Abandoned Portugal: The Palácio do Rei do Lixo

Hell, witches, trash, fires, and ghosts? There's more to see in Coina than meets the eye.

A short drive from Lisbon lies the largely unremarkable parish of Coina in Barreiro known for its oversized flea markets, as a meet-up point for cyclists, and its strange local landmark that goes by a variety of names: the Palácio do Rei do Lixo (The Trash King’s Palace), the Torre de Coina (Coina Tower), the Palácio da Bruxa (The Witch’s Palace) and the Torre do Inferno (Hell’s Tower). This imposing building is easily visible from the Estrada Nacional 10 and is shrouded in mystery due to its eccentric design and a mysterious fire in the ’80s.

Video by Maximilian Xavier

The farmland dates back to the 16th century, when it belonged to the Pina Manique family. At the end of the 19th century, a merchant from Santo António da Charneca called Manuel Martins Gomes Júnior (a.k.a. the King of Trash) acquired it and, by 1910, completed the structure of the palace you see today, though his original plan was to expand the wings out significantly over time. Apparently, it was designed so that Gomes could see a property he owned in Alcácer do Sal from the topmost point of the tower. 

Ever the collector, Gomes also owned a 14th-century convent he bought and rebuilt in 1908 called the Quinta da Trindade in Azinheira, Seixal. He took great care to protect the existing 8,000-plus tiles that had been collected and installed over the centuries — and further added to the historical value of the property by integrating salvaged remains of figurines from convents, monasteries, and churches that were abandoned after the 1834 dissolution of monasteries decreed in Portugal in 1834.

As of November 2022, the Câmara deemed the quinta in Azinheira a site of public interest, in order to protect it from further decline — something that has yet to be done in Coina. It seems the “King of Trash” had an eye for treasure and a taste for eccentricities and the municipalities have always been decades behind.

Gomes (center) and his staff at Quinta do Inferno circa 1912. Credit: Lusophia

But why the “King of Trash?” It turns out that Gomes was exclusively responsible for collecting waste in the city of Lisbon and dumping it across the Tejo. Therefore, he had access to some impressive dumpsters, top-notch salvage yards, and a monopoly on collection and disposal. This allowed him to amass quite a fortune in his own right, though he described himself as a staunch Republican, atheist, and defender of the poor. 

His dislike of organized religion might explain why Manuel Gomes Júnior originally named the estate “Quinta do Inferno” and, according to Sapo.pt, insisted that a school be built alongside the tower so he could offer free secular education to his own children as well as to the children of his employees.

However, neither Gomes nor his family ever lived in the palace, as construction was inexplicably interrupted in 1913-1914, leaving the building forever incomplete. 

Upon his death in 1943, Gomes left the property to his son-in-law, António Zanolete Ramada Curto, who turned the palace into an agricultural home and ran a prosperous business there until 1957.

Next, it was converted to an impressive pomegranate farm by its new owners, Joaquim Baptista Mota and António Baptista — who also did away with all remaining ties to hell and ran it under the name Quinta de São Vicente for just shy of two decades.

Photo of Palácio do Rei do Lixo (The King of Trash’s Palace), a.k.a. the Torre de Coina (Coina Tower), a.k.a. the Palácio da Bruxa (The Witch’s Palace), a.k.a. the Torre do Inferno (Hell’s Tower) by Rodolfo Lino, Wikicommons Media

In the late ’70s, the property was acquired by the eccentric builder António Xavier de Lima. He had planned on moving in with his wife Fátima and living full-time in the castle which, at that point, had been uninhabited for the previous 18 years.

In a piece written at the time of Xavier de Lima’s death, Fátima told Diario Notícias, “the only reason we didn’t live [at the Palácio do Lixo] was because a fire destroyed the building’s bowels in 1988, leaving only the structure.”

She went on to describe the beautiful wooden interior that she and her husband were in the process of restoring when the mysterious fire that broke out on the second floor ravaging the building and leaving only the walls and the skeleton of the palace intact.

This fire could have been the work of arsonists, but many would rather believe the tower was cursed. Legend has it that the King of Trash built the house obeying all Masonic rules. One such rule states, “If our Masonic work is truly dedicated, that spirit will inhabit the structure which we erect…a sanctuary by our deeds in which God may dwell. Then we may be sure that at the end of our days, we shall find our abode in that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

As an atheist, Gomes sidestepped the God and heaven bit when he (allegedly) vowed that if he couldn’t inhabit it, nobody else ever would. It, therefore, comes as no shock that many think he haunts the tower still. 

After 50 years of disuse, the roof has caved in and vandals have made artistic use of the remaining walls, but I’ll bet the view to Alcaçer hasn’t changed much. It seems Gomes’ spirit will happily go down with the ship if no attempts are made to support the dilapidated structure. Judging from his alternative approach to life in Portugal during his day, I’d say he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Wanna see more of what’s inside? More excellent photos of the interior can be found here.

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