Composed of a perfectly integrated old palace and convent, Palácio das Necessidades faced a different fate than that for which it was built. In spite of the challenges of time, this symbol of the Portuguese history preserves an unique sobriety and magnificence, which reflects its former remarkable royal residency.
Legend and Chapel of Our Lady of Needs (Capela de Nossa Senhora das Necessidades)
According to tradition, the Chapel of Our Lady of Needs was built based on a legend. In 1580, a couple of weavers sought refuge in Ericeira, as they fled from the plague, which was spreading throughout the city of Lisbon. There, the couple worshiped an image of Our Lady of Health, which existed in a small chapel.
Around 1604, after the plague's slowdown, they returned to Lisbon and decided to bring the devoted image, which had protected their health until then. In order to fulfil their gratitude promises, the couple decided to build a chapel for the image of Our Lady of Health. Under the protection and the sponsorship of Ana Gouvêa de Vasconcellos, a wealthy proprietary of that time, the chapel began to be built.
Because it was located close to the Tagus River, namely, to the Alcântara Wharf, this chapel soon became an obligatory stop-off point for the seamen, who turned to it in search of health protection and other needs. Over time, the Lady of Health's devoted image acquired a wider reputation and its name became associated with other miracles, leading the India run's seafarers to form a Brotherhood, which, besides extending the chapel, introduced the annual festival of the Holy Spirit, or Olive Oil Festival, which involved a pilgrimage to visit and worship the image of Our Lady of Needs. The legend of the miraculous image quickly spread among the population.
In 1705, King Pedro II asked for the image of Our Lady of Needs to be taken to him, because he was suffering from a serious illness. As he recovered and felt grateful, the King ordered the miraculous image to be returned to its chapel, promising that he would give it royal protection for as long as he lived.
King João V sustained his father's devotion during the frequent periods of illness he experienced. As a proof of gratitude towards the previous image, the King took ownership of the chapel and the adjacent properties, rendering those "on behalf of His Majesty, and for the royal service of the Lord (...), holder of this Estate and its Chapel of Our Lady of Needs and all of its possessions and ornaments". As a proof of gratitude, the King extended the chapel and proceeded with the construction of a palace. He also ordered the construction of a convent, referred to as a hospice, to accommodate clerics dedicated to the teaching of Theology, Humanities, and Sciences.
This large construction work implied the acquisition of small adjacent properties, to expand the enclosure, as well as the convent and the palace’s gardens. After the conclusion of the convent's works, the Congregation of the Oratory of Lisbon submitted a request for royal assent regarding the occupation of the building facilities.
Palácio das Necessidades
Convent of the Congregation of the Oratory of Lisbon
By Royal Decree of the 8th of February 1747, to which was added the Charter of Donation of the 6th of April of that same year, King D. João V donated to the Congregation of the Oratory of Lisbon the hospice, the fence, and all of the adjacent lands, except for the fortification needed for the protection of the city, the royal palace, the sacristy, and the chapel's choir, which the King had reserved for his and his descendants' personal use. In return, the Congregation of the Oratory committed to teaching the following disciplines: Christian Doctrine, Grammar, Rhetoric, Moral Theology, and Philosophy.
The authorship of this great work lies in several architects, among which Tomás Caetano or Custódio Vieira, and the Italian architect Servandoni. Therefore, multiple references indicate various interventions in the construction of the building, while the only conclusive fact is that King D. João V devoted his efforts to hasten the building’s works. As it became habitable, the friars settled there and made the necessary adjustments to the various rooms, namely to the Library, the Convent's main room.
Because he died in 1750, King D. João V never had the opportunity to see his work completed. In 1751, a Royal Decree granted the friars the "Housing Endowment", stressing that it would be intended for teaching. The friars settled in the hospice on the 6th of May 1751 and began teaching on the 27th of July of that same year. Subsequently, the Order's ecclesiastical superior travelled to King D. José I’s presence, in order to report the classes' opening, an announcement which was received with great jubilation.
Soon the Convent acquired a reputation due to the excellent teaching of the disciplines related to Humanities and Sciences. Thus, it was attended by the children of the court's high dignitaries, such as Marquês de Pombal's eldest son, having provided the education of an intellectual elite. Beside the theoretical classes, the teaching's demand level was reflected in the Physics practical classes, held in the Instruments Room, located in the west of the chapel, belonging thus to the Convent.
Members of the court watched Physics experiments. In addition, sometimes King D. José honoured the Instruments Room with his presence, in order to see those in operation in the hands of the master priest Theodoro de Almeida. The royal presence translated a desire of protecting the Order of the Oratory as a way of balancing the Companhia de Jesus' growing predominance in Portugal.
The Convent escaped unharmed to the damage caused by the 1755 Earthquake in the city of Lisbon, maintaining practically intact, up until now, its original layout. The building is composed of four fronts, arranged on five floors, whilst the first floor is at ground level. The fourth floor constituted the main one and corresponds to the current third floor. There were most of the friars' rooms and the famous Library of the Convent. It occupied the whole front, facing East, with two overlapping sets of windows. In 1756, the Library was open to the public, containing 25 thousand books and, in 1823, more than 30 thousand. It was also in the Library Room that the first Constituent Courts were held, on the 26th of January 1821.
On the fifth and last floor were 18 rooms. The third floor, corresponding to the current second floor, which is accessed through Largo do Rilvas, integrated several rooms intended for classes, as well as the cafeteria and kitchen. Across the second floor were the wineries, the several pantries, and workshops, which were essential for the life of the religious community. On the ground floor, only a part of the convent's east-south angle was intended for the accommodation of some religious personnel.
A major part of the convent, namely staircases, halls, hallways, and kitchen, exemplary par excellence, was covered with beautiful tiles of the XVIII century, which can still be seen and describe multiple religious scenes and some other profane ones.
Jardim do Buxo – Convento da Congregação do Oratório de Lisboa
Gardens and Tapada das Necessidades Park
The Convent's exterior comprised an extensive area, where grew wheat and existed a windmill. Following King João V's acquisitions, this Convent was able to enjoy the largest and best of all the convents of Lisbon's enclosures.
The traditionally Portuguese boxwood garden was attached to the Convent and displayed geometrically placed flower beds, completed with wide white stone vases and a small central lake close to the ground. Niches with statues larger than human scale representing the human virtues, which are currently missing, existed in this garden's surrounding high wall. Facing the park, there was, and still is, a waterfall crowned with a triangular pediment, which is adorned with the statues of two boys hugging one another, while one of them throws water through a whelk.
The vegetable garden, which had, and still has, a central bowl or lake with a water fountain, was located on a level above the boxwood garden.
Due to the religious orders' extinction and the convent transformation into residence of members of the royal family, the Convent of Needs’ gardens and enclosure were equally adapted to a new lifestyle. In 1843, King Fernando II, born prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, transformed the park of the Oratory's friars into an elegant garden or English park, where shrubs and rare flowers existed and contributed to its embellishment. D. Fernando even ordered the famous French gardener Bonard to come and alter the enclosure of Needs’ garden.
Later, his son, King Pedro V, ordered the construction of a circular greenhouse, fully made of glass and iron, covered by a large dome, and completed with a gracious minaret, as an offering to his wife, Queen Estefânia, born princess of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. In turn, King Carlos I ordered the transformation of the old astronomical observatory of the Oratory's Priests, at the top of the park, into a pavilion, which his wife, Queen Amélia, born princess of Orléans, normally used as an atelier to draw and paint; and built a tennis court for princes Luís Filipe and Manuel.
Jardim do Buxo – Convento da Congregação do Oratório de Lisboa
Palácio das Necessidades - Residence of Distinguished Guests
Palácio das Necessidades was not inhabited by King João V, but by his brothers, Infante António and Infante Manuel. Initially, it served as a residence for distinguished guests, namely, foreign princes who passed by the city of Lisbon, such as the future King George IV, then Prince of Wales, as he left for and returned from Gibraltar, and his brother, the Duke of Sussex. Later, the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Anglo-Portuguese army in the battles against Napoleon I's invading troops, also chose this palace as his residence. From 1828 onwards, King Miguel I spent short periods of time at Palácio das Necessidades. After having fractured both legs in an accident, he ordered the construction of a bridge or walkway, facing Largo das Necessidades, which connected the west wing of the Palace directly to the Convent's enclosure. In 1833, under the initiative of King Pedro I of Brazil and IV of Portugal, Palácio das Necessidades went through its first significant changes towards becoming the honourable residence of the future Portuguese monarch, Queen Maria II, granddaughter of the Emperor Francis II of Austria, due to one of his daughters' matrimony, niece of the Emperor Napoleon I of France, due to his marriage with Marie Louise of Austria, and daughter of the Emperor of Brazil.
Sala de Receção ou Antiga Sala de Jantar
Palácio das Necessidades - Royal Residence of Queen Maria II, King Pedro V, King Carlos I and King Manuel II
Palácio das Necessidades' architecture faithfully reflects the typical structure of the XVIII century. Hence, the inner façade overlooks a court of honour, which ought to be used for the carriages' stunning entries at the time when grand gala parties were thrown in the palace. In order to adapt the decoration of the palace's rooms to the luxury that suited a royal residence, King Pedro IV, also entitled Pedro, Duke of Bragança, while he was regent in place of his young daughter, Maria II, ordered the removal of all the tiles from the walls, the installation of an exotic wooden floor, and to cover the windows with glass, magically transforming the appearance of the convent.
When arriving in Lisbon, on the 23rd of September 1833, Maria II, a 15-year-old sovereign youngster born in Rio de Janeiro, who had attended court in London, after having been received by George IV in Windsor, and concluded her education in Paris, was solemnly awaited in the Necessidades, which, due to its harmony and sophistication, would become one of her favourite residences. She lived in the Palace with her first husband, Prince Auguste de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, for only two months, given the prince's sudden death.
Already on her second marriage to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (cousin of Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, and of the Queen herself), Queen Maria II decided, in 1844, to engage in further renovations in Palácio das Necessidades. Joaquim Narciso Possidónio da Silva, architect of the Royal House, was subsequently entrusted with the task of developing new plans and implementing them. He sought the collaboration of the São Carlos Theatre's scenographers, Cinatti and Rambois, for the artistic direction of the interior decoration's stucco and carving works. With regard to the paintings, Queen Maria II and King Fernando II resorted to the greatest master of the time, who had studied in Rome, António Manuel da Fonseca.
Master Fonseca is thus the author of the Etruscan or Checkers Room, which evokes the Pompeian style, the primitive Dining Room, where one can observe hunting and fishing motifs, and the Red or Throne Room, among others. The most beautiful paintings are found in the harmonious Renaissance Room, done by Cinatti himself, who, through round ornaments painted in the ceiling and doors' transoms, presents us the different aspects of Pena Convent and Palace, before and after the expansion works ordered by King Fernando, different aspects of the new gardens that the King had ordered to be built in Tapada das Necessidades, and aspects of the Austrian palaces, where he had spent his youth: Ebenthal e Walterskirchen. King Fernando II also concluded some of the Renaissance Room's paintings, in which he introduced human figures, imbued with his artistic sensibility.
After Queen Maria II's premature death, King Fernando, as regent, continued to reside in the palace with his children, future Pedro V, future Luís I, João, Maria Ana (who married the Crown Prince Frederick Augustus Georg of Saxony), Antónia (who married the Crown Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen), Fernando, and Augusto.
When, in 1858, King Pedro V began finalising the preparations for his wedding with Princess Stephanie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, he requested his father and his brothers to relocate to the old Convent of Necessidades, which was uninhabited and had been transformed into a residence, hoping that, with that proximity, the close ties of interaction, typical of a united family, would not break.
In order to impress his spouse, the young King Pedro V spared no expense in decorating the future Queen's chambers. Hence, furnishings, lamps, fabrics for upholsteries, and curtains, among others, were acquired mainly in Paris, and also in Lisbon.
A new bedroom was arranged for Queen Stephanie, in which she was able to enjoy a view of the small boxwood interior garden or of the Emperor Pedro's garden. By order of the King, the interlaced initials of the names Pedro and Stephanie were drawn in the ceiling with stucco, with the royal crown above, as one can still observe. Queen Stephanie's dressing table was found in the adjacent room, whose doors were painted with gracious wreaths of colourful flowers, flaunting their wedding date, 1858, in the centre.
The new decoration must have led to such an enchanting set, that, after its conclusion, Queen Stephanie welcomed it with the most sincere delight. In fact, those who visit the Jgerhof Palace, in Düsseldorf, where, as Princess of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the young Portuguese Queen had lived before settling in Portugal, better understand her empathy with Necessidades, since the resemblance between the two palaces is notorious. Built in the XVIII century, both palaces are relatively small, rose-coloured, and located near a park.
It shall be reminded that Queen Stephanie used to go for long walks through the Hofgarten, a pleasure which she continued to enjoy in Tapada das Necessidades, most of the time accompanied by her husband. When she was alone, Queen Stephanie preferred strolling in the terrace that linked to her chambers and faced Largo das Necessidades, or in the Emperor Patio, which had been converted by King Fernando II into a boxwood interior garden, whose centre exhibited a bowl, originally belonging to Parque de Queluz.
The royal couple's idyllic life in the rose-coloured palace was sentenced to a short-term duration. Fate determined that Queen Stephanie died prematurely, from a diphtheritic angina, which, in just nine days, took her life. She arrived triumphantly in Lisbon on the 17th of May 1858 and passed away in Necessidades on the 17th of July 1859, at the age of 22.
Accompanied by his brothers, Infante Fernando and Infante Augusto, the King went on a hunt in Vila Viçosa, from which all three of them returned with the first symptoms of typhoid fever, a disease that would later take their lives. Subsequently, Infante Fernando died on the 4th of November and King Pedro V died on the 11th of November of the same year, 1861, at the age of 24. Once again, death marked this palace, under tragic circumstances. King Pedro V's suddenly interrupted youth, merged with his romantic, severe, and serious temperament, his profound intelligence, his professional scruple, and his short happiness with Queen Stephanie – the conjugation of all these elements contributed towards the Portuguese people's great esteem for the king.
On the occasion of King Pedro V's burial ceremonies, Palácio das Necessidades' rooms were, as never again recorded, invaded by a large crowd, which strove for paying tribute to the King.
As he succeeded his brother under these tragic circumstances, Luís I abandoned Palácio das Necessidades forever, remaining this one closed. The monarch settled temporarily in Paço de Caxias. Once married to Queen Maria Pia of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Italy, he moved to Palácio da Ajuda, that became his final official residence.
After a few years, on the occasion of Prince Carlos' marriage with Princess Amélie of Orléans, in 1886, Palácio das Necessidades was used to accomodate the royal guests. The young Dukes of Bragança settled initially in Palácio de Belém, where their sons, Luís Filipe and Manuel, were born.
After King Luís I's death, in 1889, Carlos refused to displace his mother, Queen Maria Pia, from Palácio da Ajuda. Hence, King Carlos I and Queen Amélie chose Palácio das Necessidades as their official residence.
It shall be emphasised that, during King Carlos' reign, Lisbon was visited several times by foreign Heads of State. Usually, they stayed in Palácio de Belém, as was the case of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and Émile Loubet, President of France. However, Palácio das Necessidades assumed considerable importance, with pomp and circumstance, as a place of official receptions in honour of those Heads of State, namely at the time of Eduardo VII and Alexandra of the United Kingdom's royal visit, in April 1903.
On the occasion of the King and Queen of England's visit, Palácio das Necessidades underwent one further renovation, to better adapt to the etiquette demanded by the court. Subsequently, an arcade accessing the rooms was built, as well as a new Banqueting Room, whose works developed under the authority of Francisco Vilaça. The architect employed, as the fundamental ornament, two Gobelins tapestries, which belonged to royal collections.
During King Manuel II's reign, nothing in the palace's physiognomy was altered. The young King continued, inclusively, to occupy his Infante chambers on the ground floor, on the right of the entrance's main door. In October 1910, the palace was bombed by Adamastor cruiser ship, which, from the Tagus river, repeatedly targeted it, causing damages both to the exterior and to the interior, as the mirror embellishing one of the Renaissance Room's walls is still able to prove.
These were the last moments of the Royal House of Bragança in Palácio das Necessidades, before the establishment of the Republic.
Tocador D. Estefânia