Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Break Travels - Part 6: Os Jardins do Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira

The gardens of the Palace of Fronteira are probably among the most famous in Portugal, mainly because of their elaborate blue-and-white azulejo tile work. Begun around 1670 by the first Marquis of Fronteira, the palace was originally built as a hunting pavilion on what were then the outskirts of Lisbon in a style of Italian Renaissance architecture heavily overlaid with Portuguese decorative detail. During the horrific earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755 the family's city palace was completely destroyed but the suburban hunting lodge remained unscathed and subsequently became the family's primary residence. Part of it is still being used by a branch of the family to this very day. The gardens are mainly formal but the ever-present tiling and bright colors give them a whimsical note. Occupying the largest section of the gardens just below the palace and looking towards the city one finds a large parterre of clipped boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) decorated with classical statues.

View towards the parterre from the front entrance of the house

View over the parterre from the second-story balcony of the palace

On one side the parterre is bordered by a canal overlooked by a two-story gallery covered in blue and white azulejo tiles and decorated with statues and small grottoes.

The main garden and the azulejo gallery as seen from the second-story balcony of the palace

The pavilion at one end of the gallery

The gardens behind the palace are not quite as formal and not nearly as well know, yet in my opinion they are actually more impressive and more charming because of the lush vegetation and the bold blue of the surrounding walls. It reminds me a bit of pictures of the famous Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, Morocco, (Jardin Majorelle Official Website), which I also hope to visit one day.

A pavilion used for summertime banquets; it is kept cool by a spring and its interior is covered with intricate mosaics of sea shells and shards of porcelain left over from royal festivities due to an old rule that china used by the king could not be used by anyone else afterwards

View across the back garden with its central fountain

A niche in the stunning blue walls surrounding this part of the garden

A large specimen of Strelitzia nicolai next to the azulejo-covered back terrace

Another view across the back garden, this time towards the palace - in marked but pleasant contrast to the intense blue color scheme of the garden structures, the palace is painted a soft red

Some of the azulejo decorations and sculpture that adorn the terrace, with Judas tree or European redbud (Cercis siliquastrum) branches just beginning to bud

Finally, a new garden section is being developed below the main parterre. This new garden is decidedly Islamicate in design, with a quadripartite or chahar bagh layout with small water rills intersecting in the center of the garden. There is tilework, but much more geometric and simple and bold in color than most traditional Portuguese designs, and the plant palette appears to be limited to orange trees (Citrus sinensis), cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), and Florentine iris (Iris florentina). I was pleasantly surprised to find this modern take on the Islamic paradise garden design, especially since the origins of the azulejo tile work for which the gardens are famous lies in the shared North African and Iberian architectural and decorative tradition which the Moors brought to Portugal.

The main parterre of the chahar bagh garden

The continuation of the design in smaller parterres radiating out beyond the main one

After the gardens of the Palace of Fronteira there are still two more gardens I visited on my spring break trip which I want to post about. I know I am horribly behind on these posts but I will try to get them done in the next couple of days. Working on them will be my break and reward in between all the term papers I have to get through in the coming days...

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