Initially designed as a small convent for 13 monks, Mafra’s project suffered successive changes, ending in a huge building of approximately 40.00 m2, with all the facilities for 300 Franciscans monks.
The King ensured the support of the convent by paying all the expenses from his own “pocket”. Monks were given fees twice a year, at Christmas and at St. John’s day. The fees consisted of tobacco, paper, linen and burel cloth for the habits. Each brother received two habits that he had to wash and mend himself. 120 wine barrels, 70 olive oil barrels or 600 cows, for instance, were spent each year in the Convent.
Built in limestone from the region – Sintra, Pêro Pinheiro and Mafra – the Basilica has the form of a Latin cross and is 58.5 m long and 43 m wide. The dome is 65m high, with a 13m diameter. It was the first dome ever built in Portugal.
In the main chapel a painting by Francesco Trevisani represents the Virgin, Jesus and St. Anthony, to whom the church is dedicated. The marble retables of the side chapels, Holy Family (south) and Blessed Sacrament (north) and the six collateral chapels are attributed to Alessandro Giusti from the Mafra school of sculpture, and his disciples.
Nearby was the fence garden, with an orchard, several water tanks and four ballgame fields for the monks’ recreation, one for the ring game and two to play a traditional game called “laranjinha”. In the early 19th century, during the Peninsular War, the convent was occupied by French troops and later by British allied troops. With the extinction of religious orders in Portugal, on 30th May 1834, the convent was and has been, until the present day, successively occupied by several military regiments. Since 1890 it is occupied by the army and is today the headquaters of the School of the Arms.
Falconry at Palace Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 15 p.m.
Source: Palácio de Mafra