Sunday, 3 August 2008

Mafra National Palace in Portugal

If you’ve got a country the size of Brazil to use as your own private plaything, and all its resources to spend as you please, then frugality is not going to be a prime concern. Hence this huge display of showy opulence, courtesy of King João V of Portugal. He had initially planned to build a monastery, but with a never-ending supply of gold streaming in from the colonies – notably Brazil – plans were upgraded.
52,000 workers were called in from across the country to make a huge baroque palace, with over 1,200 halls and rooms all decorated as lavishly as humanly possible. In fact, so much was spent on the construction that it nearly sent Portugal bankrupt.
João was determined that no-one should spot this though, and when his Flemish bell-makers queried the order of 92 bells, he immediately doubled the amount in a show of stubborn largesse.
The Mafra Palace's bell-towers are one of the many highlights of this imposing summer retreat, with others including a school of sculpture, huge pipe organs and a massive library containing over 40,000 books.

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