Stunning romantic style palace and chapel set in parkland featuring lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. Built by Carvalho Monteiro at the turn of the century as a private residence the estate was in private hands until it was purchased by the local council in 1997
This lavish, gothic-style mansion, set in equally fascinating grounds is close to the historic centre of Sintra. Known locally as the “palace of Monteiro the millionaire”, the estate was bought by Antonio Carvalho Monteiro, an altruistic, if rather eccentric entomologist with a fascination for all things esoteric. With the help of Italian architect Luigi Manini, he set about transforming the villa and surrounding estate into the intriguing place we see today.
The Regaleira Palace itself is built in the Neo-Manueline architectural style; Portugal’s answer to the Gothic revival which swept across Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
It is hard to imagine that a building of this size and flamboyance was, until quite recently, a private residence rather than a royal palace. It features gargoyles, turrets and an octagonal tower with a much photographed spiral staircase. Visitors can admire the hunting room, lavish hallways and former billiard room, decorated with portraits of Portuguese royalty, as well as the living and servants quarters. At the time of writing, the upper floors of the mansion are closed due to conservation work.
The Regaleira Chapel, also built in the Neo-Manueline style, stands in front of the main villa and is extravagantly decorated with scenes from the life of Jesus, Saint Anthony and Saint Theresa of Avila. There are also plenty of Templar and esoteric symbols on display here as well as a richly decorated floor.
The four hectare estate is every bit as interesting as the palace. It combines formal gardens with wild woodlands crossed with footpaths, ornate bridges, caves, lakes, waterfalls and fountains, all set amongst giant fern and American redwood trees. There are mosses of every shade of green imaginable, and just like the palace and chapel, the grounds were designed to reflect Monteiro’s interest in Tarot, the Knights Templar, Alchemy and Rosicrucianism. The grottos, benches and caves in this lush wilderness are scattered with esoteric symbols.
The grounds are also home to a series of underground tunnels and two large wells which were supposedly once used in esoteric initiation ceremonies. Anyone with an interest in mysteries and magic will love this place.
Guided tours are available but need to be booked in advance. Visitors who just want to wander freely around the palace, chapel and estate do not need to book ahead.