The royal palace and convent of Mafra
The royal palace and convent of Mafra Reviews
Lush and extravagant Sep 12, 2010
The small town of Mafra is completely overshadowed by its enormous royal palace and convent. It is a hugely impressive complex and well worth a visit, especially on a Sunday before noon, when admission is free. Originally the building was meant as a royal convent, it was an assignment from King João V (1689 - 1750). He had made a promise to God that if he would have an heir to the throne from his marriage to the Austrian Maria Ana, he would built a convent.
The construction started in 1717 and it was meant to become a modest housing for 13 Franciscan monks. However, not much longer after construction had started, the wealth from Brazil came pouring in, so the king and his architect made bigger plans.
Eventually, the sky was the limit: 52.000 builders were hired and after a few years the result was not just a convent that could house 330 monks, but also an extravagant royal palace and one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe. The complex is almost 38.000 square meters big, has 1200 rooms, over 4700 doors and windows, 156 stairs and 29 courtyards. The central part of the building is a large cathedral.
The tour through the building starts in the convent, which has large rooms that are humble and mainly functional. There is a modest kitchen and a well fitted pharmacy to help the sick. There’s also a small hospital where the monks could attend to 16 patients. The room for the sick was located next to the chapel, so the sick wouldn’t have to leave their beds to hear the mass.
The royal chambers are located on a higher floor and they form a huge contrast with the modest rooms of the convent. The royal palace is lush and extravagant, and among the many rooms that are accessible to the public, there are a music room and a game room, which has a very old fashioned football table. There’s also a room full of hunting trophies, where not only the heads of dead animals are plastered all over the walls, the chairs, tables and lamps are made out of antlers.
The absolute highlight is the library, which is also the end of the tour. It is huge, has a marble floor, wooden rococo book cabinets en a collection of 40.000 books bound in leather and imprinted in gold.
Part of the Portugal 2010 travel blog
Part of the list Pretty Portugal
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