Quinta de Regaleira, a mysterious alchemical park
If you like gardens, magic and mysteries, this year you might think about going on holiday to Portugal, at Sintra to be precise, a locality only 25 km north west of Lisbon.
At Sintra you can find the famous Quinta da Regaleira park, built from 1898 to 1912 at the behest of its owner, Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro (1848-1920) who commissioned the project to the Italian architect and set designer Luigi Manini (1848-1936).
An initiatory journey that recalls the Divine Comedy
Manini designed for the park Quinta da Regaleira structures with Renaissance, neomanueline (ie Portuguese late-Gothic), neo-Gothic and neoclassical motifs. The path traced within the park by Manini envisages passing from the intermediate world (Purgatory), to the lower world (Hell) and finally to the upper world (Paradise), imitating the path described by Dante in the Divine Comedy.
The park path is marked by a series of stages marked by as many structures that follow a magical-initiatory order conceived by Carvalho Monteiro and Manini. It starts from the Palace, conceived as a philosopher's dwelling inspired by alchemy, six stories high divided into three groups to symbolize the ternary subdivision of the universe. We then move on to the
The mythological figures painted on the base represent the primordial kingdom from which the first forms of life emerged, the chimeras that support the fountain itself are a symbol of the fallacy of knowledge based on only the five senses, the bas-reliefs in the shape of shells and lion heads of fountain symbolize the reunification of the energies of water and fire, the three cup-shaped trays recall the Trimundio, while the five dolphins relate to the light of Apollo.
Palaces, underground tunnels and mystery symbols
We then move on to the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, connected to the palace through an underground tunnel and equipped with a well, water tank and crypt, each rich in alchemy and mystery/Masonic symbols (poppies, for example, they represent the hope of the resurrection).
There is also a Serra, designed to accommodate a variety of ornamental and exotic plants and divided into three compartments kept at different temperatures (cold, warm and warm, as the classical initiatory tradition wants to be three types of baths) and the Scuderia , which could accommodate 8 horses, 5 cows and 5 carriages and is embellished by a series of sculptures that each conceal an initiatory meaning.
The fountain of the stable in particular is constituted by a large basin in the shape of a shell (symbol of the emergence of life from the primordial waters) and is embellished with dolphins, as said symbols of the light of Apollo, that is of the divine fire. A Tower, subdivided over three floors (the cave of Leda, the acoustic chamber and the terrace) represents instead once again the union between the sky and the earth. The Source of Abundance, from which the purest water of all Sintra flows, symbolizes the primordial waters and the subsequent creation.
Three direct accesses to the underground tunnels
The Cave of the East is the first direct access to the underground tunnels; the Lake of the Waterfall is the second access to the underground tunnels, half-hidden by the water curtain of an artificial waterfall but traversable by walking over 15 flat stones that rise from the surface of the pond. Then there is the Imperfect Well, third and last of the direct accesses to the underground galleries, similar to an inverted tower that sinks into the ground.
The Guardian Portal is instead composed of a concave elongated pavilion, with two twin towers on the sides. It symbolizes the passage from the austerity to the afterlife and from it leads to a tunnel that leads to the bottom of the Initiatory Well. The latter is perhaps the most famous element of the whole garden and is bordered by a huge spiral staircase, with 22 niches (number of the major arcana of the Tarot), 10 landings (Dante's Paradise levels) and 139 steps (1 + 3 + 9 = 13, number of the major arcane of death/rebirth).
And then again: in the Quinta da Regaleira park there is a Bathing Fountain located outside a building previously used for bathing purposes is also decorated with mystery motifs, the Lodge, a short walkway covered with 7 pairs of columns, the lower part of which faces the street and houses two doors, one in wrought iron which is locked and one walled, whose symbolism implies no longer having to access the lower world, while the Path of the Gods represents the upper world.