Question: Where in the world is this abandoned estate and inverted tower where mysterious initiation rituals once occurred?
Answer: Regaleira Palace and Initiation Well in Sintra, Portugal
This UNESCO World Heritage palace located in Sintra, Portugal appears like something from the pages of a dark and twisted fairytale, and its eerie history matches the appearance. The dramatic palace and its surrounding gardens are entrancing but it’s what lies beneath the gardens that truly set the palace apart.
The estate had many owners over the decades, but it was Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monterio, one of the wealthiest men in Portugal at the time, who made it what it is today. At the turn of the 20th century, he purchased the property and created an opulent estate filled with Pagan and Christian symbolism. Built over the course of six years, the palace is a mix of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish, and Renaissance architecture with symbols alluding to prominent secret societies throughout. The property contains a chapel, various grottoes, water features, an underground tunnel system, and most notably, the Initiation Well which spirals deep into the Earth.
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Monterio had a strong interest in the Knights Templar, a Catholic military order from the 12th century. While the order is believed to have disbanded 700 years ago, groups like the Freemasons revived the medieval Knights Templar traditions. Supposedly Monterio led Freemason rituals at his estate, including at the Initiation Well where initiation into the Freemasons may have taken place.
The story goes that participants would enter one of the wells blindfolded and holding a sword. They would then descend nine flights of stairs, a number that represents the nine founders of the Templar. At the bottom of the well, the candidate would have to walk through a dark labyrinth and make their way back towards the light. If they could make it back to the top of the well tower and into the chapel, they would be welcomed into the brotherhood.
Whether it was actually the site of Freemason rituals remains unknown, but the property and its eerie structures clearly drew great inspiration from the Freemasons thanks to the eccentric vision of the creator.
9 Interesting Facts about Sintra, Portugal:
- Sintra is considered one of the most romantic towns in Portugal for its castles, charming streets, parks, and misty microclimate along the Portuguese Riviera.
- Sintra is one of the wealthiest municipalities in Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula. It also has one of the largest foreign expat communities in Portugal.
- A few of the castles include the Castle of the Moors, Pena National Palace, and Sintra National Palace.
- The colorful Pena Palace is located on one of the Sintra Mountain peaks and is part 16th-century monastery and part medieval fortress.
- Another castle, The Castle of the Moors, was built with a mix of Moorish and Gothic architecture and served as a place of refuge for the Portuguese royal family during the hot summer months and during the time of plague.
- English poet Lord Byron once described Sintra as a “glorious Eden” and English author Robert Southey referred to it as “the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe.”
- Sintra is also home to the Portuguese Air Museum which has a collection of vintage aircrafts as a tribute to Portugal’s achievements in aviation.
Explore the enigmatic estate during the Lisbon, Sintra Palace & Seaside Cascais post-trip extension to your Northern Spain & Portugal: Pilgrimage into the Past.