The Palácio Nacional de Sintra history goes back to the 14th century when the Royal Chapel, was built during the reign of King Dinis I. Through the ages many add-on rooms and buildings were built.
Much of the present building dates from 1415 when King John I initiated a major construction of the building a.k.a. Ala Joanina, around the central courtyard. It is characterised by the main building facade with the entrance arches and the mullioned windows in Manueline and Moorish styles (called ajimezes) and the conical chimneys of the kitchen.
The Palace has these great rooms:
-The Swann's Room (Sala dos Cisnes) in Manueline style.
-Pegas' Room (Sala das Pegas).
-Arab Room (Sala dos Árabes) .
A second major construction took place between 1497 and 1530 and was ordered by King Manuel I . During this time the Ala Manuelina (Manuel's Wing), to the right of the main façade was built. Furthermore other rooms were redesigned and richer decorated.
The Palace suffered damage in the Great Earthquake of 1755, but was restored in its former beauty.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra impressions
Mo-Tu: 9.30AM - 5.30PM
Th-Su: 9.30AM - 5.30PM
Admission: € 7.00
There is a museum shop at the entrance and bathroom facilities.
In the centre of the city stands the most discreet of its public palaces, but the richer. Built from a Muslim palace, for several centuries it was suffering modifications and improvements.
Its general look comes from the 14th century, but almost all our kings used it, always adding something.
It's a good opportunity to understand the evolution of Portuguese art.
This palace served as a summer residence for the Portuguese kings since the early 14th century. Probably it has Moorish origin. What you see today mostly consists of the buildings ordered by king Joao I (around 1415) and by king Manuel I (1497 and 1530).
Inside you can see various rooms and a chapel. Some rooms opened to visitors are; Sala dos Cisnes (= swans) with the ceiling divided into panels decorated with swans. Sala das Pegas (= magpies) and Sala dos Brasoes, with a domed ceiling decorated with 72 coats of arms of the king and noble families. The kitchen where the huge chimneys come from.
You must be very attentive when visiting this palace: it is not a common work, but a odd collection of works, for more than 500 years.
In this single monument you may find medieval, gothic, manueline, renaissance and romantic styles in adjacent structures, combined with decorations using sculpture, tiles or paintings.
The two big chimneys became the landmark of Sintra, and, standing in the centre of town, you can't miss it.
In the main square is the National Palace, dating from the 14th century. Its two gigantic conical chimneys are the town's most recognizable landmarks, while the rest of the building is a combination of the Moorish, Gothic and Manueline styles. Inside it possesses what is said to be the most extensive collection of Mudejar Azulejos (colored glazed tiles) in the world, and several exceptional rooms. The Sala dos Brasões ("Coat-of-Arms Room") stands out for its domed ceiling decorated with stags holding the coats of arms of 74 Portuguese noble families and for its walls lined with 18th-century tiled panels. The former banquet hall, Sala dos Cisnes ("Room of the Swans"), also has a magnificent ceiling, divided into octagonal panels decorated with swans painted in the 17th century. Other highlights include the "Magpie Room" (named for the birds that decorate the ceiling), the Royal Chapter of King John I, the huge kitchen with a capacity for 1000 diners, and the interior courtyards where poet Camões read his verses to the king
This is the last room you'll come to before existing the palace. It's the main hall and was built by Manuel I at the beginning of the 16th century. This wing was the last of the extensive building campaigns carried out on the palace and was restored in the 1930s.
Built during the works ordered by Dom João I, at the beginning of the 15th century, the Kitchen was originally a separate part of the palace to prevent fire and smoke from reaching the noble areas of the Palace. Before long, the Palace Kitchen was famous for its thirty-three metre high chimneys which became a symbol of Sintra. There are other examples of conical or pyramidal chimneys in Europe (Pamplona, Iranzu, Fontevrault among others), but the originality of Sintra’s chimneys comes from being double.
The Kitchen was equipped with a series of wood cookers attached to the western wall and two big ovens. The abundance of water coming from the springs up in the Sintra hills and piped into a system of containers, made the cooking and the cleaning easier. In the 18th century, the iron cupboard on the wall was set. It was a heating device to keep the plates warm, till they were served in the Palace rooms. The white tiles covering the walls are from the end of the 19th century, contemporary to the composition with the royal coat of arms of Portugal and Casa de Sabóia, Dona Maria Pia’s arms, which was made in 1889. It is still used as a supporting area for banquets that occasionally take place at the Palace.
Founded by Dom Dinis at the beginning of the 14th century, the Palatine Chapel is evocative of the Holy Spirit, whose devotion was started in Portugal by Queen Santa Isabel. In 1470, Dom Afonso V ordered from the famous painter Nuno Gonçalves, an altarpiece for the high-altar, based on the theme of Pentecost. This altarpiece was lost and substituted, at the end of the 16th century by another made by Diogo Teixeira, also lost. Only a painting on the same theme can, nowadays, be seen at the Museu de Odrinhas in Sintra.
Although being part of the restoration work carried out in the 1930s, the fresco paintings on the walls include vestiges of the original 15th century paintings, visible over the altar, on the left side of the nave and on both sides of the high-altar. The doves, depicted on a pink background, each carrying an olive branch in its beak, are a symbol, both of the Holy Spirit and of the renewal of God’s alliance with mankind, after the flood.
Part of the old palace of King Dinis, this room was used as the bedchamber of Joao I, before the monarch carried out extensive construction work at the beginning of the 15th century, Its present name is derived from the Chinese, ivory pagoda that dates from the 18th century.
This room was used as a prison, in which King Dom Afonso VI lived for nine years, by the order of his brother (the future Dom Pedro II). The deposed king would eventually die here in 1683, in the company of his faithful valet who, according to tradition, slept in the small cubbyhole, connected to his room.
Carlos II’s ambassador in Portugal made comments on the room, saying it looked “more for a burial than to live in”. The bedchamber features one of the oldest medieval pavements in the Palace and in the country, probably made during the works that took place during Dom Afonso V’s reign, in the middle of the 15th century.
Located in westernmost part of the Palace and aligned by the cardinal points, the Blazons Hall was built above the Columns Hall during the reign of Manuel I (1495-1521). This whole area was in medieval times known as Mecca's House. This is the most important heraldic room in Europe, an evident allegory to the centralised power of Dom Manuel I, whose Royal Portuguese coat-of-arms, with a winged dragon at the top, closes the octagonal dome. It is surrounded by the coats-of-arms of the eight children of his second marriage with Dona Maria, the daughter of Fernando and Isabel of Spain. On a lower level are depicted the seventy-two coats-of-arms of the most prominent noble families, according to the inscription around the room “pois com esforços leais serviços foram ganhadas e outras tais devem de ser conservadas” (for they were won through efforts and loyal services and so they should be kept).
The books of António Rodrigues, the Armoury-Master, and António Godinho were used as guides for the paintings and for the order in which they were placed (1515-1520). The majority of the paintings are from the 16th century, having been restored later on. In the 17th century, the gilded wood ornaments were added and in the 18th century, the tile panels were applied on the walls, depicting bucolic and hunting scenes.
Called the Gold Chamber at the beginning of the 15th century, due to decoration which has since disappeared. It was used as a bedchamber by King Sebastian at the end of the 16th century. The tile wall covering consisting of raised vine leaves dating from the beginning of the 16th century is quite unique.
This room is the only one to have retained its original name since the 15th century due to the 136 magpies depicted on the ceiling. Each one holds in its beak, a ribbon with Dom João I’s motto, por bem (in honour) and in the claws they hold a rose that may be related to the House of Lancaster, which the Queen Dona Filipa belonged to. Covering the walls are Hispano-Arab, corda-seca tiles, which can be dated to the beginning of the 16th century. From the same period are the tiles framing the walls and the Carrara marble fireplace. This was a gift from Pope Leon X to King Dom Manuel I, which came from the ruined Almeirim Palace. In 1885, King Dom Luís offered, in this room, a banquet in honour of the African continent explorers, Hermenegildo Capelo and Roberto Ivens. It was also chosen for the dinner offered to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, in 1905.
The biggest room of the Palace, named Sala Grande (Big Room), during the reign of Dom João I and Sala dos Infantes (Infants Room) from the time of Dom Manuel I. Its present name Sala dos Cisnes (Swan Room) is due to the wonderful ceiling decoration, which dates most probably from the end of the 16th century, based on the taste of the Italian Renaissance period. In 1570, Luís Pereira Brandão referred it in a poem dedicated to the wonders of the Palace of Sintra.
In this room took place the most important events, such as receptions given to several ambassadors, banquets, celebrations and, during Dom Manuel’s time, according to Damião de Góis, who wrote the chronicle of his reign, music and dance sessions every Sunday and holyday. The king participated frequently in these events, accompanied by his Moorish musicians. The Court also danced and attended the theatrical performances of Gil Vicente, author of the plays and considered to be the father of the national theatre. Presently, this same room is used for receptions and official banquets held in honour of foreign heads of state, during their visits.
Said to be the best preserved mediaeval Royal Palace in Portugal, having been inhabited more or less continuously at least from the early 15th up to the late 19th century, this is the highlight tourist attraction in Sintra town itself. Also known as Town Palace it is said to be built on a former Moorish palace that dates back as far as the 10th century. In the 12th century, when the village was conquered by King Afonso Henriques, the King took the residence in his possession but nothing remains from this era. The mixture of Gothic, Manueline and Moorish styles in the present palace is, however, mainly the result of building campaigns in the 15th and early 16th centuries.
The earliest surviving part of the palace is the Royal Chapel, possibly built during the reign of King Dinis I in the early 14th century. Much of the palace dates from the times of King John I, who sponsored a major building campaign starting around 1415. Most buildings surround the central courtyard and date from this campaign, including the main building of the façade with the entrance arches and the mullioned windows in Manueline and Moorish styles (called ajimezes), the conical chimneys of the kitchen that dominate the skyline of the town, and many rooms including the Swan Hall, Magpie Room and Blazons Hall.
The Palace was constantly added to and updated over the centuries and suffered damage after the 1755 earthquake but was then restored. During the 19th century, Sintra again became a favourite spot for the Kings and the Palace was frequently inhabited. Queen Amélia, in particular, was very fond of the Palace and made several drawings of it. With the foundation of the Republic, in 1910, the Palace became a National Monument and then opened to the public.
Open: 9.30am-5.30pm. Admission: €7.00.