The estate of Quinta de la Regaleira near Sintra is full of mysterious and fantastical structures. Grottoes, caves and waterfalls lend a romantic, magical air to this paradise. The most mysterious sight of them all however, are the initiation wells.
The initiation wells are two wells (one finished and one unfinished) that sink about 90 feet into the ground, encircled by a winding spiral staircase. They were never used as wells for water however, but rather as inverted towers used for more ceremonial purposes.
These wells are full of secrecy. There are a series of underground tunnels that lead to them from several of the grottoes. I was attempting to navigate these tunnels when I managed to step on a patch of “grass” which was actually a bed of algae and next thing I knew I was knee deep in water. At least I dried fairly quickly in the warm weather.
The spiral is used in hermetic beliefs as a symbol of death and rebirth. The spiral staircase of the finished well also has nine landings. These nine landings have to do with the nine circles of Hell, the nine portions of Purgatory and the nine skies of Paradise. The number of steps between the landings are important numbers in Tarot mysticism and Masonry. At the base of the well is the Knight Templar Cross overlaid with a compass.
The wells were used for secretive initiation ceremonies and rite – but exactly how, is so secretive, no one really knows. The owner of the estate who installed the wells was António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, who bought the estate in 1904, and known to be a member of the mysterious Rosicrucian sect.
So who knows what kind of secrets these walls hold. Either way, they are very mysterious.