Palazzo Nazionale di Mafra

Orientation & Geography

Europe, Portugal, Lisboa

The Mafra National Palace is a monumental Baroque and Italianized Neoclassical palace-monastery located in Mafra, Portugal. Its dimensions are so huge that it dwarfs the city. The palace-monastery is said to be Portugal's attempt to rival the Spanish palace at Escorial outside Madrid, Spain, but was built more like a response to the power of the Vatican, having the monastery a similar loom to the Pope's official residence. The palace, which also served as a Franciscan monastery, was built during the reign of King John V (1707-1750), in consequence of a vow made by the king in 1711, who promised to build a convent if his wife, the Queen Mary Anne of Austria, gave him descendants. The birth of his first daughter, the princess Barbara of Braganza, made the king initiate the construction of the palace. This vast complex is among the most sumptuous Baroque buildings in Portugal and one of the biggest buildings constructed in Europe in the 18th century. The palace was built symmetrically from a central axis, occupied by the basilica, and continues lengthwise through the main façade until two major towers. The structures of the convent are located behind the main façade. The building also includes a major library, with about 40,000 rare books. The basilica is decorated with several Italian statues and includes six historical pipe organs and two carillons, composed of 92 bells.