Fairy Tale Initiation Rites

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Out of the three monuments that I’ve visited in Sintra, the Quinta da Regaleira is my uncontested favorite. It was my reason for going to Sintra in the first place, and it did not disappoint. While the manor on the property is a whirlwind of decadence that is delightful to walk through, the grounds is what makes it truly spectacular and worth visiting.

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What was most exciting to me about the Quinta was the fact that it is home to the Wells of Initiation, a pair of underground towers that are dimly lit and surrounded by caverns and grottoes, giving them an undeniably mystical feel.

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Apparently, they were used for ceremonial purposes as part of Tarot initiation rites.

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The rest of the grounds look much like this – fragments of towers and walls everywhere, sometimes peeking from behinds shrubs and fancifully covered by a thick blanket of moss. I honestly felt like I was walking through a fairy tale the first time I was there, I couldn’t even believe that a place such as this could be real.

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The “Regaleira” part of the estate’s name comes from the fact that the land was once owned by the Viscounts of Regaleira, a family of wealthy merchants from Porto. In 1892, they sold the property to António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, who was known as Monteiro dos Milhões, or Monteiro the Millionaire.

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There is also a chapel on the property, though the more interesting building is definitely the Palácio.

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Monteiro hired the Italian set designer and architect Luigi Manini to create a building that evoked Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline styles and that was constructed between 1904 and 1910 – allegedly with symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.

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