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Despite its diminutive size, there was a time when Portugal ruled much of the world — which happened after its naval explorers had discovered much of the world. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in what historians refer to as Portugal’s Age of Discovery, the coastlines of Africa, North America, Asia, and Brazil were not only mapped by Portuguese explorers, but also exploited for their spices and resources — and, even, their manpower. Emblematic of the nation’s prominence were its palaces back home, among the most architecturally notable being Quinta da Bacalhoa.

The palace, which now incorporates some of Portugal’s best-known wine vineyards, represents one of the earliest Renaissance-style edifices in the country. Although its designer is reputed to have been the Italian sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino, the building is also the result of the vision of the Infanta Beatriz (1430–1506), an enlightened noblewoman of her time. She ensured that the design and expansion of her palace, which she had inherited from her grandfather, King John I, depart from the prevailing Gothic style and, instead, incorporate highly stylized Renaissance–Moorish arches and decorative motifs, typical of the era on the Iberian Peninsula. She also introduced onto the façade massive circular towers topped by domes and finials, breezy loggias marked by rhythmic archways, and sculpted walled gardens and symmetrically perfect pools. Although Bacalhoa was regarded at the time as a mere hunting lodge, situated south of Lisbon, the two-story complex became known throughout Europe as one of the continent’s handsomest residences and gardens.

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This story appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of MILIEU.