chronicle #1 A place I call magic

September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

I want to tell you about a place I visited this summer. A place that left me with a feeling of disbelief and wonder, so beautiful and dreamlike it was. This summer, I decided to travel on my own in Portugal, partly to have fun and meet new people, partly to take a deep breath of fresh air. The latter failed, I did breathe another air, but it didn’t cure my mind — but that’s another story for sure. The one day, though, I felt elated and free, faced with so much mystery in architecture, was when I visited a town called Sintra, and more specifically, a palace called “La Quinta da Regaleira”. It appears on highly touristic circuits, that’s true, but among all places, this one is really out of a fairytale.

At the end of the 19th century, Antonio A. C. Montero designed a whole park, and a house, helped by architect Luigi Manini, with countless references to freemasonry, alchemy and Templar tradition. Resulting in a fantasy villa, peopled with board, deers, a whole pagan procession of animals carved into the walls, mingling along with mythological characters loving and fighting one another. A succession of mosaics and carved wooden sculptures accompany the manueline-style façades. In the park, fountains, caves, waterfalls and labyrinths hide among a luxuriant vegetation with secret gardens and paths. You get lost and swallowed in there, transformed into a nymph somehow.

As you walk indifferently out from one grotto into another entrance with secret flights of narrow steps, you suddenly realise you’ve found the highlight of the park, the sacred hole into the earth the guide has been telling you about: the “initiatic well”, as it is called. It is only when you see this inverted tower carved into the rocks that your first thought can be confirmed for good: some people are crazy. This well links the bowels of the earth to the sacred light of heavens. Starting from its deep bottom,  the esoteric apprentice must climb up nine levels until he reaches the surface. Supposedly these should be the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno, which I tend to believe…

While I wandered there, I kept asking myself where the hell I was. This is when I finally reached the terrace of the Gods, where Hermes, Aphrodite and Apollo welcome the visitors… back from a journey in a dreamer/madman’s labyrinthine imagination.

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