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Mafra's Convent!!

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The baroque a few stews from Lisbon!!

Translated by Rita Cruz — 2 years ago

Original text by Ana Carolina Helena

What is this about?

The baroque a few stews from Lisbon!

Main Facade: - Source: Website.

Mafra's Convent is the biggest majestic example of the Baroque style in Portugal. It was build by the Absolutist King D. João V, in 1717, and is a really monumental masterpiece, that puts the city of Mafra (located about 20 km from Lisbon) in the touristic maps.

The construction of this grandiose monument dates back to the period when Portugal had a huge empire spread for several continents, and it was only built because of all the Brazilian gold that was arriving to the metropolis.

D. João V made a promise, motivated by the religious Franciscans, because after some years of marriage with his wife, D. Maria Ana de Áustria, they still didn't have any descendent. So the promise was: if his wife had a child, he would give the order to start building a Convent in that inhospitable place, that was Mafra's village.

After a while, the first princess was born, Maria Bárbara, so the construction works started. The construction of the Convent lasted for years, because the monument had to have the same characteristics as a Royal Palace, like a rich Basilica - known for its organs and large bells, a garden and one "Tapada" (Hunting Grounds as a way to preserve the environment), that was the place where the kings used to go hunting. Inspired in the monument of Versailles, Mafra was never finished, because became a major burden, that nor even the descendants of D. João V could afford.

Besides Mafra never as been the official royal family's house, it was the main place for vacations. The last Portuguese King, D. Manuel II, also took refuge in Mafra in his last days in Portuguese soil, before exiling in England after the Implantation of the Republic in Portugal, at 5 of October of 1910.

One of the highlights is the Library, that is considered one of the prettiest in Europe, and usually in the entrance this is the first thing that the visitors ask about. The Library dates back the 16th and 18th century and has a collection of thousands of books that portraits the study of the Franciscan period. In the upper gallery there is a curious selection with the books that were forbidden during that time, and you can also see bats, that actually are contributing for the books's preservation, eating the parasites.

The baroque a few stews from Lisbon!

Library's inside view - Source: Website.

How to arrive here?

If you're coming from Lisbon, you only have one option: subway + bus. You need to use the green or to the yellow line of the subway, the station is called "Campo Grande", then you have to go down to where the bus are, and go with the bus company called "Barraqueiro Oeste" that has as a destination "Torres Vedras" - it's not direct. You can also go with the bus company "Mafrense" that has Ericeira as destination - this one is faster. The ticket costs around 4 euros, but if you buy a return ticket, you will get a 10% discount (prices of August of 2016).

You also have the possibility to rent a car and catch the A8 (highway), and you just go in Mafra's direction. Close to the Palace, on the right side of the entrance, you have free parking (every day of the week) for the visitors.

When to visit?

The National Mafra's Convent is open all year. Visiting the inside can be done regardless of weather conditions. Mafra is a windy place, and in front of the Palace you have a square, where usually is really windy, and it's unpleasant for those you don't bring a jacket or a cardigan.

The palace is open from 9h30 am. until 5h30 pm. every day, except on Tuesdays, that the entrance is done half an hour before. Unfortunately the Palace it's not accessible to people with reduced mobility. Bring comfortable shoes, because you will walk a lot: the Palace is huge and has many different halls, a visit usually lasts between one hour and half until two hours.

The baroque a few stews from Lisbon!

Basilica's inside view - Source: Website.

Every Monday morning they do a recreation in the Palace to see how it would be the daily life in here, and some volunteers and friends of the site, dressed up and try to recreated some scenes of the baroque daily life. This is something that the visitors love, specially the kids. Every first Sundays of the month, just like some others sites, the entrance is free.

In the hall of the Convent they don't allowed visits, because it belongs to the army. Just occasionally they open it to theatre performances - that portrays the famous book of the Nobel Prize, of the Portuguese writer - José Saramago - "Memorial do Convento", and sometimes even other commemorative events or special visits.

For those who want to visit the Basilica you can do it completely for free. It really worth to visit the six amazing organs that are played during weddings or concerts. Above the Basilica you have the two Tower of the Bells, with their famous large bells, called "Carrilhões", name given to huge bells, and they are considered musical instruments, and sometimes they are touched.

In the upper part of the Palace, exists a big green park, called Jardim do Cerco, and it used to be part of the royal gardens, but right now is a public space, that gives life quality to the locals. This place is perfect to good and do a picnic, or go for a walk during your break. You can enter through the parking lot, that is located on the left side of the Palace. In the back you have a playground with all the equipment to entertain the youngest ones.

In July, this space has the Festival do Pão (Bread's festival), where you can see thousands different ways to prepared bread, even the Mafra's bread. It really does worth it to see, and to try on every different products that are being sell.

How much is it?

The ticket to visit different halls and rooms of the Palace, plus the gardens is 6 euros. They have discounts for students, children, young people (until 18 years old) and families. To visit the Library, if it's not to consult books or for investigation propose, you also have to pay this amount. But this doesn't include tour guide, to do it you have to pay an extra amount of money. The tour guides happen one per day, around lunch time, and it need to achieve a certain number of people to do it.

The baroque a few stews from Lisbon!

Cerco's Garden - Source: Website.

Last impressions:

The National Mafra's Convent may be a site of interest for everyone, because it's so richful on Portuguese history. As an architecture student and local, I had the possibility to participate in some of their internships, and working in this amazing place, for a month during my Summer vacations. It was a great experience.

The only negative sides were that the site needs more attention from the public institutions and also more free information should be provided to the visitors.

As for the rest, it's a great place to visit, if you're in Lisbon, and for a getaway, and who knows even go on the same day to the west coast. For example during the afternoon you can go to Ericeira, and it is perfect for an Erasmus student that wants to know more about Lisbon's region or about the Portuguese Baroque period!

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