The Palace of Mafra is a monumental Baroque and Neoclassical palace-monastery located 28 kilometres from Lisbon. The palace, which also served as a Franciscan monastery, was built during the reign of King John V (1707–1750), as consequence of a vow the king made in 1711, to build a convent if his wife, Queen Mary Anne of Austria, gave him offspring. The birth of his first daughter, princess Barbara of Braganza, prompted construction of the palace to begin. The palace was conveniently located near royal hunting preserves, and was usually a secondary residence for the royal family.
This vast complex is among the most sumptuous Baroque buildings in Portugal and at 40,000 m², one of the largest royal palaces. Designed by the German architect João Frederico Ludovice, the palace was built symmetrically from a central axis, occupied by the basilica, and continues lengthwise through the main façade until two major towers. The structures of the convent are located behind the main façade. The building also includes a major library, with about 40,000 rare books. The basilica is decorated with several Italian statues and includes six historical pipe organs and two carillons, composed of 92 bells.
The construction began by the laying of the first stone in 1717 with a grand ceremony in the presence of the king, his entire court and the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon. Construction lasted 13 years and mobilized a vast army of workers from the entire country (a daily average of 15,000 but at the end climbing to 30,000 and a maximum of 45,000).
The facade is 220 meters long. The whole complex covers 37,790 m² with about 1,200 rooms, more than 4,700 doors and windows, and 156 stairways. When complete the building consisted of a friary capable of sheltering 330 friars, along with a royal palace and a huge library of 40,000 books, embellished with marble, exotic woods and countless artworks taken from France, Flanders and Italy, which included six monumental pipe organs and the two carillons.
The basilica and the convent were inaugurated on the day of the King's 41st birthday on October 22, 1730. The festivities lasted for 8 days and were of a scale never seen before in Portugal. The basilica was dedicated to Our Lady and to St. Anthony.
However the building was not finished. The lantern on the cupola was completed in 1735. Work continued till 1755, when the work force was needed in Lisbon by the devastations of the Lisbon earthquake.
In 1834, after the Liberal Wars, Queen Maria II ordered the dissolution of the religious orders and the convent was abandoned by the Franciscans. During the last reigns of the House of Braganza, the palace was mainly used as a base for hunting. In 1849 the monastery part of the building was assigned to the military, a situation still in use today.
The last king of Portugal, Manuel II, following the proclamation of the republic, left on 5 October 1910 from the palace to the nearby coastal village of Ericeira on his way to exile. The palace was declared a national monument in 1907.At present, the building is conserved by the Portuguese Institute of the Architectonic Patrimony, which carried out several recovery programs, including the conservation of the main façade. A major restoration of the historical pipe organs began in 1998 and was finished in 2010.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.