Cultural Landscape of Sintra
Monastery and royal summer resort.
Location and site
In the province of Estremadura, the Serra of Sintra, a narrow chain which is rich with vegetation and topped with granite peaks, extends between Lisbon and the Atlantic coast. At the foot of the Serra and on its north flank, the city of Sintra enjoys an exceptional climate.
In the mountain as in the city, the architecture, the gardens and parks, and the natural surroundings of Sintra make up a harmonious ensemble. The urban square adjacent to the Royal Palace provided the basis of the network of narrow and irregular streets sprinkled with smaller squares; this network opens up towards the periphery where the vegetation is more abundant. Streets with stairways facilitate access on the slopes.
Royal palaces, monasteries and hermitages punctuate and dominate this romantic landscape, which links a taste for rare floral species with the solitude of the mountainous topography and the richness of the architectural heritage. The combination of styles (Moorish, Gothic, “Mudéjar,” “Manueline,” Baroque, and Italianate) and their exotism often evoke history as well as legend. Villas surrounded by gardens, some of which are audacious in inspiration, integrate harmoniously with the ensemble.
This cultural landscape represents a novel approach to romantic landscape design which has had a considerable influence. It is, among other things, a unique example of the cultural occupation of a specific place which has maintained its essential integrity as a representation of a diversity of successive cultures. The result of literary and artistic influences, these structures create harmony between exotic flora and a landscape that has been refined and elaborated by man. Its integrity is fragile and vulnerable. (II), (IV) and (V).
- As part of the territory of the Roman town of Olisipo (later Lisbon), Sintra had been inhabited as early as the 2nd century B.C. by Romans.
- During the Muslim period (713-1147) Sintra appeared in geography documents (Al-Bakri, 11th century, and again in the 13th century) as dependent upon Lisboa and a major urban centre after that city.
- During the Muslim period (713-1147), Sintra appeared in geography texts (Al-Bakri, 11th century, taken up again in the 13th century) as a dependency of Lisbon and the second major urban centre after Lisbon.
- During the reign of John I (1385-1433), the military conquest of Ceuta marked the beginning of Portugal’s great maritime era. In Sintra, work was undertaken at the royal palace; this continued into the 15th and 16th centuries. Aristocrats erected splendid villas in Sintra and on the slopes of the Serra. The palace was one of the principal resorts for the court.
- Under the Spanish administration (1580-1640), the court abandoned Sintra. In the 19th century, the King-Consort Fernando II transformed a monastery into the Palace of Pena. With the return of the court, Sintra witnessed its heyday. The qualities of its site attracted wealthy people and artists.