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Extraordinary Deserted Places 6. The Initiation Wells in Sintra, Portugal

Title Image: Wikimedia Commons

Two wells, more accurately described as inverted towers are one of the main attractions of an historic Portuguese tourist attraction. These wells are centuries and many theories surround their origins and purpose.

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Image: Feel The Planet

Located near the historic centre of Sintra, Portugal lies the Quinta da Regaleira- a spectacular estate that sits in a World Heritage protected landscape. While thousands of tourists flock to the castle every year to admire the unique architecture of the Quinta de Regaleira that combines Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance features, one of its most fascinating features is located beneath the ground – a pair of wells spiralling deep within the earth. The wells were never used, nor intended for water collection. Instead, these mysterious underground towers were used for secretive initiation rites.

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Images: Running White Horses

The cultural landscape upon which the Quinta da Regaleira sits dates back thousands of years. There are archaeological sites in the area dating back to the early Neolithic (5 th millennium BC) and extending all the way through to the Iron Age (4 th – 2 nd centuries BC). The Roman occupation of the region began in the mid-2 nd century BC and it was later conquered by the Moors. Sintra finally yielded to Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal after the conquest of Lisbon in 1147. Afonso built an imposing royal Palace there which served as a summer residence until the late 16 th century. After the suppression of the Templars in 1312, the lands passed to the Order of Christ.

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Image: Deborah Smolinske 

In the late 15 th century, Sintra was associated with Leonor, one of the greatest Queens of Portugal. Succeeding monarchs spent much time in the town, but after the Restoration of 1640, Sintra lost this link and the Royal palace served only as a prison for Afonso VI. Sadly, most of the built heritage of the region was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, though there are some outstanding court and military buildings, examples of religious architecture and archaeological sites.

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Image: Amazing Facts

The Quinta da Regaleira is a vast estate that sits within this historical landscape. It has had many owners throughout the years, each contributing their own personal touch. But it was not until 1904, after being sold to António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, a wealthy Portuguese entomologist, that the estate was transformed into a unique palace adorned with symbolic carvings associated with Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.

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The bottom of the Initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira. Image: Wikipedia

The two wells, known as the ‘Initiation Wells’ or ‘Inverted Towers’, consist of ‘winding stair’ architecture, which carries symbolic meaning including the death/rebirth allegory common to many hermetic traditions.
One of the wells contains nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.” A smaller well, called the “Unfinished Well,” contains a set of straight staircases, connecting the ring-shaped floors to one another. It is believed that the spacing of the landings, as well as the number of steps in between, was dictated by Masonic principles.

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Image: TOPO.BIZ

A journey of rebirth and self discovery is one theory behind the larger well. At 27 metres deep it really does resemble an inverted tower, and depending on the direction you choose, either a journey down into the depths of the earth, or a climb out of the darkness into the light, the journey through the earth is like a rebirth through mother natures womb, from where all things come and where one day all shall return.

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Image: Victor Travel

The owner of Quinta da Regaleira, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, was a known Freemason, and with the help of Italian Architect Luigi Manini, set about designing and constructing the four hectare estate with its enigmatic buildings, parks and tunnels which are laden with symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.There are obvious Hermetic/Rosicrucian connotations in the well:

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Image: Feel The Planet

‘That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above, corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing’
Hermes Trismegistus

The well is divided in nine platforms reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise. At the base of the well you will find a Rosicrucian Cross, which also happened to be the coat of arms of Carvalho Monteiro.

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Image: Hive Mind

All Rights Reserved. ©Edward Bryans 2017. No unauthorised reproduction of this post in whole or in part is permitted without the express written consent of the author

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