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APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY.
We bade adieu to Cintra, and turned our faces towards Mafra. The roads are so unfit for carriages that we were obliged to ride. We traversed a most barren and thinly populated country, still worse than any we had yet seen ; it looks a perfect desert, except where an occasional lemon or orange grove crept up the sides of a ravine, owing to the fertilizing power of some neighbouring spring. The small village of Penado was the only collection of houses we met for the distance of twelve miles. The
gorge in which this picturesque hamlet is situated, is spanned by an enormous bridge of blue limestone, taken from the neighbouring quarry-an inspection of the fossil shells of which will well repay the traveller's trouble. On the other side of the ravine the porphyritic limestone breaks out; but the principal rock in this part of the kingdom is the common grey marble, the strata of which appears above the surface in many places.
We reached the convent, and were struck more with its vast extent than the beauty of its architecture. This immense pile is said to be the largest in Europe, next to the Escurial ; and some notion of its magnitude may be formed from the fact of 10,000 soldiers having been reviewed upon its roof. It was once the favourite residence of the Portuguese monarchs in the olden days of despotism and devotion. The circumstance of its erection is said to be this: John V. having no family, a monk of great piety, the queen’s confessor, stated, that his majesty would
not be long childless if he built a Franciscan cell at Mafra ; the expectant king performed his part of the condition, and the fulfilment of the prophecy in due time led to the building being enlarged to its present magnitude. The front faces the dirty village of Mafra; the splendid entrance is flanked on either side by a tower and spire 200 feet high, between which, but farther back, rises the dome of the church, and the front view is terminated at either extremity by a beautiful pavilion in the Turkish style. An immense flight of steps leads to the highly ornamented semicircular portico, in which are several colossal figures, beautifully executed in white marble—those standing at the sides of the church door I cannot pass by in silence. One, a St. Vincent, the other a St. Sebastian, by Carlo Monaldi, in the usual attitude, bound to a tree, pierced with arrows: both are noble specimens of statuary. We entered the church, and how shall I attempt to describe the grand imposing spectacle that riveted us to the spot?—the great height and vast extent; the elaborate workmanship, with carving of the most curious art; the numerous altars, paintings, and statues; but far above all, the beauty, variety, and splendour of the marbles. Wherever the eye can reach it is only marble ; the fretted roof-the panelled walls—the lofty and most beauteous domethe floor, and the gigantic pillars, form a perfect sea of marble, of the most brilliant polish, and endless variety of colour.
The massive gates are of bronze, and finely cast in open work. On either side is a number of small altars jutting out into the aisle, each surmounted by a bas-relief in white marble, and having a statue of the same material at either corner. Between these altars is a row of tall Corinthian pillars. The grand altar is supported on either hand by a red porphyry pillar of one stone, thirty feet high, and the altar-piece itself is a splendid painting, by Travisani, representing Saint Anthony receiving the infant Messiah. There are no less than six organs of great size, power, and tone. No tawdry decoration, no tinsel-clad saint, not one bit of gilding, and not a trace of the eternal pottery-ware is to be seen, to mar the effect of its chaste and classic beauties. With one exception, all the altars have been stripped of their costly furniture; and although the massive candelabra still remain, they no longer throw their wavy light over the
One dim and solitary lamp burned before the only altar still in use, and gloom and desolation have settled within those walls, where once the proud display of monkish superstition was wont to flourish, when the mitred abbot, with four hundred priests, and even royalty itself, assisted at the ceremonial. With a lingering step, and many a longing look thrown back, did I leave this marblestudded hall.
From the chapel we passed into the sacristy, and were thence conducted through corridors of
immense length, lined on either side by cells, to the kitchen, which was fitted out on a scale of magnitude and convenience apparently ill-suited to the abstemious habits professed by its late inmates.
In the great dining-hall the seats and table frames were of Brazil wood, supporting marble slabs. Dozens of these corridors and winding passages were passed in succession, and on ascending an immense staircase, we were ushered into the library, with the exception of the chapel, the place of greatest interest here. It is one of the largest in Europe ; of fine proportions, and lighted from the top ; the books are in good preservation, and mostly on old divinity and jurisprudence, with, however, some antique and very valuable editions of the Scriptures in Arabic and other dialects. The whole of this vast assemblage of literature, the accumulations of centuries, is about to be removed to a library erecting at Lisbon, and designed to hold the books of all the monastic establishments in the kingdom. It was clean, and well aired; but the present librarian could afford us but little information, not being able to read himself.
Thence we proceeded to the flat roof, where alone we could judge of the prodigious extent of the building, and our wonder ceased at its holding 10,000 men. A look over the parapet gives some idea of its height, when the tallest poplars approach
VIEW FROM THE ROOF.
to but within some stories of where you stand. The building forms a grand square, intersected in the centre by rows of chambers of a lesser height; in the midst are fountains, gardens, and parterres. Behind, the immense park of Mafra stretches down to the sea, formerly filled with deer and other game. There is a very fine peal of bells in each turret, worked by a barrel connected with the clockmachinery, which being out of order, they do not chime as usual.
Here we had an exhibition of an attempt made by one of our navy officers to signalize himself in a way that adds but little to his credit. A flag-lieutenant of one of our men-of-war having contrived to mount above the clock, bedaubed with black paint the polished marble with his name and ship.
The clergy are forbidden entrance to this place, as to the cathedral at Belem ; all, except one old monk, who being the most ancient of its late occupants, is permitted to go once a day to celebrate mass in the chapel. We found him, bent with age, sitting on the entrance-steps waiting for his hour of admission.
We had bespoke dinner at the village inn, and the following bill of fare will give a notion of the state of the culinary art at present in the country parts of Portugal.
While waiting for the keys of the convent, we had been attracted by the solicitude of a clocking