Who arrives in the center of the city of Mafra, about 50 km from Lisbon, is faced with an incredible representation of baroque architecture. The Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra is one of the most imposing monuments in Portugal and this week was considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
But what’s inside this magnificent palace that served the Portuguese courts and made history in the national architecture?
The visit to the Royal Palace of Mafra begins in the ground floor and in the conventual area, which reserves a space dedicated to sacred art and also a large infirmary.
The friars who lived here for decades were dedicated to the treatment of the sick, and it is this testimony that we can visit in this convent. From the cold cells to the kitchen of the infirmary, to the drugstore, where medicines were prepared and stored. In the 18th century, the medication was composed of herbs and roots, many of which came from the convent garden itself.
The seriously ill ward is one of the most emblematic rooms on this floor. It was here that the patients remained and were treated by the friars, with regular visits from the doctors and the bleeders.
On Sundays, all the beds were pulled into the center of the room, so that the sick could attend Mass, which was celebrated at the top of this place.
Imagining life at the Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra
Already on the second floor, we enter the Royal Palace and the area leading to the library. But let’s leave that room to the end.
Around here, art pieces, painted ceilings, tapestries, and worked furniture reign.
The King’s and Queen’s quarters are found in the towers, on opposite ends, and through the middle come all the other rooms, used for working and amusement. From Diana’s Room, which alludes the Goddess of the Hunt — the palace was used whenever the King intended to hunt in the National Hunting Grounds of Mafra, also integrated in this monumental set recognized by UNESCO — to the Throne Room, designed for royal audiences.
The front gallery, which served as a passageway, was the walking place for members of the court. Around here, we begin to imagine all the nobles and maidens displaying their clothes and jewels and gossiping about romance and politics.
The private quarters of the King are in the North Tower. Both the King’s and Queen’s apartments operated autonomously, with their own kitchens, pantries and dressing rooms. This separation only ended with the death of D. Fernando, husband of D. Maria II, when the whole royal family came to occupy only the South wing, leaving the other tower to receive distinguished guests.
From the North to the South, passing through the Blessing Room. It was in these central balconies of the Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra that the royal family attended the religious ceremonies inside the cathedral and blessed the people, from the balcony facing Terreiro D. João V.
In the South Tower, you’ll find the Queen’s private rooms, where we can visit the bedroom of D. Amélia. It was also here that King D. Manuel II spent his last night before departing from the Port of Ericeira for exile in Brazil, at the time of the Implementation of the Republic in 1910.
An extraordinary library
One of the last stops in the visit to the Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra is the library. And what a library!
Considered one of the most beautiful in the world, this space lives in dim light to preserve the tremendous literary legacy that exists here. It is a collection of about 36 thousand books, some of which date back to the 15th century.
Do not leave this palace without passing through the cloister and basilica that has a significant collection of Baroque sculpture — one of the largest outside Italy — and a set of six incredible organs commissioned by D. João VI.
Also on the Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra:
- Built in the 18th century, in the record time of 3 years
- About 45 thousand people were involved in the construction work
- The Royal Work of Mafra, as it became known, was one of the leading schools of architecture
- Here, engineers and architects learned their trade, but also many workers who specialize in functions such as bricklayer, carpenter, glasswork, etc.
- Cranes and machines were invented just for this construction
- The knowledge taken from the Royal Work of Mafra later became useful in the reconstruction of the city of Lisbon after the earthquake of 1755
Have you visited the Royal Convent and Palace of Mafra? Would you like to go there? What do you think about UNESCO’s recognition as a World Heritage Site? Leave your comment in the box below. I would love to know your opinion.