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I sailed down the river to visit Belem, in company with an Irish gentleman, who served in the army here during the late war, and who is still kept out of his pay, and left to live as best he can, like many others, from general officers downwards, who left their country and bore the blows, while this thankless people reaped the profit. .
The palace stands upon a very fine elevated terrace, commanding a charming view of the river; and on a square underneath, the troops are occasionally reviewed by the queen.
The grounds are laid out in the old quaint style of clipped hedges, and trees cut in every fantastic form; yet, though it is the perfection of stiffness and formality, I cannot but confess it looked agreeable, for while we may be disposed to complain of the curtailment of nature's free and fair proportions, one is compelled to admire the uncommon art, neatness, and dexterity bestowed on the production of all these strange and grotesque forms. Yews and box of the large kind seem to be most generally patronised by the gardeners ; the latter grows in great luxuriance.
In one place, you behold it cut into the shape of a huge melon ; in another, into a gigantic pine-apple: here it assumes a beautiful spiral, and there you see it take the shape of some antique monster. The hedges are about a foot high, and laid out in most curious patterns, leaving a very small space within for flowers.
Handsome fountains adorn the gardens; and on the parterres are some good specimens of Portuguese statuary, particularly one of the Grecian Daughter. A tank of vast size, at the top of the gardens, contains the largest mullet I ever saw, some at least twenty to thirty pounds weight, in fresh water.
The aviary contains nothing but a few sparrows; the dens for the wild beasts are all locked
and empty; and the whole place has a forsaken, desolate aspect.
The palace itself has a mean exterior, and is, as usual, half covered with Dutch pottery; a fine suite of rooms runs along the front of the building, of good proportions, and very tolerably furnished. The walls are completely covered with pictures, some of considerable merit, but all unframed. The likeness of Don John is seen every where, on the ceilings, in the corridors, above, below, to the right, and to the left; and, indeed, he was no beauty, having much of the negro cast of countenance. It was once the favourite residence of the royal family, but the present poor queen is not allowed by her ministers the enjoyment of even this quiet retreat.
The adjoining convent is worthy of a more attentive inspection than I had time to bestow on it. It is now used as an asylum for 1500 poor children. The workmanship of the church attached is extraordinary ; the external walls are a perfect fret-work of ornament, and the flying buttresses are covered with .vines carved in bas-relief, twining about and
clinging to them, through the foliage of which peep out the faces of innumerable angels and seraphs. The clustering of figures on the walls is, if any thing, too thick; the eye becomes wearied, not finding a single unoccupied spot whereon to rest.
The architecture, preserved in the doors and windows, is gothic, but the sculpture and ornament are unique. The whole has somewhat the colour of reddish blotting paper, a description of sand-stone very liable to be destroyed by atmospheric influence. A poor priest sat begging at the door, still retaining the broad-brimmed hat and thread-bare russet habiliments of his order. He, however, was not permitted to enter within the precincts of what had formerly been his home, and had belonged to his once-powerful order, and he looked wistfully through the gates, as they closed behind us.
In the interior, the crowded ornament was dropped, and gave place to a chasteness and simplicity of decoration designed in the most perfect taste. Six pillars of grey polished marble on each side formed the aisle; these reared their exceedingly tall slender shafts aloft, and branching at top into the form of a palm, spread out their broad thin foliage to support a roof of matchless elegance. The pulpit, like the pillars, is of grey marble, and covered with the same elaborate lace-work. The whole is a splendid specimen of arabesque, and strikes the beholder as being the product of enchantment rather than the work of mortal hands. It is
THE TOMB OF ALFONZO.
amongst the largest edifices of the kind in Portugal. I had almost forgotten to mention the altar, on which stands the tabernacle, celebrated by all travellers as being one of the largest pieces of plate in existence, at least six feet square. It is of silver, beautifully wrought in the most delicate filigree, but much tarnished. Behind the altar is the vault, containing the tomb of the unfortunate Alfonzo the VI. With much difficulty I persuaded the sexton to open the vault—we descended, and great indeed was the old man's amazement at my removing the lid of the large trunk-shaped coffin. The dryness of the atmosphere has preserved his body in great perfection, evaporating the fluids, and leaving the flesh and skin black, shrivelled, and adhering to the bones; the lips being retracted from this cause, exposed the teeth, which were white and in the finest preservation—the head was small, and the forehead narrow, retreating, and unintellectual. He is dressed in his robes of state, profusely ornamented, with a rich embroidered cap on his head, and round all is wrapped a fine muslin robe, spangled with gold. On each side of him are deposited an infanta of Portugal, his children. The tomb of Don Manuel, who raised this beauteous pile, in honour and commemoration of the voyage and achievements of Vasco de Gama, in the new world, stands on the left of the altar—it is hewn out of an enormous block of black marble, highly polished, and is of great elegance of design and workmanship.
THE ALTAR OF ST. ROCH.
Before leaving Lisbon, we must visit St. Roch, which embodies all that is curious and beautiful in the city ; it is now very difficult of access, but well repays all the trouble expended in gaining admission. The general appearance of the interior of the church offers little to comment upon—the roof and walls are gaudily painted; the latter embellished with tasteful pilasters, and altars in white marble, inlaid with bronze, more curious than beautiful; but the grand object of attraction, the famous altar of St. John, stands in a recess to the left, and is concealed from view by a rich crimson curtain, removed, for the inspection of the public, only on one day in the year—the feast of St. John. We were conducted through a dark narrow gallery, and having been led to the centre, opposite the altar, the curtain was slowly withdrawn; and such a sight! After standing in silent admiration some minutes, “Oh, how very grand!” burst involuntarily from us all. It is a perfect gem in Mosaic, where all the splendid marbles of the Peninsula are displayed in the most skilful arrangement. We stood in a small chamber, railed off from the rest of the church; the massive doors on either side through which we entered are of burnished brass, and of most exquisite open-work"; the walls are encrusted with dark marble, from which stand out, in clusters, pillars of polished marble, judiciously contrasted with pilasters of a darker hue, placed behind. The capitals are of the Corinthian order, and wrought in brass, as