Portuguese Historical Gardens – Lisboa Green Capital 2020

Portuguese Historical Gardens

“Gardens are human creations that give rise to places for our reconciliation with nature. They are spaces of light and shadows, big or small, they change with the hours of the day or seasons and are always ready to surprise us!”

In their history they have been a bit of everything: places of refuge in the world, where contemplation, prayer, study, artistic work or agriculture were contemplated. Places of “pagan” rituals chosen by communities who wanted to reach the transcendent, making them sacred places where profane and religious festivities communed. Places of hunting and recreation for the aristocracy. Places of affirmation of power serving as the stage for the most incredible and luxurious parties. Or even places of inspiration for the most beautiful poetry.

And this is how we are transported to the new exhibition at the National Library – “Historic Gardens of Portugal”, the first exhibition dedicated to these beautiful gardens that cover our small country from one side to the other and which are perhaps the most unknown, most beautiful and most threatened cultural heritage of the country.

The first thing we notice is the panel full of tools and images of plants on a white background preceding the exhibition space. It’s a great way to get acquainted and prepare for what we’re about to see.

After this panel that leaves us expectant for what will come next, we enter the exhibition composed of three sections: Incomplete Memories, Rebuilt Memories and A Present with a Future.

In the first section we are presented with memories of these spaces, in the form of bibliographical works, which are integrated in the Funds of the National Library of Portugal. The best way to get to know these gardens is through these evolutionary works that have recorded different phases and are often subject to abandonment or destruction. Therefore, the best way to preserve them is through the knowledge of their history and memory. Here we can see examples that date back to the 16th century, works that tell the most diverse stories of the most diverse places, such as the Monastery of Alcobaça, Santa Maria or the Convent of Penha Longa. They are true fragments of history!

After this “blast from the past”, we move on to the Reconstructed Memories, which portrays the various types of historical gardens. Here the knowledge of interpreting a garden is highlighted, giving tools for the visit to take place in the best way, either through information, or through the emotional experience where you get the most out of the senses.

That is the moment to glimpse incredible plants that show us places representative of the five main typologies of Portugal’s historic gardens: conventual enclosures, sanctuaries, recreational farms, botanical gardens and public parks.

Finally, we come to the third and last section of the exhibition. In A Gift with a Future we are invited to discover the 12 tourist routes of the Portuguese Historical Gardens.

There are 12 routes that show us some of the most beautiful green spaces in our country, starting in the interior of Portugal and ending in the islands, without forgetting the coast and the great urban centres of Greater Porto and Greater Lisbon.

It is here that we see the most beautiful photographs of these places that can be both private and public, but all possible to visit: places like Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, the garden of São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Quinta da Magnólia in Funchal, the Botanical Garden of Porto or the Castle of Marvão.

It is, without a doubt, an incredible journey through our country, through all the beauty that exists in it, and it is a way to draw attention to the preservation of these spaces.

The exhibit is on display at the National Library until March 21, 2021.