The National Palace of Mafra was proclaimed a Unesco world Heritage site in 2019, and when we visited the palace on a sunny day in January, it wasn't hard to see why.
With its imposing facade of approximately 220 meters in length, it's just monumental. In the middle is the church, built out of white marble which is symmetrically flanked on both sides by the palace.
Where the wealthy king wanted to rival the splendour of Rome, he wanted a building that matched the grandeur of some of the buildings in the Vatican. The 2 towers of the church have a total of 92 church bells that were made in Antwerp, and story goes that the order was that huge that the bell-founders wanted to be paid in advance which the king did, but not only that, he doubled the amount he promised them to pay.
The spacious royal apartments are located on the second floor. Where the king was located on one end of the building, his queen was on the other side of the building. The galleries connecting the living quarters of the king and queen are 232 meters in length making them the largest palatial corridors in Europe.
Walking these galleries nowadays, it is just difficult to grasp how long it must have taken to built this huge palace. Construction started actually in 1717 and went on until 1755 and it is said that the construction nearly bankrupted the entire country.
The royal convent and Palace of Mafra is the most important Baroque monument in Portugal. The building covers an area of almost 37790m2 (4 hectares) , including 1200 rooms, more than 4700 doors and windows, 156 stairways and 29 inner yards.
Many paintings and murals by some of Portugal's finest artists are on display around the palace. The throne room, the Guard room and the room of Goddess Diana are decorated with fabulous murals.
Another special room is the hunting trophy room where you find chandeliers made out of antlers, chairs covered in deerskin,...
The highlight of this magnificent palace is the Rococo library which is located on the 2nd floor. The grandeur of this library is difficult to describe.
The library is huge, to be exact 88 meters king with the entire floor covered with rose, grey and white marble tiles. The wooden bookshelves are situated on the sidewalls containg over 36,000 leather-bound volumes.
Among them are many valuable bibliographical jewels, all of them protected by homing bats. Yes, you hear that correctly, the library has a bat colony which protect the books from insect damage.
The library was used in Gulliver's Travels as the great chamber of war for the Emperor of Lilliput.
About the Author
We are Peter & Dolores De Bie. We love the great outdoors, discovering new parts of the world and writing about our adventures along the Wild Atlantic Way and further afield