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it is, that a certain king was discovered by his queen in this very room kissing one of the maids of honour, who held a magpie on her arm; on seeing her majesty he exclaimed, “por ben,” the Portuguese “honi soit.” The queen withdrew; but on the king's leaving for Lisbon, a few days after, she had this room thus decorated against his return. A small chamber, tiled completely over, is shown as that in which Don Sebastian held his last council before his ill-fated African expedition. Our guide next conducted us to a small attic room, where, assuming a most rueful aspect, he informed us, that Don Alfonzo the VI. was imprisoned by his queen for upwards of nine years :-unfit to rule his kingdom or his wife. The whole of the flooring, except where his pallet stood, is worn by the footsteps of the poor captive. The only other object worth mentioning is what we may call “the hall of stags”—the panels in the walls and dome of this handsome apartment having each a stag painted in the centre, with a shield hung from its neck, on which are emblazoned the arms of some one of the nobility of Portugal, and bearing the crest between the horns. The devices of the princes of the blood-royal form the upper range ; and below, the wall represents a stag-hunt in blue tile. As the present poor queen is not now allowed to enjoy the sweets of this beautiful retreat, the whole has gone much out of repair, and the furniture is hardly fit for a plain English gentleman.
Most of the English residents have houses at Cintra. A pic-nic was got up to-day, to which we were kindly invited. The rendezvous was one of the Quintas a few miles distant, and thither we now bent our steps, accompanied by three "cheeping middies," that morning let loose from their wooden prisons in the Tagus. Our walk lay by Montserrat—formerly the princely mansion of Beckford ; now mouldering in ruins. It was an exceedingly elegant and tasteful building, in the English style, but scarcely a vestige of its roof now remains; and within its once highly decorated halls and costly chambers, the bramble, the thorn, and the thistle, flourish in undisturbed luxuriance. A few short years more, and a guide will have to lead the traveller to the spot where the eccentric author of Vathec held his court. It is a most romantic spot, commanding in its prospect every beauty that Cintra and the surrounding country affords. The lofty, tree-clad mountains behind, the undulating cultivated plain before—in the dis
tance, the illimitable sea—and around, long slopes of vineyards, with groves of the finest orange and lemon trees—force an exclamation of rapture, sadly qualified by regret at the utter destruction to which this most lovely of retreats is fast hastening. On the western turret still stands the flag-staff from which the silken banner of old England so often fluttered in the breeze; it seemed conscious of the dignity it once possessed, and in defiance of the ruin going on around, was determined to “spin it out, and fight it to the last.” One of the largest Tangerine orange trees in Portugal flourishes in the lawn, and clumps of magnificent arbutus, not to be surpassed by even those of our own dear Killarney, border the ravine that separates the demesne from the hills behind; but scarcely a trace of the walks and pleasure-grounds now remains. Our pic-nic went off as well as meals of that comfortless description generally do ; dancing followed ; and having seen the ladies safely mounted on their donkeys, we strolled quietly home by moonlight.
The principal society in this part of the country is English, as the present Portuguese aristocracy are either beggars or exiles; and the few who do not come under this description, decline society, from disgust at the unceremonious deprivation of the power and honours they had so long exclusively enjoyed. On this account strangers see little of Portuguese manners or society, and what they do see is generally at the houses of the English residents.
Next morning 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 creeps up the sides of a ravine, owing its existence 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 appear above the surface in many places.
We reached the convent about noon, 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 ; and 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 is a St. Vincent, and the other a St. Sebastian, by Carlo Monaldi, in the usual attitude, bound to a tree, and 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 dome—the 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; and between these altars there is a row of tall Corinthian pillars. The grand altar is supported by two red porphyry pillars, each 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 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 scene. 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 marble-studded hall.
From the chapel we passed into the sacristy, and were the.ce conducted through corridors of immense length, lined on both sides 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 oriental dialects. It is clean, and well aired; but the present librarian could afford us but little information, not being able to read himself! The whole of this vast assemblage of literature, the accumulation 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.
From thence we proceeded to the flat roof, where alone we could judge of the prodigious extent of the building, and there our wonder ceased at its holding 10,000 men. The convent forms a grand square, intersected in the centre by rows of chambers of a lesser height. In the midst are fountains, gardens, and parterres ; and behind, the immense park of Mafra, formerly filled with deer and other game, stretches down to the sea. There is a very fine
peal of bells in each turret, worked by a barrel connected with the clock-machinery, but this being out of order, they do not now 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 his name and that of his ship with black paint on the polished marble !
The clergy are forbidden entrance to this place, as well 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 steps waiting for his hour of admission.
We had bespoke dinner at the village inn, and the following bill of fare will give some 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 hen for her young progeny. On our sitting down to dinner, we discovered that our soup was composed of the bony carcase of the sexagenarian hen we had so lately admired; our hunger would, however, have made even this palatable, but for the quantity of vinegar and aniseed it contained. This course was then removed by half a dozen chickens, the skeleton progeny of their deceased mother. Being utterly disgusted and unable to touch these, our attendant buoyed us up with the hope of a second course ; it came, and consisted of roast pork, stuffed with garlic and aniseed, and garnished with coarse brown sugar. The wine and brandy were also strongly tinctured with that abominable Portuguese luxury, aniseed. In short, this, with garlic and Dutch tiles, are to be smelt, felt, and seen, wherever one journeys throughout the length and breadth of the land.
To increase our discomfort, the carriages we had ordered from Lisbon did not arrive, and to think of sleeping here was any thing but cheering. The evening approaching, we were obliged to remount our jaded mules, and set forward on the road to Cintra, but fortunately we met the carriages at Penado.
The road from this to Lisbon is rather picturesque, being more wooded and diversified with hill and dale; and the orange groves, particularly near the beautiful village of Bella Vista, are