January 12, 2013

0132 & 0461 PORTUGAL (Lisbon) - Cultural Landscape of Sintra (UNESCO WHS)

Posted on 26.02.2012 and completed on 12.01.2013
In this palace spent her last night before leaving the country in exile the last Queen consort of Portugal, Queen Amélia, princess of Orléans by birth, wife of King Carlos I since 1886 until his assassination in 1908, and mother of Manuel II, last king of Portugal. In passing be said, the sorrows didn't spared the daughter of  Prince Philippe, Count of Paris, and of Princess Marie Isabelle of Orléans (in her full name Maria Isabel Francisca de Asis Antonia Luisa Fernanda Cristina Amelia Felipa Adelaide Josefa Elena Enriqueta Carolina Justina R de Orléans y Borbón). One child died at birth in 1887 (Maria Anna), the eldest son (Luís Filipe) was assassinated in 1908, when it wasn't yet 21 years old, together with his father, and the last child, Manuel II (in his full name Manuel Maria Filipe Carlos Amélio Luís Miguel Rafael Gabriel Gonzaga Francisco de Assis Eugénio de Bragança Orleães Sabóia e Saxe-Coburgo-Gotha), was forced to abdicate in 1910 and died in 1932 in bizarre circumstances, with 19 years before she did.

But not about the royal family of Portugal i want to write, but about Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena National Palace), UNESCO World Heritage Site from 1995 (with the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra) and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal (I presented another one of them, Belém Tower, here). Located in Sintra, palace is so close to Lisbon, that when the weather is good it’s visible from the city.

The monastery erected on the top of the hill above Sintra was a quiet place for meditation (housing few monks) for many centuries, until the 18th century, when it was damaged by lightning. In 1838, King consort Ferdinand II has acquire all the surrounding lands, and decided to build there a palace in Romantic style. The commission for that was given to the german Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, and the construction took place between 1842 and 1854. After the death of Ferdinand the palace passed into the possession of his second wife, Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla, who sold the palace to King Luís. In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.

Most palaces and castles built in the 19th century in Europe shows as taken from fairy tales, and Pena is no exception. I believe that the explanation (for all) is single one: loss of the function of defense, essential for the buildings of this type erected in previous centuries, allowed the architects to give free rein to their romantic fantasy. According to europeforvisitors.com, Pena Palace "is a riot of building styles that range from Moorish to pseudo-medieval". It features everything a fairytale castle needs (drawbridge, turrets, ramparts, battlements, domes, gargoyles, all washed in an array of pastel colors), and the interior is richly decorated in late Victorian and Edwardian styles. 

The heart of the palace is formed by the Gothic cloisters, decorated with azulejos, the typical Portuguese ceramic tileworks. Near the cloisters stands the large clock tower, and to the south of this is a large gate, known as the Triton Gate, flanked by two domed towers with gilded tiles, one of the most emblematic symbols of the palace, with its increasing moon referring to the Monte da Lua (Mount of the Moon) and to the Moorish exoticism. The gate is profusely decorated in Neo-Manueline style and shows a malicious looking triton on top of a large sea shell supporting a bay window.

There are several other gates in the palace, all in a different style, from oriental to medieval. Near the Triton Gate are the main residences of the palace, including a ballroom with a large chandelier. Also worth mentioning is the Arabic room, with its intricately decorated ceiling. Should not be forgotten the famous Neo-Manueline style window, inspired by the one in the Convento de Cristo (Christ Convent) in Tomar, and the stained glass from the chapel, made in Nuremberg (Germany) on 1841, which depict the figures of Manuel I and Vasco da Gama, attesting the liaison of Ferdinand II with the more emblematic past of Portugal.

Pena Palace was the first important building in Neo-Manueline style, after it more buildings in this noe style being constructed not only in Portugal, but in Brazil, Russia and in the Portuguese colonies, as Mozambique.

The palace is surrounded by the Parque da Pena (Pena Park), which offers walking paths, fountains, lakes, follies, and belvederes within its 85 hectares or 210 acres of romantic landscape. There are trees from diverse and distant countries, such as the North American Seqoia, the Chinese Ginkgo and the Japanese Cryptomeria.

About the stamps
On the first postcard
The stamp is part of a set of five, Festas Tradicionais (Traditional Feasts), issued on 2011:
Festas traditionals (€0.10)
Festa dos Tabuleiros, Tomar (€0.32)
Festa de Sao Joao, Porto (€0.47)
Carnaval, Loule (€0.68) - It’s on the postcard
Festa da flor, Madeira (€0.80)

On the second postcard
The stamp, designed by José Brandão and Susana Brito, is one of the two issued on May 31, 2012, with the occasion of the anniversary of 50 years from the fondation of ICS / GIS. The history of the ICS - Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa (Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon) began in 1962 with the creation of the GIS - Gabinete de Investigações Sociais (The Social Science Research Group), hosted then by the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (Technical University of Lisbon).

sender 1: Paulo Baptista (direct swap)
sent from Lisbon (Portugal), on 09.01.2012
art and concept: G.A. Wittich
sender 2: Marius Vasilescu
sent from Lisbon (Portugal), on 23.11.2012

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