Quinta da Várzea Estate
Quinta da Várzea estate
The Quinta da Várzea estate was bought in public auction by Luís da Silva Mouzinho de Albuquerque, in 1837. In November 1840, Mouzinho de Albuquerque was in charge of the restoration of the Monastery of Batalha, as inspector general of Public Works, a post from which he would be removed, for political reasons, at the end of 1843.
The purchase of this old property belonging to the friars of Batalha may not have a direct relation to the role Mouzinho de Albuquerque would come to play in the restoration of the monument. His family and emotional bond with the region of Leiria is however of common knowledge, it being the birthplace of his mother, in which he lived between the ages of 8 and 17. It is also true that his concern with Portuguese heritage and, in particular, with the abandoned, dilapidated state of the Monastery of Batalha, from which its respective community had been expelled in 1834, had also influenced the decision of the consort King, Fernando II, to persuade the Portuguese governmental bodies to restore the monument, taken after he had passed by there in 1836.
Luís da Silva Mouzinho de Albuquerque, who was born in Lisbon in 1792 and died in Porto in 1846, was just the first of a number of notable figures that lived at Quinta da Várzea. Among others, his grandson Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque stands out. He has been born there and would become known for his extensive military service in Africa.
Even though Quinta da Várzea would carry on its agricultural tradition, its buildings would suffer substantial alterations. The 17th century dormitory was turned into a private residence, linking it to new buildings built behind. The terrace of this new extension, facing the stream as well as the portico of the Chapel of Saint Gonçalo, were decorated with limestone pillars which were the work of the stonemasons, who were restoring the Monastery at the time.
With the intent of giving its many students a living, the Diocesan Seminary of Leiria decided to buy the Quinta da Várzea from the descendants of Mouzinho de Albuquerque in 1969. At this time, the buildings were still in their original state, with farmlands, orchards, cork oak groves, pastures, marshland producing reeds, pine woods and olive groves. The socio-economic changes of the next two decades led to the decline of the traditional farming crops, as would also happen in Quinta da Cerca, which also, at that time, belonged to the Seminary of Leiria. Today the Quinta da Várzea, still owned by the Diocese of Leiria, subsists on forestry. Its buildings are generally in an appalling state due to the lack of maintenance and serious acts of vandalism.