"Let the King promise God that he will build a Monastery in the village of Mafra and God will soon give him a sucessor" - These were the words pronounced by Brother Antonio de São José, a Franciscan Friar to the Royal Chaplain, Bishop Nuno da Cunha whom King João V had asked to interced on his behalf in 1711 not having had any heirs despite having been married to Queen Maria Ana of Austria for three years.
Curiosity led me to visit the Monastery, whose initial plan was for 13 friars, having been later expanded to 40, 80 and finally 300 friars with a Royal Palace and a Basilica.
Having arrived half an hour earlier I decided to walk around it trying to envisage the amount of work it took and the expense involved in such an "adventure", whose construction was initiated in 1717 and was considered complete in 1735, although work is said to have continued on certain individual elements until close to the King's death.
Following Junot's invasion of Lisbon the invading troops made their headquarters in the building in 1807, having been replaced by a small English contingent in 1808. With the outbreak of the Liberal Wars the Palace is said to have been almost abandoned until Queen Maria II resumed the habit of coming back to Mafra from 1819 through to 1853.
The proclamation of the Republic turned the Palace ensemble into a Museum, which has been opened to the public since 1911.
I soon found out the visit would be free because of it being the first Sunday of the month. I started it on the first floor where I walked in two rooms with religious artefacts, most of which from Italy. Among the chalices, censers, reliquaries and patens I came across a sculptural group representing the Holy martyrs of Morocco and a few interesting wooden polychrome sculptures.
(To be continued)