1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cintra

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CINTRA, a town of central Portugal, in the district of Lisbon, formerly included in the province of Estramadura; 17 m. W.N.W. of Lisbon by the Lisbon-Caçem-Cintra railway, and 6 m. N. by E. of Cape da Roca, the westernmost promontory of the European mainland. Pop. (1900) 5914. Cintra is magnificently situated on the northern slope of the Serra da Cintra, a rugged mountain mass, largely overgrown with pines, eucalyptus, cork and other forest trees, above which the principal summits rise in a succession of bare and jagged grey peaks; the highest being Cruz Alta (1772 ft.), marked by an ancient stone cross, and commanding a wonderful view southward over Lisbon and the Tagus estuary, and north-westward over the Atlantic and the plateau of Mafra. Few European towns possess equal advantages of position and climate; and every educated Portuguese is familiar with the verses in which the beauty of Cintra is celebrated by Byron in Childe Harold (1812), and by Camoens in the national epic Os Lusiadas (1572). One of the highest points of the Serra is surmounted by the Palacio da Pena, a fantastic imitation of a medieval fortress, built on the site of a Hieronymite convent by the prince consort Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg (d. 1885); while an adjacent part of the range is occupied by the Castello des Mouros, an extensive Moorish fortification, containing a small ruined mosque and a very curious set of ancient cisterns. The lower slopes of the Serra are covered with the gardens and villas of the wealthier inhabitants of Lisbon, who migrate hither in spring and stay until late autumn.

In the town itself the most conspicuous building is a 14th–15th-century royal palace, partly Moorish, partly debased Gothic in style, and remarkable for the two immense conical chimneys which rise like towers in the midst. The 18th-century Palacio de Seteaes, built in the French style then popular in Portugal, is said to derive its name (“Seven Ahs”) from a sevenfold echo; here, on the 22nd of August 1808, was signed the convention of Cintra, by which the British and Portuguese allowed the French army to evacuate the kingdom without molestation. Beside the road which leads for 3½ m. W. to the village of Collares, celebrated for its wine, is the Penha Verde, an interesting country house and chapel, founded by João de Castro (1500–1548), fourth viceroy of the Indies. De Castro also founded the convent of Santa Cruz, better known as the Convento de Cortiça or Cork convent, which stands at the western extremity of the Serra, and owes its name to the cork panels which formerly lined its walls. Beyond the Penha Verde, on the Collares road, are the palace and park of Montserrate. The palace was originally built by William Beckford, the novelist and traveller (1761–1844), and was purchased in 1856 by Sir Francis Cook, an Englishman who afterwards obtained the Portuguese title viscount of Montserrate. The palace, which contains a valuable library, is built of pure white stone, in Moorish style; its walls are elaborately sculptured. The park, with its tropical luxuriance of vegetation and its variety of lake, forest and mountain scenery, is by far the finest example of landscape gardening in the Iberian Peninsula, and probably among the finest in the world. Its high-lying lawns, which overlook the Atlantic, are as perfect as any in England, and there is one ravine containing a whole wood of giant tree-ferns from New Zealand. Other rare plants have been systematically collected and brought to Montserrate from all parts of the world by Sir Francis Cook, and afterwards by his successor, Sir Frederick Cook, the second viscount. The Praia das Maçãs, or “beach of apples,” in the centre of a rich fruit-bearing valley, is a favourite sea-bathing station, connected with Cintra by an extension of the electric tramway which runs through the town.