Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens

The monumentality of Baroque architecture, the impact of its visual and scenographic festivity, is also built on the unity and complementarity between the built heritage and the more ephemeral landscape that surrounds it.

Tradition has it that the original garden of the House was located at the top of the east side, at the centre of the central axis that crosses the entire space. It is also said to have been designed and planted by the Archdeacon of Labruje, Diogo Álvares Botelho Mourão, D. António José's brother, the builder of the House. Traces of this original complex remain in the staircase that connects the upper and lower parterres and in the trellis that extends the path to the production area.

Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens

The garden that we can enjoy today in that same space, past the back façade of the House and the granite steps, flanked by two sculptures representing Wisdom and Justice, was designed by Mr. Gomes de Amorim in the early 1930s, by order of the Countess of Mangualde.

Its design, made up of double boxwood hedges, seems to radiate from the small water bowl in the centre to a set of paths that form an eight-pointed star. The other flowerbeds in this garden form small trapezoidal labyrinths, recapturing one of the most expressive themes of the Baroque garden. It is worth noting, however, how this baroque design coexists and contrasts with the fresh area formed by a small clump of camellias which, like the monumental palm tree, was planted by the 3rd Count of Vila Real many decades before. 

Descending the staircase that extends the axis to the east, we discover a remarkable complex, built as early as 1948, by order of D. Francisco, the Foundation's founder. To the north we find the Water Garden, made up of three tanks arranged in a cascade, with a modernist design by António Lino. The water comes from a spring located to the north, on Monte de Santa Sofia, and overflows by gravity from tank to tank.

With a consistent project by Gonçalo Ribeiro Teles, in the 1950s and 1960s, D. Francisco de Sousa Botelho de Albuquerque completely altered the entire area that framed the main façade of the House.

It creates a new entrance, which in a very skilful line of built and vegetal design, conceives the surprise and enchantment of approaching the House, with the view of the alignment of its central perspective.

The lake, a mirror of water built in the 1950s, perfectly extends the building complex, which is reflected in it, reproducing the image of the main façade, and surrounded by a forest of chestnut and oak trees planted in the 1960s, reflecting the House and placing it in the middle of the vegetation.

The sculpture by João Cutileiro, who has been sleeping in the lake since 1981, was once part of the House's image.

Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens
Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens

The second, the Garden of Crowns, by Paulo Bensliman, is made up of arabesques of boxwood trimmed close to the ground.

Its composition, which combines lightness and rationality, is framed by four large symmetrical heraldic flowers that mark the four corners of the garden and evolves into eight spiral compositions that converge in the centre in a circular hedge. From this garden, towards the south, there is a garden trellis, supported by sturdy granite obelisks, which offers the pleasure of a long walk to the woodland area.

In addition to the harmony of the composition and the tranquillity emanating from the aquatic element, the ensemble also served to store water that could be used in the event of a fire or to feed the productive area located immediately below. To the south are two neo-baroque gardens. The first, which we call the Flower Garden, was also designed by Gomes de Amorim and closely replicates the design of the upper parterre.

The most impressive element of this complex, however, is the cedar tunnel that runs between the staircase coming from the upper parterre and the start of the original trellis, to the east.

An idyllic place with a romantic feel, its almost forty metres of seclusion and freshness take us back to an experience out of time. The delicate combination of the natural element, more than eighty mexican cedars, and the permanent human shape of its design, makes this walkway tunnel one of the masterpieces of the topiary portuguese art of the 20th century.

Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens
Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens

Returning to the upper level, the Recreational Orchard extends along the south wing. It is spread over six beds bordered by tall boxwood hedges.

While it was originally fruit trees, along with flowers and ornamental trees, that punctuated the family's peaceful stroll, today it is the Casa de Mateus Rose Garden that inspires the space with its vibrant colours and aromas. Planted in recent years, the garden brings together an important number of different species of this festive flower that man adopted more than five thousand years ago and crossed endlessly in search of perfection in colour, shape and symbolic intensity.

Beyond the Rose Garden, past the gravelled path, flanked by boxwood hedges and marked by monumental arches of greenery, the recently established Vegetable-Garden marks the transition to the cultivation plots.

At the end of this path, on the west side, we find the Cereal Barrel and its threshing floor, symbolising the historical importance of the House's agricultural activity. As well as the tank, a water reservoir built by D. Luís António and D. Leonor to supply the water network that fed the House, the remnants of which we can still see outside.

Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens
Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens

But it is in the space in front of the main façade of the House, at its west end, that one of the greatest wonders of the Casa de Mateus gardens unfolds.

In the 1960s, the architect Gonçalo Ribeiro Teles, taking advantage of the diversion of the public road made by D. José Luís a hundred years earlier, redesigned the entire access area of the House. From the entrance gate, he designed a curving path, bordered by a dense area of trees, which offers visitors a fascinating experience of discovery that has its moment of scenographic explosion when it ends in front of the House's central axis, facing a large mirror of water that doubles the Palace's façade. 

The lightness, the slight distortion that the movement of the water introduces into the landscape accentuates the musicality of the space, in a confrontation between serenity and monumentality so organic that we find it hard to believe today that this wasn't how the Palace was always seen.

On the International Monuments and Sites Day 2020, we presented an online exhibition showing the successive transformations that led to what we know today as the Casa Mateus Gardens.

Especially the planting of the great Cedars, precisely 150 years ago, and the intervention of the architect Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles in the 1960s.

Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens
Virtual Tour 04 - Gardens


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