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 city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls.
The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar.