Monserrate Palace (Palácio de Monserrate)

Monserrate Palace



Location: Estrada de Monserrate

Tel. 219 237 300

Open: 1 May- 14 Jun, 16 Sept- 31 Oct: 9am- 7pm

15 Jun- 15 Sept: 9am- 8pm

1 Nov- 30 Apr: 9:30am- 6pm

Closed: 25 Dec


Description of The Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is a former palatial villa located near a town of Sintra in Portugal. The Monserrate Palace was build in 1858 for English baronet Sir Francis Cook (1817- 1901) on a site of an older residence. This British merchant and art collector was made Visconde de Monserrate by Portuguese King Luis. Sir Francis Cook was probably inspired by poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by Anglo- Scottish poet Lord Byron. Famous poet visited these lands in 1809 and description of natural landscapes might have drawn rich British merchant to these lands for inspiration. The design of the building was made by a British architect James Knowles who used Arabic motifs in his creation. Meanwhile the garden that surrounds Monserrate Palace was designated and organized by painter William Stockdale, botanist William Nevill and master gardener James Burt. Gardens of the villa harmoniously turn into wild forests and meadows that surround it. In 1920's Monserrate Palace was put for sale and after several owners it was bought in 1949 by a state.



There may have been a chapel on these lands, this one even before the reconquest of Sintra by D. Afonso Henriques, and which would mark the tomb of a Christian-Mozarabic who had died fighting a rich Arab who commanded the area. In 1540 the cleric Gaspar Preto ordered the construction of a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Monserrate, at this time the chapel and the surrounding land belonged to the Hospital de Todos-os-Santos in Lisbon.

In 1601 the property was leased to the Melo e Castro family until 1718 when it was finally acquired by D. Caetano de Melo e Castro, Commander of Christ and Viceroy of India. As the family lives in Goa, the property was maintained by caretakers, at least until 1755 when the violent earthquake left the houses uninhabitable.

In 1790 Gerad DeVisme (a wealthy English merchant, representative and associate of the firm DeVisme, Purry & Mellish, who had obtained the monopoly of the Brazilian timber trade from the Marquis of Pombal) leased the farm to Dona Francisca Xavier Mariana de Faro Melo e Castro, having built the first palace, in neo-gothic style. He also demolished the 16th century chapel, having built another that would be used by Francis Cook to create a false ruin. It was in 1793 that William Beckford leased the property to DeVisme, investing heavily in the palace but even more in improving the gardens.

Only in 1856 and after several decades of abandonment (Beckford having left Portugal at the end of the 18th century) did Quinta de Monserrate leave the hands of the Melo e Castro family, in the person of José Maria de Castro, who returned from Goa and sold the farm to build a residence in Lisbon.

The buyer was an English textile millionaire, Francis Cook, heir to Cook, Son & Co and husband of Anglo-Portuguese Emily Lucas. The palace was designed by James Knowles and the gardens were the subject of interventions by landscaper William Stockdale, botanist William Nevill, and James Burt, master gardener, who would spend the rest of his life in Monserrate. Cook makes Monserrate the family's summer residence, filling it with works of art from his huge collection (now spread over numerous museums).

More than 2000 people are thought to have worked on the palace during construction, 50 of which were employed exclusively for gardening. After the works are completed, the Cooks employ around 300 people to take care of the house, the park and the family. They buy 13 neighboring farms (Quintas de S. Bento, da Infanta, da Cabeça, da Ponte Redonda, da Bela Vista, de S. Tiago, de Pombal, das Bochechas, da Boiça, Quinta Grande and Quinta Pequena) and also the Convento dos Capuchos with their fence became important owners and employers in the surrounding lands, much like what happened in English country houses. Due to the work and efforts that Francis Cook had put into the reconstruction of the farm, as well as the construction of two primary schools (for the children of his staff) in Galamares and Colares, houses and even a theater, King D. Luís I grants him the title of Viscount of Monserrate.

In 1884 he was given the title of Baronet in England, and Sir Francis Cook lived until he was 84 years old. Until the end of his life he would spend long periods in Sintra, during the months of November, most of April, May and June. During the rest of the year, the house was given over to a family of caretakers who undertook to take care of the house.

The property will remain in the possession of the Cook family until 1947 when Sir Herbert Cook is forced to sell the farm after the family lost much of their fortune in the first half of the 20th century. In this sale, the valuable contents of the palace are lost, which will be dispersed during the auction.

Saúl Fradesso da Silveira de Salazar Moscoso Saragga (1894-1964), an antiques dealer in Lisbon, bought the palace and sold it in 1949 to the Portuguese State, which also bought 143 hectares of Tapada de Monserrate. The Serra de Sintra, where the palace is located, was classified as a Cultural Landscape - World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995 and in 2010 work began on the restoration of the Palace of Monserrate, now open to the public.



The initial building built by Gerad DeVisme was an elongated construction topped at the ends by two cylindrical towers and covered by cone-shaped roofs (this being the essential structure that has remained until today). It was a neo-gothic castle that underwent alterations by Beckford, having been the scene of numerous parties. He thus managed to become the center of an elite of intellectuals that Beckford gathered around him. One of the most celebrated is George Byron, an Anglo-Scottish poet and figure in the Romantic movement, who in 1809 would refer to Monserrate in his work "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage".

It is known that around 1840 the original building was abandoned, the lead roofs had already been stolen and some of the ceilings had collapsed.

In 1858, the new owner Francis Cook hired the services of the English architect James Knowles to design a new palace, taking advantage of the foundations and some walls of the previous building (some of which were over a hundred years old). The construction, which will last from 1863 to 1865, reveals an orientalist and eclectic taste, with markedly Gothic, Indian and Arab elements. In general, it presents a rigorous symmetry, marked at the center by a set of elegant columns that support the neo-medieval arcade. The English contractor J. Samuel Bennett was hired to work with D. Fernando in the restoration of the Convento dos Jerónimos.

Inside, we find an octagonal atrium formed by Gothic arches and pink marble columns (with a set of stairs that go up to Francis Cook's private quarters), the Dining Room, the Library with walnut shelves and a beautiful high door. -relief, the Chapel, the Main Atrium, also octagonal and featuring a classicist-inspired Carrara marble fountain, as well as perforated alabaster Delhi panels that function as carved screens. This Atrium, topped by a cupola profusely decorated with wood and stucco, is in the center of the Gallery that runs through the entire palace, from the North Tower to the South Tower. We also have the Billiards Room, the Indian Living Room and finally the Music Room, a room with generous proportions, excellent acoustics and rich decoration. It has a stucco dome and a frieze with representations of the Muses and Graces.


Monserrate Park

The park covers 33 hectares and has several gardens where an impressive botanical collection can be found, with specimens from all over the world. The construction would have been extended from 1863 to 1929, with a project generally attributed to William Colebrook Stockdale, painter of landscapes of romantic style, although he only worked directly on the site in 1863, 1874 and 1875. In 1885, the gardens of the Palace de Monserrate were referred to in a two-part article in The Gardner's Chronicle (of London).

Jardim do México is located in the hottest and driest area of ​​the property, gathering here plants from the warmest climates such as the Mexican Taxodium, the Giant Strellia (South Africa), Bunia Bunia (Australia) and Coquitos -of-Chile.

The Japan Garden is home to Asian plants such as Bamboo, Camellia (Southeast Asia), Yew (Europe, Northwest Africa, Southeast Asia), Fiji and Ginkgo (Southwest China).

The Vale dos Fetos presents several specimens of tree ferns arranged along the slope. In 1867/1868 Twelve tree ferns, each about 2.5 meters tall, were cut in the Dandenong Mountains of Australia and transported (without roots or fronds) in pine boxes filled with moist sawdust. These specimens were first planted inside the ruin of the chapel, treated to allow acclimatization and then transplanted into the valley. Of the first twelve fetuses, 8 survived.

The Ornamental Lakes have different depths and different temperatures in order to host exotic aquatic plants, including the most important Papyrus and Water lilies.

There is also a Rose Garden with around 200 historical varieties whose restoration was completed in 2011, when it was inaugurated by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The park is decorated with different elements in a romantic way, including some designed by William Beckford, such as the artificial waterfall (it was necessary to divert a stream to achieve it), as well as the Arch of Vathek, which shares its name with the main character in Beckford's famous novel Vathek). The fake Cromlech is also believed to be the work of Beckford.

In terms of built structures, the highlight is the false ruin of a Chapel, by Francis Cook, in the romantic taste of the time and inspired by the numerous ruins of monasteries and abbeys in the United Kingdom. Inside the ruin there was still an Etruscan sarcophagus that is currently in the Archaeological Museum of S. Miguel de Odrinhas, in Sintra. This was part of a set of three that were acquired by Cook from the Campanari family around 1860.

An ornamental Indian Arch, purchased in 1857 by Cook from Charles Canning, Governor-General of India, decorates the Perfumed Path that ends at the main entrance to the palace.

In the Casa de Pedra (a rustic building whose exterior is covered with irregular stones) there was a carpentry shop and a cowshed, which is today the headquarters of Parques de Sintra - Monte da Lua, S.A.

There is also a painting workshop used by Sir Francis Cook (1907-1978), great-grandson of the 1st Viscount of Monserrate.