October 26th, 2018

26 October - Mafra

Lovely sunset last night, and there’s a picture from the car park showing a corner of the palace to show how close we are...

Watched The Apprentice last night, sure that at least one person from the winning team this week will be going soon!

Same old story, not a particularly good sleep. Had to close the overhead hatches again, as lights were so bright.

Well, as we’re so close, decided we needed to see the palace. A bit of history coming up, so skip to the pictures if you’re not interested!

Was €6 admission each, plus €1 for a little guide in English. Firstly we walked into the Basilica - and it was free! It houses six organs! At the time didn’t realize it’s actually inside the palace. Beautiful floors!

The following extract has been taken from various websites, as the leaflet we have is really quite dull - and information seems to vary a bit depending on source!

Mafra is a pretty little Portuguese town, but has one of Europe’s largest and most extravagant palaces. The vast complex has a huge monastry, ornate basilica, a library with over 36,000 ancient books and its own colony of bats!

The palace is the main (and only) tourist attraction of Mafra, and the huge building completely dwarfs the rest of the town. The front façade of the palace extends for over 250 meters while the two bell towers, containing 92 bells, stands high above the town at 68 meters.

The place was constructed between 1717 and 1755 and was used as both a convent and royal residence. Inside there are over 1,200 rooms connected by over 150 flights of stairs, but only a small portion of the rooms are open to the public.

The sections which can be visited include the convent’s infirmary, the royal rooms and the stunning library. All of the rooms open for visitors have been lovingly restored and are filled with original furniture, art works and historical objects. The palace is a wonderful building and an excellent tourist attraction.

The 40 year construction of the palace had an average of 15,000 workers, and reached a maximum of 25,000. To keep everyone in order, 1/10th of the Portuguese army (8,000 men) were based on the construction site.

All the beds in the infirmary face the alter so the friars could go to mass while in bed. Apparently steps lead down to a cemetery!

The initial project was for a convent large enough to house 13 Capuchin friars, but due to the influx of gold from Brazil, the building was vastly expanded, so that the final convent had sufficient space for 330 friars. The original design of the convent had no state rooms, but it was changed into a palace so that it could become a hunting retreat for the king. It is 220 meters between the King’s tower and the queens tower and the room directly in the middle allowed the royal couple to observe church services without having to leave their royal quarters.

There is a colony of bats which live in the library and protect the ancient books from insect damage. These small bats are let out at night and can eat twice their weight in insects. This natural form of pest control has been in place for over 300 years.

Mafra palace was constructed by King John V (1689 –1750) in thanks for having a health heir, María Bárbara (later queen of Spain). The king was married to Queen Mary Anne and had had three years with no healthy children, so he vowed to construct a great monastery on the site of the ancient Mafra monastery if he was provided an heir. The religious token must have worked as they went on to have a further 6 children. The palace was funded by the immense wealth that followed from the 18th century Portuguese colonies but it’s construction still almost bankrupted the state.

What was great for us, was that there were hardly any people visiting! It was pretty amazing walking around a building over three hundred years old, and in some ways seemed quite modern. The kitchens, music room, games room etc didn’t look out of place now. The hunting room was gruesome, really not sure about antlers heads in the chandelier, or the horns made into chairs!

The floors were quite stunning. It was also a very light building, lots of colour, really high ceilings, and hundreds of windows.

The 86m long library is shaped like a cross. We just hope that people are allowed to actually study the books. Printing first started between 1440 - 1450, but the print and images in the books on show looked like they could be from now!

Outside, they’d saved the best for last! They have ‘royal’ birds! They are there every day with their handler, for €10 you can have your photo taken with one. They are outside in order to have their vitamin D! The man did tell me their names, but I’ve forgotten - I think there was a tawny owl, eagle owl, great horned owl, gyr falcon and a peregrine falcon. Anne - you’ll know! They are so beautiful to see up close. Mum would be in her element! He explained that if their eyes were lighter, then they were more suited to hunting dawn and dusk, rather than at night. Think he lost interest in talking once he’d decided we didn’t want to pay for photos!

Spent about 3 hours there and it was worth visiting. Back at Dave, lunch, then all the maps out again. Next dilemma, have discounted going to Lisbon (even though Herc liked it) would probably have to park a long way outside and bus/train in - and from what I can gather, Porto which we’ve already seen is the better option. Would quite like to see Sintra, but again - no Aires really close, some Park4night places - reviews say there have been break ins and stuff stolen. Plus it’s steep with narrow roads - not good for Dave! Trying to plan our route home, some on toll roads for speed, but too boring to do that all the way!

In the end just stayed put, sat outside reading for a while, taking advantage of a bit of sun. A French moho parked up next to us, they have a cat on board! Not a totally happy cat on its lead however. Other side are the Dutch - third time we’ve seen them in different places!

Another bonus of taking so long to write this is that for the second time, Tintin has found the kitchen and making a chicken and veg stir fry! And no, I haven’t emptied the toilet cassette yet!

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Martin and Kay Dumont from Guernsey, first time motorhomers and ready to travel. ‘Dave’ is our Mobilvetta K Yacht 85, purchased in 2017 and travelled all the way from Italy. After following Jason and Julie Buckley’s blog 'Ourtour' for years I just couldn’t get the name ‘Dave’ out of my head. So the Mobilvetta had to be another 'Dave’. More...

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