The Pena Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
The Pena Palace (Portuguese: Palácio da Pena) is a Romanticist castle in São Pedro de Penaferrim, in the municipality of Sintra, on the Portuguese Riviera. The castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area.
The Pena Palace is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. It attracts thousands of tourists for its unique beauty, and it's also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.
The castle's history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
In 1493, King John II, accompanied by his wife Queen Leonor, made a pilgrimage to the site to fulfill a vow. His successor, King Manuel I, was also very fond of this sanctuary, and ordered the construction of a monastery on this site which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.
In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning and the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 reduced it to ruins. Nonetheless, the chapel and its works of marble and alabaster escaped without significant damage !
For many decades the ruins remained untouched, but they still astonished young prince Ferdinand. In 1838, as King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors and a few other estates in the area, then set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.
The construction took place between 1842 and 1854, although it was almost completed in 1847: King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II intervened decisively on matters of decoration and symbolism. Among others, the King suggested vault arches, Medieval and Islamic elements be included, and he also designed an ornate window for the main façade (inspired by the chapter house window of the Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar).
After the death of Ferdinand the palace passed into the possession of his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla, latter the palace was sold to King Luís, who wanted to retrieve it for the royal family. 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. The palace quickly drew visitors and became one of Portugal's most visited monuments. The last queen of Portugal, Queen Amélia, spent her last night at the palace before leaving the country in exile.
Over time the colors of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace was visually identified as being entirely gray. By the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original colors restored.
In 1995, the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Pena Park is a vast forested area completely surrounding the Pena Palace, spreading for over 200 hectares of uneven terrain. Created at the same time as the palace by King Ferdinand II, the exotic taste of the Romanticism was applied to the park as it was to the palace.
The king ordered trees from diverse, distant lands to be planted there. Those included North American sequoia, Lawson's cypress, magnolia and Western redcedar, Chinese ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria, and a wide variety of ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand, concentrated in the Queen's Fern Garden (Feteira da Rainha).
The park has a labyrinthic system of paths and narrow roads, connecting the palace to the many points of interest throughout the park, as well as to its two gated exits.
It is one of the most attractive places on the Serra de (Mountain of) Sintra, owing to the spell of romanticism that emanates from its greenness and the wide stretches of countryside that can be glimpsed from it.
The way that the trees have been arranged in contrasting clusters, setting off to advantage the delicate note of the gardens, the graceful curve of a path, or the sudden view of a pond, all show the artistic intent that governed the planting of this park.