders for you to find out. Small waterfalls, lakes, water plants, plants and trees from every corner of the world, fountains and even the ruins of an old chapel.
In the top of the hill you have a small, recent recovered palace, built by an English rich man where you get an overview of Monserrate and Sintra.
To get there if who don’t have a car you can take a bus from the city (weekends only in winter months)
This Palace and gardens is located 4Km away from Sintra city center.
The history of Monserrate goes back to the times when Portugal was dominated by the moors. In those times, a moor knight lived on the hill where the palace is today, but fought the alcaide of the Moor Castle and died on a duel with him. He was buried by his christian friends up in the hill.
After the reconquest, in the 12th century, by King D. Afonso Henriques, a Chapel was built on that hill. In 1540 a friar ordered the construction of a chapel/sanctuary devoted to Our Lady of Monserrate (thus the name of the Palace and Park) on the place where the grave of the arab knight was.
Abandon and the earthquake of 1755 destroyed almost everything. Around 1790, Gerard DeVisme rented Monserrate. He built the first neo-gothic palace over the ruins of the old chapel.
DeVisme hasn't lived there for much time and, in 1793, William Beckford, an english writer, rented those lands and buildings. He used his fortune to rebuild the buildings and to create the gardens.
In 1799 he leaves Portugal and Monserrate was abandoned. But in 1856, Sir Francis Cook, bought Monserrate. He reconstructed the Palace, in a romantic style, with gothic, indian and arab suggestions. Using the extraordinary natural conditions, the gardens were recreated but this time with vegetation from several parts of the world.
- Castles and Palaces
The gardens are filled with different kinds of vegetation from different parts of the world amongst waterfalls, small lakes and valleys. It seems that the owners wanted to represent the mastery of man over nature.
William Beckford ordered this waterfall to be constructed which, along with the false cromelech, are the best signs of his presence in Monserrate.
In 1860, Sir Francis Cook planned the distintive feature of the fern valley to display his collection of ferns. In addition to the spectacular large-scale tree ferns, around 40 other fern species were planted. Tree ferns are similar to small palm trees, their foliage grows only at the top of the trunk.
There are two ponds existing in the park that were built between 1890 and 1923. The marginal water near the lawn, which is still and exposed to sunlight is warmer. This allows the development of rare plants from the river Nile such as papyrus, lotus flowers and water lilies. On the other margin of the pond, the water flows through the natural riverbed, maintaining it's freshness
Back to life
For several years abandoned, this beautiful palace and surrounding park has been recuperated, and is again an interesting visit.
The best informatin is gathered in its home page, but there's a short and precise description in:
- Castles and Palaces
This lawn, built in the second half of the 19th century, was the first in Portugal to have an irrigation system enabling it to remain green throughout the year. The irrigation was made through pipes buried under the ground, that had reservoirs, which allowed the guidance of the water, distributing it all over the lawn.
- Castles and Palaces
Monserrate owes its name to a little chapel built there by Father Preto, in 1540. It was the property of the Mello e Castro family, who leased it to Gerard DeVismes in the last quarter of the 18th century. It was he who built a neo-gothic mansion that was later inhabited by the English writer William Beckford. Subsequently abandoned, the property was bought in 1856 by Francis Cook, who contracted an architect, James Knowles Jr., to build him a new house, its architecture Oriental in flavour and full of revivalist motifs, making it into a veritable symbol of romantic architectural style.
This rich English businessman, Cook, was also responsible for planting the gardens of Monserrate park, which were conceived within the romantic environment, where exotic plants grow side by side with the local flora, so that nowadays it constitutes an important botanical museum.
All over the park we find several constructions made by the owners through time.
This arch was built by William Beckford, while he was at Monserrate between 1794-1799. It could represent the entrance of the property, which at the time wasn't enclosed. Beckford wrote his most famous book, Vathek, an oriental tale in 1786, before his first visit to Portugal. Vathek is the hero on the book which.
In 1790, Gerard DeVisme started the construction of a neogothic house built over the ruins of the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrate, on top of the hill.
The present day chapel, built by DeVisme also in neogothic style, holds the spirit of the place but it was never used for religious purposes. Francis Cook, after he acquired the property, modified the chapel making it a romantic ruin. Interesting the fine Banyan specimen that "hugs" the el.
Once the summer residence of Francis Cook, the beautiful Monserrate palace was surrounded by a great garden and forest, taking advantage of the favorable climatic conditions. Always improved year after year since the 19th century, it is now a national monument.
Palace and park may be visited in several ways, isolated or combining other visits in Sintra, what justifies that you read carefully the park's page and plan your visit to save a few euros and use well your time.
- Historical Travel
Park and Palace Monserrate
The designer of the romantic palace was James Knowles Jr. and it was built in 1858 on the initiative of Francis Cook, Viscount Monserrate, being one of the most interesting examples of Sintra Romanticism. A work in the Romantic-Orientalist spirit, with its great circular tower, bulbous cupolas and exotic decoration, the building recalls English Romantic architecture.
As I was there, the building was in renovation, so I did not see it (what a pity!).
The park was also rearranged but its part situated next to the water fall was really nice. (But if you have to choose between this one and the the one of the Regaleira palace, choose the latest one)
Sintra has much to offer in terms of historical monuments from all times, but it was above all in the 19th Century, with Romanticism, that the region was rediscovered and recovered in international terms. Romantic artists such as William Beckford (1787) and Lord Byron (1811) sang its unsurpassable beauty, engravers such as William Burnett (1830-1837) immortalised the most significant parts of the countryside. Monserrate gardens are a must if you visit Sintra.
The designer of this suggestive little romantic palace was James Knowles Jr. and it was built in 1858 on the initiative of Francis Cook, Viscount Monserrate, being one of the most interesting examples of Sintra Romanticism. A work in the Romantic-Orientalist spirit, with its great circular tower, bulbous cupolas and exotic decoration, the building recalls in particular the famous Brighton Pavilion of Nash, and English Romantic architecture.
However, as José Augusto França says, "Monserrate has a somewhat different scenographic sense, based on a greater wealth of archaeological details", constituted by its inspirational roots which - via English sources - are grafted on to the Moghul architecture. A unique case of Romanticism in Portugal.
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