“One mustn’t look at the abyss, because there is at the bottom an inexpressible charm which attracts us.”- Gustave Flaubert
Staring down the Masonic initiation wells of the Quinta da Regaleira, it is easy to see the inexpressible charm. The two wells twist down into an enchanted abyss deep within the Portuguese hillside. The design of the wells is littered with Masonic symbolism and geometry.
The Regaleira palace was the brain-child of the imaginative Italian opera-set designer, Luigi Manini. On an estate of around four hectares, he built an enigmatic structure, influenced by architecture taken from the Roman, Gothic, Egyptian and Renaissance periods, taking six years to build between 1904 and 1910. The finished product was a large country palace, complete with underground lake, grottoes, a chapel, hidden tunnels, frescoes, and Venetian stained-glass windows.
But the most enchanted aspect of the palace are the two Masonic wells. The smaller well incorporates steep, straight staircases connecting a series of circular floors. The distance between the landings as well as the number of steps between them following Masonic architecture and principals.
The larger of the pair has nine connected platforms. They represent the nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno and the nine skies which make up Paradise. At the bottom, sits a cross of the Knights Templar.
The wells still hold secrets. It is still not known what the purpose of the wells was. They evidently were not designed to access water. The palace’s owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro was a prominent Freemason, and the wells were likely used in Freemason rituals although it is unclear in what capacity. The Knights Templar cross at the bottom was supposedly Monteiro’s herald and a nod to his Rosicrucianism values.
Symbology is laced into every design and façade of the ornate palace. Some of its architectural secrets have been exposed, but many remain hidden to this day.
Featured Image Quinta da Regaleira Credit: Flickr by Ling Wang Marina
Palace Façade Image Credit: Flikr by Weekend Wayfarers