Visit to the Parque da Pena – Instruction for Squires

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A visit to the Palace of Pena in Sintra and it’s Forest Park, took place June 22nd, organized by the Commandery of Sintra of the Iberian Priory Osmthu, in order to perform an Instruction of Novices.

The theme of the day was the Quest of the Holy Grail. The location could not have been more appropriate. In fact, upon seeing Pena Palace, Richard Strauss said: “Today is the happiest day of my life. I have been to Italy, Sicily, Greece and Egypt, but I’ve never seen anything like the Pena. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. This is the true Garden of Klingsor and up there is the Castle of the Holy Grail.”

The rain threatened to ruin the day, but the sun opened the cloudy sky just in time for the visit. For about two hours the large group recalled the legend of Parzival in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s version. The central symbolic elements of the Quest were highlighted, and, from the vantage point of the Palace, the Squires had no difficulty in identifying some of them in the surrounding forest park beneath, where King D. Ferdinand II, creator of the romantic fantasy that is the Pena Palace and its gardens, had them placed. The restoration works to which the building is being subjected, prevented some architectural elements to be analyzed, but the visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of Pena and particularly the study of its stained glass windows and altar had its rewards.

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After visiting the Palace inside and out, it was then time to start exploring the gardens. The group was led hiking to the highest point of the Sintra mountain, Cruz Alta, 529m in height, featuring a magnificent view of the Palace and the estuary of the Tagus river and the sea to the right, the Atlantic opening from where the Caravels of Vasco da Gama departed and later arrived after having reached India by sea, going around Africa, a historical event of transcendent importance for the Order of Christ.

Returning to the Forest, Knights, Dames, and Squires (and guests) gathered around the Round Table and recalled the legend which tells how Parsifal has himself become aware of chivalry and how he was amazed. Seeing shining armor, spears, swords and capes waving with the wind, he could only to ask the Knight he saw in the forest: “Are you God?” and when he said no, counter: “You are an angel, then”?

Visto o Palácio em si, por dentro e por fora, foi então ocasião de iniciar a exploração dos jardins. O grupo foi em caminhada conduzido ao ponto mais alto da Serra de Sintra, a Cruz Alta a 529m, de altura, com uma vista magnífica sobre o Palácio e sobre o estuário do rio Tejo e o mar à direita, abertura atlântica de onde partiram e onde chegaram as Caravelas de Vasco da Gama.

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The clock was moving ant the time becoming short for the many things that had to be taught. So the Squires were conducted on a mission to collect information to the Temple of Columns, nearby. Nothing was said about the place beforehand, except that they should undergo rigorous observation and take note of the elements that called their attention. The group gathered again around the Table later and it was revealed that their intuition was indeed alert. Several of them had brought their cameras, with which they gathered the testimony of their observation. In fact, more than two thirds of the key symbolic elements had been identified, and after considering their signifficance, the vast majority of Squires came up with very exceptional results in their explanations.

After leaving that magical place, the group went further into the forest, abandoning the easy paved road recommended for tourists. After passing by caves where ancient monks of St. Jerome (SJ) had the habit to use to meditate for long periods, found the remains of the tracks in the woods and very old staircases, through narrow ways, and then, between two high cliffs, were led to the contemplation of the Palace as seen from the Throne, a lithic cluster of central importance in the whole Pena forest park. The pilgrims rested. But for a short while only. Then they went back to the dark forest.

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In search of fresh water, springing from the Sierra, the group could see how the aquifers and streams were build up, how the mines and ornamental lakes match, catching the most subtle essence of life in the Sierra and its valleys, making everything bloom and fruit, as the water snakes around the cliffs, feeding freshness and light to the deep valleys long its way. In the background, the cry of the white swans evoked the Knights of the Round Table and the lakes where Amfortas, the Fisher King, used to bathe and heal his wounds.

The group withdrew from the Park well beyond the scheduled time (the gates were already closed and it was necessary to ask for security to come and open the door for the group to leave the park!). Tired but happy and thankful for the opportunity, with the mind racing with new questions and thoughs, the group returned home.

On behalf of all the Knights and Dames of the Order, we congratulate the Squires for the qualities shown along this day of pilgrimage. Good things are expected of them. The instructions will continue in July with a visit to the Capuchin Convent in Sintra, under the theme of the Monastic Way.

Em busca da fresca água da Serra o grupo pôde ver o modo intencional e muito sábio como as correntes aquíferas e o jogo entre minas e lagos decorativos, captavam a essência mais subtil da vida na Serra e como, pelos seus vales, tudo faziam florir e frutificar, serpenteando pelas fragas, alimentando de frescura e luz os vales profundos. Ao fundo, os cisnes brancos evocavam os Cavaleiros da Távola Redonda e os lagos onde Amfortas, o Rei Pescador, se banhava e onde curava as suas feridas.

O grupo retirou-se do Parque já muito para lá da hora prevista (os portões já estavam fechados e foi necessário pedir que a segurança viesse abrir as portas para sair do Parque!), cansado, mas feliz com a oportunidade e com a cabeça a colocar-se questões sobre a Cavalaria viva e actuante nos tempos modernos como possivelmente não se teria colocado antes.

Em nome de todos os Cavaleiros e Damas da Ordem, devemos enaltecer as qualidades demosntradas ao longo da peregrinação do dia pelos Escudeiros presentes. Boas coisas se esperam deles. As instruções irão prosseguir em Julho, com uma visita ao Convento dos Capuchos em Sintra, sob a temática da Via Monástica.

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Alguns links para conhecer a Pena:

Virtual Visit in Google

Views 360º

Blog with good photos

Official Page