Mafra Palace is one of the most ambitious palace-monuments in Europe. The palace was built in the Baroque style by the King of Portugal, Juan V. At that time he was the richest European king, thanks to the gold from Brazil, this palace became the apotheosis of the king’s numerous and meaningless expenses.
A few numbers: 52,000 people worked on the construction of the palace;
it covers an area of about 4 hectares (37.790 m2); 1200 rooms; 4700 doors and windows and 156 stairs; 1 year – the longest time a royal family has been in it; 98 bells.
Don Juan V ordered the construction of the palace complex in fulfillment of the vow that he would build a monastery if his wife Maria Anna of Austria gave him the long-awaited heirs or he would recover from the disease.
Since his illness at the end of his life had finished off, and Mary of Austria had given birth to several children, we are inclined to the first option. Although construction began only in 1717, after the birth of five heirs. Apparently, with the fulfillment of the vow given to the Franciscan monk, the king pulled to the last.
King and queen
It was originally planned to build a small monastery for thirteen monks, and then for a slightly larger number, and more … until the number of monks grew to three hundred, and in addition to the monastery a palace and a basilica were built.
To work on the palace in Mafra, the king invited the famous European masters of sculpture and painting. The result of their work is really impressive. The palace is often compared with the Spanish palace-monastery of Escorial, and they are really similar, but the palace in Mafra is more beautiful and airy.
old drawing of the palace
Of the documents that have survived to this day, one is interesting – the letter of the English ambassador to his minister dated 1730: “I believe that you have already heard about the church, palace and monastery that the Portuguese king built six leagues from Lisbon, and that he was so interested in the speedy completion of construction, which allocated half of public funds to it; the oxen and mules were taken from the peasants, and working people from all over the country worked on the construction of the building, so this year the lands are uncultivated everywhere. ”
The construction of the palace was carried out at an accelerated pace, the entire complex was erected in just 13 years, and was completed in 1730.
The construction of the Mafra Palace was a real school of construction in Portugal in the 18th century. Not only engineers and architects studied here, but workers also studied specializations: stone carvers, carpenters, glaziers and even sculptors.
For construction, they invented several innovative mechanisms for that time and cranes that could lift huge stone blocks. Previously, from 30 to 50 bulls were required to lift them. All these innovations became popular in Lisbon, after the earthquake of 1755 it was necessary to almost completely restore the city.
Jose Saramago wrote the book “Memories of the Monastery”, the action of which takes place against the background of the construction of the palace-monastery. The book became an international bestseller and has been translated into many languages, including Russian.
Lord Byron, who visited Mafra in 1809, wrote: “This monument constitutes the glory of Portugal as the embodiment of its greatness, even if it lacks elegance.”
The Royal Palace occupies the entire upper floor of the building and two square towers. The north tower was the King’s Palace, and the south – the Queen’s Palace, they are connected by a gallery 232 meters long.
This is the longest palace corridor in European palaces. It was used for walks close to the Court, as was fashionable in the 18th century. Here the nobles expected a royal audience, boasted of their jewelry and outfits, wove intrigues.
The palaces of the King and Queen were self-sufficient. Each of them had its own kitchen, pantries and rooms for servants and maids of honor. The princes had their own chambers in the northeast of the building, the princesses in the southeast. Also with everything you need. Therefore, we can safely talk about the palace complex, which practically consists of four palaces.
This internal space organization was preserved until the death of the consort king, Don Fernand, the husband of Queen Mary II. After him, the entire royal family lived only in the south wing and tower (Queen’s Palace). In the northern part, guest rooms were arranged for important people who, at the invitation of the queen, visited Mafra.
It was in the south tower that the last king of Portugal, Manuel II, spent his last night in the kingdom, from October 4 to 5, 1910, after which he went into exile.
Originally decorated with tapestries, oriental carpets and custom-made furniture, the palace undergoes changes during the reign of Joan VI. He changes the interiors of several rooms, orders new furniture and carpets.
Alas, now you will no longer see the interiors of the palace in all its splendor. The royal family took paintings, tapestries, carpets and expensive furniture to Brazil in 1807, fleeing the war with Napoleon. Nothing returned to Portugal.