10 April 2009

Moorish Portugal

Yesterday I went on a short trip out of Lisbon to a small town called Sintra, to try and see a bit of the country’s Moorish past.

The main attraction of the city is the Sintra National Palace which was the residence of the Moorish rulers of the region in the 10th century and is an important tourist attraction and is part of the Cultural landscape of Sintra, designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
I was hoping to compare the Moorish elements of this Palace (its courtyards and tile work) to the Alhambra - the Moorish Palace in Granada which I visited 2 years back. But sadly yesterday was a Wednesday (the only day of the week it is closed) and once again I stuck to my tradition of missing at least one important sight per trip due to bad planning!
However, the other important Moorish site of the city - Castelo dos Mouros - was not closed so I headed straight there.
The castle is located on a high hill overlooking the town, built by the Moors, possibly between the 9th and 10th centuries. Arab chronicles depict the Sintra region as being very rich in cultivated fields.
I also got a glimpse from up there of the Pena Palace, one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in the world.
The Palace (on the right in the above photo) is a profusion of eclectic styles includes the Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Islamic and Neo-Renaissance, honestly I find it quiet ugly and didn’t bother to go up there to see it.
The last significant sight of the day was the Fonte Mourisca. This fountain belongs to the romantic-revivalist period. Its author, about 1922, was the master sculptor of Sintra, José da Fonseca. Its configuration is Arab in inspiration, with neo mudejar azulejos, painted plasterwork and sculptured decoration.

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