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The Initiation Well at Quinta da Regaleira near Sinta, Portugal

Bojan Ivanov

That which is below corresponds to that which is above, and that which is above, corresponds to that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing” – Hermes Trismegistus

This 88-foot-deep well is located on the land of Quinta da Regaleira, near the town of Sintra, Portugal. The well was never used as a well and, in fact, was never built to serve as a water resource at all. It was actually built for secret ceremonial purposes.

The palace, as seen from the bridge over the lower gate. Author: Lusitana – CC BY 2.5

The palace, as seen from the bridge over the lower gate. Author: Lusitana – CC BY 2.5

The owner of Quinta da Regaleira, the wealthy Portuguese businessman Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, was a well-known Freemason. With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he designed and constructed the four-hectare property with enigmatic buildings, mysterious parks, and underground tunnels.

All of the structures erected in Quinta da Regaleira are filled with many symbols, which are linked to masonry, alchemy, the Rosicrucian and Hermetic legacy, the Knights Templar and Tarot mysticism.

Looking down into the Initiation Well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

Looking down into the Initiation Well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Quinta da Regaleira estate is known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”. Built in 1904, the pearl of the estate, without doubt, is the palace. The grand residence has five floors and a Gothic facade, with carved and decorated gargoyles and other Gothic ornaments. The construction of the impressive estate lasted over 6 years. After the death of Carvalho Monteiro, the property was bought by a Waldemar d’Orey. The family owned it until 1987, when it was sold to a Japanese corporation. They kept the estate closed from the public for 10 years. In 1997, the local authorities purchased the estate, and after restoration, in 1998, it was opened for public visits.

View upwards from the bottom of the Initiation Well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

View upwards from the bottom of the Initiation Well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

The estate’s park also contains a large garden and an extensive and puzzling system of tunnels, which have numerous entrances constructed in different styles. Grottoes, as well as a chapel can be seen, and also the Waterfall Lake, and Leda’s Cave, which lies under the Regaleira Tower.

Bottom of the Initiation well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

Bottom of the Initiation well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Initiation Well, in some way, is an entrance to the underground labyrinth too. It is connected to other entrances via a series of underground walkways. The Initiation Well has a striking spiral staircase supported by carved columns, that lead down to the bottom of the well through its nine landings. It is believed that the spacing of these landings, as well as the number of steps in between, are linked to Tarot mysticism and Masonic principles. At the bottom of the Initiation Well is a compass over a Knights Templar cross, which is said to have been the coat of arms of Carvalho Monteiro, pointing to his association with Rosicrucianism.

Rain down the Initiation Well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

Rain down the Initiation Well. Author: Stijndon – CC BY-SA 3.0

The nine small round landings, separated by fifteen steps, also evoke references to Dante’s Divine Comedy and may represent the ‘Nine Circles of Hell’, the ‘Nine Sections of Purgatory’ and the ‘Nine Skies of Paradise’.

One of the entrances to the labyrinth. Author: Lusitana CC BY 2.5

One of the entrances to the labyrinth. Author: Lusitana CC BY 2.5

The Initiation Well looks like an inverted tower and depending on the direction the adept choose to walk, it represents a journey into the depths of Mother Earth or a rise up into the light. Symbolically, the well represents the death/rebirth allegory, typical within many mystical traditions. The journey through the well is like a rebirth through Mother Earth’s womb.

Tunnel starting from the Eastern Grotto. Author: Lusitana – CC BY 2.5

Tunnel starting from the Eastern Grotto. Author: Lusitana – CC BY 2.5

There is also a smaller well on the property which has a straight staircase that connects a series of ring-shaped floors to one another. This well is called the Unfinished Well. The two wells are connected via the underground system of tunnels. A structure similar to these wells can be found in the Pozzo di S. Patrizio in Italy. On the property are also two artificial lakes and several fountains.

The Waterfall Lake and its system of caves. Author: Husond – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Waterfall Lake and its system of caves. Author: Husond – CC BY-SA 3.0

There are no written records of how the wells were used and what precisely went on there, but it is obvious that great energy was put into their construction and planning. However, not knowing the answer allows us to enjoy the mystery of these unique structures.