Queluz is a populous area in the municipality of Sintra about 12 kms from Lisbon. In the early 18th century it was the idyllic country setting of the royal family’s estate and hunting lodge, which the Infante Dom Pedro, son of King Dom João V, ordered to be converted into the Summer Palace.
The conversion work between 1747 and 1760 was supervised by the architects Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and the Frenchman Robillion, who added a new west wing to the initial plan, known as the Robillion Pavilion, and worked on the decoration of the finest spaces such as the Throne Room, the Music Room and the Ambassadors’ Room.
The palace, predominantly in the “rocaille” and Rococo style, contains an important collection of decorative art – Portuguese furniture, painting, carpets, porcelain and tiles. The geometrically designed gardens, too, are very beautiful, surrounding the palace and concealing lakes and sculptures, and in the park there is a tiled canal through which a stream used to flow and where the royal family would take boat trips. The annexes to the main building have been converted into a “Pousada” (country-house hotel).
The palace salons are open to the public for classical music concerts and every Wednesday there are performances by the Portuguese Riding School in the open-air riding arena.
Museums and Palaces
The sheer magnificence of the monumental architectural design of the palace, convent and basilica of Mafra bears witness to the opulence of the court of king João V (1707-1750). It was king João V who ordered the building of what proved to be the defining landmark of the Portuguese Baroque era. The design was by Frederico Ludovice who incorporated an architectural language and style Italian in inspiration.
The summer residence of the royal family, the Palace includes various collections featuring works by mainly Portuguese, Italian and French artists working to royal order including Baroque painting and sculpture, religious vestments and ornaments and mural paintings by leading Portuguese artists including Cirilo Volkmar Machado and Domingos Sequeira.
The Basilica houses a set of six organs, unique worldwide and they come in addition to two carillons totalling 114 bells – 57 in each tower. Made in Antwerp in the 18th century, they are also the largest of their kind worldwide.
The Rocaille Library must be seen. On the eastern wing of the Convent of Mafra, the library is housed in an 83-metre main room, the longest in the complex. It is by far the most important monastic-royal library of the 18th century in Portugal. The Monks from the Convent of Arrábida organised the some 40,000 18th and 19th century volumes into a system that has survived to this day. They drew up a catalogue featuring the titles of all books acquired through to 1819. This valuable collection includes, 16th, 17th and 18th century books, many of them highly rare, such as the 22 foreign incunabula and 41 maps.