Cultural Landscape of Sintra
In the 19th century Sintra became the first centre of European Romantic architecture. Ferdinand II turned a ruined monastery into a castle where this new sensitivity was displayed in the use of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance elements and in the creation of a park blending local and exotic species of trees. Other fine dwellings, built along the same lines in the surrounding serra , created a unique combination of parks and gardens which influenced the development of landscape architecture throughout Europe.
The cultural landscape of the Serra and the town of Sintra represents a pioneering approach to Romantic landscaping that had an outstanding influence on developments elsewhere in Europe. It is a unique example of the cultural occupation of a specific location that has maintained its essential integrity as the representation of diverse successive cultures. Its structures harmonize indigenous flora with a refined and cultivated landscape created by man as a result of literary and artistic influences. Its integrity is fragile and vulnerable to neglect and unsympathetic management and use.
The Serra stands out from the relatively flat surrounding landscape, its highest point being the Crux Alta. There are slight local variations and three ecological areas relevant to the cultural landscape: an area of pinewood, a natural forest of various species (oak, pine, chestnut), and an area colonized by the forest tree species plus olives.
The 'Sacred Mountains' of Varro and Columela and Ptolemy's 'Mountain of the Moon' enclose various significant man-made parks and gardens: the Parque de Pena, begun by Ferdinand II around 1840. Alongside the indigenous vegetation there are many exotic species. There are some startling contrasts: the Convento dos Capuchos, with monastic asceticism at its most extreme, lies close to the most sophisticated residences of the court. The whole park including the Tapada do Mocha and the Moorish castle is enclosed by a stone wall. The higher ground is covered with oak, cypress, pine woodland, and more classical gardens, with parterres and some remarkable specimens. Among the most notable features of these gardens are the Garden of the Camellias and the 'English Garden'.
Although almost all the built heritage was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, there are some outstanding court and military buildings, examples of religious architecture and archaeological sites.
The Royal Palace is undoubtedly the dominant architectural feature of Sintra, situated in the centre of the town. Probably constructed on the site of the Moorish Alcazar, its buildings result from two main periods (15th-16th centuries). The interior contains much painted and tiled decoration, but one of the most important features is the facing with tiles (azulejos ), the finest example of this Mudejar technique on the Iberian Peninsula. The Pena Palace, high on a peak in the Serra, is a work of pure Romanticism, designed by the Portuguese architect Possidónio da Silva. Within the 19th-century palace are the church, cloister and refectory of the monastery, richly decorated. The Palace of Montserrate was designed for Sir Francis Cook by the distinguished British architect, James Knowles Jr. It is an example of mid-19th-century eclecticism, and it combines neo-Gothicism with substantial elements derived from the architecture of India. Montserrate is renowned for its gardens. The planned gardens are surrounded by a semi-natural oak forest.
The earliest structure on the site of the Quinta da Penha Verde was built by the great 16th century Portuguese captain and viceroy, João de Castro and enlarged by his heirs and successors. The ensemble is somewhat austere but has a harmony of its own. The Palace of Ribafrias is in the centre of the town and was built in 1514 by the Royal Great Chamberlain, Gaspar Gonçalves. Its original rather severe lines have been softened by subsequent alterations, such as the insertion of Manueline and Pombaline windows into the facade. The Moorish Castle, high on a peak of the Serra, may be of Visigothic origin; it was certainly being used in the 9th century, during the Moorish occupation. It was finally abandoned with the successful Reconquest of Portugal from the Moors. Now in ruins, the remains of its barbican, keep and walls vividly illustrate the problems of constructing a fortress on a rocky outcrop of this kind. Other buildings in this group are the Palace of Seteals, the Quinta de Regaleira and the Town Hall.
The Trinity Convent of the Arrabalde was founded by a group of monks from the Trinity Convent in Lisbon in 1374, but replaced with a century later. The small cloister dates from 1570 and the church largely from the later 18th century. Other churches in the town are Santa Maria, São Martinho, São Miguel, the former São Pedro de Canaferrim parish church inside the Moorish Castle, and the Church of Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Its favourable climate, fertile soil, and proximity to the River Tagus have attracted human settlement in this area from early times. There are archaeological sites in the area dating from the early Neolithic (5tn millennium BC), Neolithic-Chalcolithic transition (3rd millennium BC), Beaker (3rd-2nd millennium BC), Bronze Age (15th-6th centuries BC), and Iron Age (4th-2nd centuries BC).
The Roman occupation began in the mid-2nd century BC, when the area formed part of the territorium of the Roman town of Olisipo (modern Lisbon). The local inhabitants embraced the Roman way of life with enthusiasm, and there are indications that there was a Roman settlement on the site of the modern town of Sintra. In the late Roman and Bvzantine period, archaeological discoveries demonstrate commercial links with North Africa.
The first written references to the settlement of Sintra date from the period of Moorish occupation, when it is describe as being a dependency of Lisbon. Others qualify it as the most important centre In the region after Lisbon. The town and its castle were devastated several times during the Reconquest. It was first liberated by Alfonso VI of Leon in 1093, but recaptured by the Moors two years later. Sintra finally yielded to King Afonzo Henriques after the conquest of Lisbon in 1147, and seven years later was awarded its charter as a concelho (commune). The territory covered by the charter was very large, and was divided into four parishes. The inhabitants Of the early town were of several races, but they Quickly lost their individual identities to become saloios, the term used to describe the mixed-race population in the towns around Lisbon.
After the suppression of the Templars in 1181 the lands granted to them by Afonso Henriques passed to the Order of Christ, which replaced them in Portugal. During the crisis of 1383-85 Sintra was one of the last towns to yield to João, and as a result it was deprived of the Queen's House, Which had been granted to it by King Dinis. Afonso built an imposing Royal Palace there which served as the Royal summer residence until the late 16th century.
In the late 15th century Sintra was closely associated with one of the greatest Queens of Portugal, Leonor, widow of João, the "Perfect prince". However, it was under the patronage of Manuel I that the town became indissolubly linked with the Crown: he caused the Royal palace to be substantially enlarged and founded the Monastery Of Nossa Senhora da Penha, from which he watched the return of Vasco de Gama from his historic voyage. Succeeding monarchs spent much time in the town, and legend has It that King Sebastião listened to Camões reading his great epic poem Os Lusiadas there.
After the Restoration of 1640 Sintra lost this link and the Royal palace served only as a prison for Afonso VI. This neglect lasted until the early 19th century, when the town began to attract the Portuguese upper classes, following the distinguished foreigners who had begun to visit it. It was not until the middle of the century that Fernando II, consort of Maria II, inspired by Romanticism, converted the ruined Hieronymite monastery into a fine palace, which brought many wealthy foreign people to the area.
The artistic and historic qualities of the town and its surroundings were properly appreciated and jealously protected in the ensuing decades. In the past decade a vigorous cultural policy has been developed for the study and presentation of the area's historical heritage.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation