UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Pena National Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena)
This famous Portuguese landmark, which sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Sintra, began as a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. This chapel was built during the Middle Ages and later, at the turn of the 16th century, a monastery donated to the Order of Saint Jerome was built around the site on the orders of Manuel I. For over two hundred years, the monastery (which never housed more than twenty monks) sat above Sintra undisturbed, until a combination of a lightning storm and the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 toppled the monastery. Surprisingly, the chapel itself remained intact.
In the mid-1800s, King consort Ferdinand II (enchanted by the site, just as Manuel I had been) commissioned a German engineer and architect to construct a summer residence fit for the Portuguese royal family. The result of this endeavor was the present-day Pena National Palace, which took around twelve years to complete. The palace was intentionally designed to appear an amalgam of different architectural styles, drawing from Neo-Gothic, medieval, Islamic, and 17th century Portuguese designs.
In the early decades of the 20th century, the palace was declared a national monument and converted into a museum. In 1995, it was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the surrounding city of Sintra. Around this time, the gray exterior of the palace was repainted to restore its original red and yellow colors.
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