03 November 2012

Mafra. A baroque extravaganza.

It's, sometimes, for me hard to understand why do we devote so much time building monuments to our own vanity. But, anyway, the thing that scares us the most (like my fellow colleague :-) Joseph Conrad wisely wrote in Lord Jim) is oblivion. We are scared to death that everybody forgets our microscopic passage through this world as soon as we close our eyes. To avoid that, men built pyramids and palaces. Sometimes we also made wars and created a lot of pain and misery. Very few ascended to the immortality condition with anything related to the mankind well-being.
After visiting the Mafra monastery I'm still in doubt about the group where we should include the King João V, the monarch of the time and the idealist of this barroque extravaganza. Built in a time when the gold from Brasil was arriving to Lisboa in buckets, this was, probably, his signature for posterity.
Strangely, and according to the late great historian José Herman Saraiva, this massive palace (still one of the biggest in the world) was built for nothing, since nobody from the royalty ever lived there. Probably turned down by the sheer size of the palace and its cold emptiness, the royals only visited Mafra for hunting games in the nearby "Tapada".
The palace, also a monastery, remained occupied by the monks until 1834, year when the religious orders were extinct in Portugal.
Nowadays, it's a national monument and also houses the Infantry School of the Portuguese Army.
Probably the most breathtaking division in the monastery, the fabulous library, housing 35000 books, rivals in sheer size and opulence with others built during the Renaissance years all over Europe. According to the Wikipedia, the tv miniseries Gulliver's Travels, from NBC, was shot partially in this amazing Rococo division. You'd have to visit it to understand why.
Handheld photo taken with Nikon D40X and Sigma 10-20mm EX DC HSM f/4-5.6.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.