Royal Building of Mafra - Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (Tapada)
The Royal Building of Mafra consists of a Palace, which surrounds the Basilica, with its axial frontispiece uniting the wing of the King and Queen, a Convent, a Garden and a Hunting Park (Tapada).
It represents one of the most magnificent works undertaken by King João V, who had privileged cultural and economic conditions to match other European monarchies. From the time when the architect was chosen (Johann Friedrich Ludwig, with training in Rome), this project symbolised an international affirmation of the Portuguese ruling house. The fascination of the monarch for Rome led him to commission the work of important artists for Mafra, which ultimately became one of the most important examples of the Italian Baroque outside Italy.
On the occasion of the consecration of the Basilica, on 22 October 1730, the King’s birthday, the monument was not yet completed, and not all the works of art had arrived, but the plan had long been outlined: a Royal Palace endowed with two turrets which, functioning independently, were the chambers of the royal couple; a basilica decorated with statues of the best Roman artists and with an unusual set of French and Italian ecclesiastic vestments unparalleled in the country; two towers on the facade that house two carillons ordered from Flanders that constitute a unique bell tower worldwide; a Library made up of works of great scientific interest and one of the few that was allowed to incorporate “prohibited books”, as well as a bibliographic collection from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
The altarpieces of the Basilica, by Alessandro Giusti, an Italian artist who founded a school of sculpture in Mafra, were crafted in the following decades. Noteworthy are also the six organs of the Basilica, unique in the world, because they were designed and built to play simultaneously, according to the initial plan of the Basilica. The project was commissioned to organ masters António de Machado Cerveira and Peres Fontanes. These were carefully restored from 1994 onwards having received the Europa Nostra award.
The Palace continued to play its role as a Royal Palace through to the end of the monarchy.
It was in Mafra that D. Manuel II, the last King of Portugal, spent his final night before embarking into exile.
The Convent closed down in 1834 and since then it has housed several military units that constitute, by itself, another chapter in the history of this complex. It is linked to the great military confrontations in which Portugal participated and to the memory of the Portuguese army.
The Cerco Garden started out as a convent enclosure at the disposal of the friars, but, as early as 1718, King João V had all kinds of wild trees planted there.
The complex houses a large central lake, where waters from the Tapada converge, and an adjoining well associated with a gigantic nora.
There is also a curious Ball Game Field, built on the orders of the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine, when they occupied the Convent between 1771 and 1792.
The Real Tapada de Mafra (now called Tapada Nacional de Mafra) was created in 1747 to serve the needs of the Convent and as a private hunting ground for the monarch and the court. At the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the following century, Tapada was a privileged stage for the hunting parties of King Carlos. Today, it is dedicated to forest management, hunting, and environmental and tourist management. Within its walls are four forts of the Lines of Torres, one of which has already been restored (Fort of Juncal), which connect this space to the European conflict known as the Napoleonic Wars.