Perhaps Portugal’s most extravagant building, this combination palace/monastery/church was started by Dom Joao V as thanks to God for getting an heir (God had it pretty easy in those days – someone gets pregnant and God gets a monument).
Set in an otherwise uninteresting little town this building had modest intentions originally – to host 13 monks. But thanks to gold flowing in from New World developments, particularly Brazil, the design and expense became bigger and bigger and bigger.
The building finally housed 450 monks, has two royal wings and the biggest basilica in the world.
There are 880 large rooms, 5, 200 doorways and the largest collection of bells ever. The baroque library is 88 metres long, the games room sports 18thC pinball machines, and much of the flooring is in multicoloured marble.
20, 000 – 45, 000 European artisans worked on the project for 36 years, kept in order by 7, 000 soldiers. Grandiose or what!
Visits are by guided tour only, twice a day, and the Queen’s garden is a pleasant place to wait. There is also a huge park with wild deer and boar which may, or may not, be accessible.
Mafra is about an hour by bus from Lisbon, 45 minutes from Sintra.