The Cultural Landscape of Sintra is located in Portugal’s central region, at the extreme west of the Iberian Peninsula and a few kilometres away from the Atlantic Ocean. This Cultural Landscape is an exceptional mixture of natural and cultural sites within a distinct framework. Seen from a distance, it gives the impression of an essentially natural landscape that is distinct from its surroundings: a small chain of forested granite mountains rising over the hilly rural landscape. When seen from closer at hand, the Serra reveals a surprisingly rich cultural evidence spanning over several centuries of Portugal’s history.
Amalgamation of exotic styles
This cultural landscape is an extraordinary and unique complex of parks, gardens, palaces, country houses, monasteries and castles, which create an architecture that harmonizes with the exotic and overgrown vegetation, creating micro-landscapes of exotic and luxuriant beauty. This amalgamation of exotic styles changes the landscape into an abundant world which offers surprises at every turn in the path, leading the visitor from a discovery to another. Its uniqueness and botanical richness presented to the visitor with great accuracy, and its charming environment make it unique among landscapes. This syncretism between nature and ancient monuments, villas, monasteries and chalets influenced the development of landscape architecture throughout Europe.
An example of mid-19th century eclecticism
The Palace of Monserrate was designed for Sir Francis Cook by the distinguished British architect James Knowles Junior. Again, it is an example of mid-19th century eclecticism, adapted to the remains of the earlier building, also ruined in the 1755 earthquake. lt combines neo-Gothicism with substantial elements derived from the architecture of lndia. Monserrate is renowned for its gardens, largely the work of Thomas Gargill: careful analysis of the microclimatic zones of the land made it possible to plant over 3000 exotic species, collected from all parts of the world.
The Park of Monserrate covers 50 ha on the northern slopes of the Serra. William Beckford’s remodelling of the existing palace in the late 18th century involved the creation of a landscape garden. When he took over, Sir Francis Cook employed James Burt to design various sites for exotic gardens. The planned gardens are surrounded by a semi-natural oak forest.