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picturesque village itself—the old Moorish castle on the hills above, crowned by the Penha convent, and the lofty domes of the royal palace beneath, make this the most attractive spot in Portugal.
An additional charm is given to the scene, by the ivy-clad walls, covered at top by amarylles and crimson geraniums, which flourish here in the greatest profusion and brilliancy, and by the huge evergreen oaks and cork-trees, (on which grows a beautiful parasitic fern,) intertwined with vines that spread their graceful festoons from branch to branch. There is a handsome promenade, surrounded by rows of elms and tulip trees; at the lower end are the houses of two nobles, with their odious pink fronts and ugly busts. It was in one of those “ the Convention” was signed. Our fare at the English hotel, and the Port and Collares, were very passable ; I wish I could say as much for the beds, which were of flock, lumpy, uncomfortable, and tenanted by myriads of bugs.
The morning after our arrival, we procured donkeys to ascend the heights. The road winds in a zig-zag course up the steep, and though almost precipitous, was climbed in safety by our little animals. As we ascended, the scene beneath gradually disclosed itself; Cintra—its detached houses, the church and palace, rising out of the rich foliage of vines and elms, and still further down the ravine, the numerous groves of orange and olive, watered by rills of the purest crystal, collected
ITS MOORISH CASTLE.
from the neighbouring heights.
The mountain itself is bold and rugged, composed of blocks of granite boulders, with scarcely a blade of any thing green between. . The outer wall of the ancient Moorish castle surrounds one of the secondary heights, and as it creeps from rock to rock, is guarded at short intervals by round or square towers, many of which are perched on enormous blocks of granite. The inner wall above looks as if cast round the neck of the peak, like a collar, while the summit is crowned by the square black walls of the Morisco Fortalice, within which are the remains of an ancient bath and mosque. It must have been a place of great strength; but there is nothing in the shape of inscription to declare the origin or the founder. We continued our way to the Penha convent, which tops the highest pinnacle of the range; in its eyrie-like position, it bears the appearance of one of those small turrets that jut out from the walls of our ancient castles. With much difficulty we urged our donkeys up the steep ascent on which the convent stands ; the massive gate had fallen from its hinges—the grass had grown over the well-paved yard—the garden-fence had been long since demolished, and the nettle and the hemlock had choked
up its walks and parterres. No burly friar came to bid us welcome—no lay-brother ran to hold our donkeys-and although it was the Sabbath morning, silence and desolation reigned throughout.
THE PENHA CONVENT.
The only disturbers of its solitude were a few jack-daws, that cawed and fluttered round the chimney-tops, scared at our loud knocking, which reverberated through the building; and some straggling sheep, whose tinkling bells we heard as they leaped over the garden-wall at our approach. All else was silent, upon a day when these rocks and valleys so often rung with “the toll of the summoning bell," and the surrounding peasantry in their gay attire filled its courts, or knelt before its altar, for wretchedness, ruin, and decay have taken up their abode, where for so many years peculiar sanctity was believed to dwell. Our uproar for admission at last appeared to wake its only inmate, a wretched old woman, who admitted us, after a reconnoitring glance through one of the side windows. In the outer court stands the entrance to the church, the chief object of attraction here; it is a square porch, supported on four pillars of singular twisted rope-work, with knobs between, from which springs a light and elegantly groined roof; but on the top of this portico, they have stuck a contemptible little spire, covered with the eternal Dutch tile, that quite spoils the architectural effect.
The door-way is of the old round arch, deeply groined, and of exquisite workmanship. The chapel is small, and the altar is looked upon as a piece of most elaborate art; it reaches to the roof, and seems large for the size of the apartment.
THE CORK CONVENT.
going fast to ruin, even the figures of saints and virgins on the altar are losing their tinselled finery, which is now falling to rags, and the tabernacle is thrown into a corner, and mouldering to decay. The monks themselves have been driven hence, and the whole pile, amongst the cloisters and arcades of which many beautiful specimens of Moorish architecture are to be found, wears an aspect of loneliness that lends its saddening influence even to the casual visitor. The view from this spot is most extensive ; beyond Cintra, and the wooded heights of Collares, all inland appears a brown, barren waste, as far as the eye can reach; but seaward, the prospect is glorious. The Tagus, from above Lisbon, is traceable to the ocean ; while to the north, the tall towers of Mafra rise high above the horizon, and close the view.
In our ride over the mountains, we passed the Cork convent, a most romantic spot, and so hidden among the rocks, that you see nothing of it till you get between two large blocks of stone that form the entrance. Inside, it is completely covered with the rough bark of the cork tree; the simple friars had decorated the altar, opposite the entrance, with pieces of china, broken plates, shells, and corals from the coast, not inaptly resembling a baby-house ; but it too is abandoned to neglect and to the ruthless hand of time. Its community consisted of only two or three capuchins, the last remaining of whom, taking the strong hint afforded
STATE OF RELIGION.
by the treatment of his brethren of De Penha, decamped with the plate and the little treasure belonging to his house. In the garden we found a full-sized figure of our Saviour lying on its face, imbedded in the soft earth, and the crown of thorns, that bound its brow, in one of the adjoining walks !! A few short years, nay, almost months ago, this figure was held to be the most sacred in Portugal, and none of the peasantry ever went to their daily work without paying their devotions to it. What then shall we say for the religion of such a land. Religion there is none ; infidelity has usurped the place of ignorance and blind devotion, and now stalks naked throughout the length and breadth of the Peninsula, but more particularly in Portugal. By the present constitution, no male religious houses are permitted ; all priestly orders have been abolished—the monks and friars, driven from their princely establishments to live upon the sum of one and sixpence a-day, and their estates and large revenues confiscated to the crown. What the French Revolution commenced, and Napoleon carried on, Don Pedro, and the glimmering of enlightenment now breaking on this land, have completed. It is in contemplation to do away with the different nunneries, but it is to be hoped, that ample provision will be made for the helpless inmates, before such a measure is adopted; and, I have no doubt, but that it is one which will be hailed with the truest gratitude by every signorita in Portugal,