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Pena Palace Architecture & Design | Romanticist Castle

Pena Palace Architecture

The Pena Palace was designed by Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege and completed under the creative vision of King Ferdinand II. Located in the hills of Sintra, this UNESCO world heritage site combines several architectural styles including Moorish, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance.

Architectural style of Pena Palace

Pena Palace

Pena Palace, a romanticism era castle, boasts a rich blend of architectural styles influenced by Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance elements. 

Originally a Hieronymite convent, the palace underwent extensive renovations in the 1840s, integrating existing structures with new additions like the clock tower and terraces.

Notable features include the Arches Yard with its Moorish arches, the Queen's Terrace offering panoramic views, and the interiors featuring stuccos, trompe-l'œil paintings, and ornate tile revetments. These are decorative techniques including plasterwork, optical illusion paintings, and intricate tile coverings.

Surrounding the palace is the sprawling Pena Park, created by King Ferdinand II, featuring  exotic flora from around the world, including sequoias, magnolias, and ferns.

Who designed Pena Palace?

Pena Palace Architecture

Pena Palace was designed by Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege under the direction of King Ferdinand II.

King Ferdinand II, originally from Germany and with a deep interest in architecture and landscape design, wanted a summer retreat that would reflect the romantic spirit of the 19th century Sintra while serving as a testament to Portugal's rich cultural heritage. 

To bring his vision to life, he enlisted Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, a German architect known for his innovative approach and eclectic style. Weaving Romanticism, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance styles, the palace (built on the ruins of an old monastery) truly reflects Portugal's diverse culture.

Structure of Pena Palace

Pena Palace Architecture

The palace's foundation and walls were crafted from local stone, including limestone, providing a solid base. King Ferdinand's intervention added distinctive features such as vault arches and ornate windows, inspired by medieval and Islamic design. You’ll see decorative tiles on the outer walls, creating a visual contrast against the backdrop of Sintra's hills. Inside, you’ll see intricate carvings, ornamental details, and majestic columns are made from marble. Till date, you can see the restored convent structure and clock tower and the Arches Yard with Moorish arches, all elements preserved from the original Hieronymite convent.

Stages of construction of Pena Palace

Construction of Pena Palace unfolded through several distinct stages, each marking significant developments in its transformation from monastery ruins to a royal residence:

  • 12th Century: A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena is established at the present site, laying the initial foundation for the future palace.
  • 16th Century: The Royal Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena was constructed under the directive of D. Manuel I, later entrusted to the Order of Saint Jerome.
  • 1755: The Lisbon earthquake devastates the monastery, leaving it in ruins. The monastery is abandoned, leaving it to further decay over nearly a hundred years.
  • 1836: Fernando II, acquires the monastery ruins and surrounding forest with the intention of creating a summer residence for the royal family.
  • 1838-1840s: Initially planning a restoration, Fernando II, under the guidance of architect Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, expands the project into the construction of a grand palace, incorporating Manueline and Moorish influences.
  • 1843: The clock tower, a prominent feature of the palace, is completed as part of the renovation and expansion efforts.
  • Late 19th Century: The palace became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family, with subsequent additions and enhancements, including the construction of the Chalet da Condessa d'Edla.
  • 1995: The palace is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • 2000: Parque da Pena comes under the management of Parques de Sintra, initiating ongoing conservation efforts to preserve the palace and its surrounding parkland.

The exterior of Pena Palace

Pena Palace Architecture

Parks

The Camellia garden, commissioned by Fernando II in the 1840s, showcases cultivars from China, Japan, and Portugal, expanded in 2023 with 10 Camellia azalea hybrids by Parques de Sintra. The park, including a Giant Tuia tree, holds 386 cultivars from 38 species and 26 hybrids, cataloged since 2009 by Parques de Sintra.

Pena Palace Architecture

Cruz Alta

Cruz Alta, the highest point in Serra de Sintra at 528 meters above sea level, offers stunning views of Lisbon, Cascais, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Saloia region. Initially marked by a cross commissioned by D. João III in 1522, it was replaced by Fernando II after storm damage. A replica, crafted in 2008 from limestone, stands 3.5 meters tall, 1.5 meters wide, and weighs around 1,700 kilograms.

Pena Palace Architecture

The Coach House Terrace

Pena Palace has three main terraces: The Coach House Terrace, The Queen’s Terrace, and Triton's Terrace. The Coach House Terrace, designed to house stables and servants' quarters, offers views of Cruz Alta, with features reminiscent of Indian architecture, such as visors over the windows and bulbous domes.

Pena Palace Architecture

Triton's Terrace & Queens Terrace

The Queens Terrace offers a panoramic view from the ocean to Lisbon. It has a protective statue of the Warrior, favored by King Carlos and Queen Amélia. Triton's Terrace at the New Palace entrance features a portico blending aquatic and terrestrial realms, with neo-Gothic arches representing the aquatic world and a tree emerging from Triton's head symbolizing the terrestrial world.

Pena Palace interiors

Pena Palace Architecture

Kitchen

The Kitchen in Pena Palace still has two of its original stoves. It's filled with numerous copper items like pots, pans, and frying pans. Keep an eye out for PP - the initials for Palácio da Pena - and Fernando II’s monogram on pudding molds resembling castles and pâté molds shaped like piglets or birds.

Pena Palace Architecture

Chapel

The Chapel in Pena Palace was originally the old monastic church of Nossa Senhora da Pena. It wasn't a parish church, though it welcomed pilgrims. The altarpiece, crafted by Nicolau de Chanterene, dates back to 1529-1532. A stained glass window commissioned by  Fernando II in 1840 adds artistic and political significance to the palace's construction.

Pena Palace Architecture

Noble Hall

The Noble Hall, once the Billiards Room, now showcases Fernando II's oriental porcelain collection amid a relaxed atmosphere. It features a Gothic-style chandelier with 72 candles and gold-plated brass torch holders, while three windows exhibit elements from the monarch's Central European stained glass collection.

Pena Palace Architecture

Fernando II's room

Fernando II's bedroom, the main bedroom in Pena Palace, overlooks the Castle of the Moors, serving as a serene retreat for the widowed king following the queen's passing. Despite societal norms, he shared the space with Countess d'Edla before their marriage. The room is decorated with neo-Moorish patterns by Domingos Mei, reflecting Fernando's love for exoticism and Portuguese heritage.

Pena Palace | UNESCO world heritage site

Pena Palace Architecture

The Pena Palace stands as a captivating testament to Portugal's rich history Beyond its stunning facade, its vibrant colors, eclectic blend of architectural styles, Pena Palace offers panoramic views that stretch across the surrounding landscape and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Pena Palace promises an unforgettable experience for architecture enthusiasts, history lovers, and travelers seeking to immerse themselves in Portugal's vibrant past and stunning natural beauty.




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Day Tour to Sintra and Pena Palace from Lisbon
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Frequently asked questions about Pena Palace architecture

Who designed the Pena Palace and when?

Pena Palace was designed by Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege under the patronage of King Ferdinand II of Portugal in the mid-19th century.

What architectural style is Pena Palace known for?

Pena Palace features a blend of architectural styles, including neo-Gothic, Moorish, and Manueline influences.

Has the Pena Palace architecture won any accolades?

Pena Palace has not won any specific architectural accolades, but it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural and architectural significance.

Are there guided tours focusing on Pena Palace’s architecture?

Yes, there are guided tours of Pena Palace that focus on its architecture, providing insights into its design, history, and notable features.

How does the interior architecture reflect the history or purpose of the Pena Palace?

The interior architecture of Pena Palace reflects the romanticism and cultural revivalism of the 19th century, serving as a royal residence. King Ferdinand II’s bedroom gives us a glimpse into the Portuguese national identity of the time.

How does the interior architecture differ from the exterior architecture?

The interior of Pena Palace features lavish decorations, including ornate stuccos, trompe-l'œil paintings, and intricate tile revetments, while the exterior exhibits a colorful and eclectic mix of architectural styles, blending Romanticism, Moorish, and Gothic elements.

What makes Pena Palace's architecture unique?

Pena Palace's architecture is notable for its eclectic fusion of styles, its vibrant colors, and its hilltop location, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Can visitors access the interior of Pena Palace?

Yes, visitors can explore the interior of Pena Palace, which features lavishly decorated rooms, intricate tile work, and stunning views from its windows and balconies.

How did Pena Palace influence Portuguese architecture?

Pena Palace played a pivotal role in the revival of Manueline architecture in Portugal during the 19th century, inspiring a renewed interest in the country's architectural heritage.

Are there any sustainable or eco-friendly architectural features in Pena Palace?

The Pena Palace park, spanning over 200 hectares, was designed by King Ferdinand II, it showcases exotic flora from around the world such as diverse species of camellia plants. Visitors can enjoy the park's natural beauty while supporting conservation efforts. Since 2009, Parques de Sintra has meticulously cataloged the park's extensive camellia collection, now featuring 386 cultivars.