Located in Mafra, near Lisbon, in Portugal, Mafra Palace, or Mafra Convent, is a monument from the 18th century, whose construction began in 1717 and was finished in 1737.
The construction was ordered by King D. João V, as a form of payment of a promise he had made, swearing that he would build a Palace and Convent if his wife could give him a child, which became a reality when his only daughter, Princess Maria Bárbara, was born.
German architect Johann Friedrich Ludwig was in charge of the creation of the project, and he designed a unique monument in Europe at the time. The building was divided into a palace, with a living and leisure area, for the Royal Family and the court, a church and a convent to shelter 300 friars of the Order of Saint Francis. With strong baroque influences, the construction has a total area of almost 38.000 m², around 1200 rooms, 4700 doors and windows and 156 staircases.
Besides the majesty of the building itself, King D. João V also invested quite a lot in the decoration, having ordered dozens of sculptures, paintings and tapestries, as well as 2 chimes with a total of 92 bells, making it the biggest ensemble of bells units until today, and also 6 organs. The library of the convent is also one of the highlights of the construction, richly decorated and home of a collection of books from several different areas, having been considered several times the most beautiful library in the world.
The Mafra Palace and Convent is a landmark on the reign of D. João V, a very wealthy time for the monarchy and upper classes in Portugal, due to the huge amount of gold coming from Brazil. Given the fact that the construction took 20 years, a small village began to emerge around the construction site, and where lived around 45.000 workers and their respective families; this specific period in Portuguese history, with emphasis on the working conditions of Mafra population, is described with great detail by Portuguese writer José Saramago, in the book “Baltasar and Blimunda”.
At the same time the buildings were being constructed, the King also ordered the creation of a park, to be used as leisure and hunting area in the premises of the palace, which is now called “Tapada de Mafra”.
Nowadays, the Mafra Palace and Convent is a monument that attracts lots of tourist to the region, and can be visited daily; the church, where are the organs, can also be visited, and is a place where several religious celebrations are held.