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The Palace and Convent of Mafra as Metonymy for a New Lisbon

  • 20 APR 2022 6pm

20 Apr 202218h – 19h

20€ (talks + boat trip)

Tickets available at


Historian Mário Pereira


When one thinks of the Palace and Convent at Mafra, one thinks of King João V, an indissoluble association that condenses the history of his long reign into a single building. However, for King João V, this building was not at the heart of his project. On the contrary, the great size of the Palace-Convent of Mafra should be understood in relation to the rest of his grandiose plan for Lisbon. The Palace-Convent was part of the territorial extension of the project for the capital on which Filippo Juvarra intervened directly, visiting Mafra during his stay in Lisbon in 1719.

Thus, if instead of considering it as João V's main royal palace we look at Mafra as a metonymy – that is, as a "part that reveals the whole" – we can better understand the ambition of his plan for the capital. For example, the Basilica of Mafra is some 58 metres in length, while the Patriarchal Palace designed for Lisbon measured at least 220 metres, corresponding to the length of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. In Lisbon, the Royal Palace and the Patriarchal Palace were designed in proportion to the Vatican Basilica. Can you imagine the size?

Both for the monarch and his court, the city was intimately linked to the territory and Filippo Juvarra masterfully interpreted the need to trace the circuit of royal residences around the capital (Belém, Mafra and other locations).



Lithography of the National Palace of Mafra, Portugal 
João MacPhail
National Library of Portugal

© Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal

© Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal , João MacPhail

With other eyes