Since the beginning of recorded time, Sintra has been regarded as a land cloaked in mysticism. It permeates its steep hillsides and even its air. It’s common to be surrounded in nevoeiro (fog) one moment and the next, bathed in sunlight.
Located north of Estoril and engulfed by the Sintra Sierra, it is a place of lush forests and tranquil ponds nurtured by nature’s delicate (and sometimes harsh) touch. You can feel a bigger, stranger power at work in those hills. Its legends have been passed orally through generations and have survived since the time of the Moors — and maybe even before then.
The Moon Temple
One of the more popular stories of how Sintra got its name comes from the Roman Empire. It’s said the Sintra Sierra was called Mons Lunae (Temple of the Moon). To honor the Roman Emperor Octavianus Augustus II, the people who lived there built a temple, which was strangely rejected by Rome after it had been completed. Thus, the people consecrated it to the moon, or Cinthia. Hence, the name “Sintra” was derived.
The Tomb of the Two Brothers
Another legend has it that a Moorish girl was spared by the army of the Reconquistador and first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques. Her beauty was so great that she was courted by most men, including two brothers both of whom had fallen in love with her charm.
One night, the two brothers found themselves at the window of this maiden. Enraged with jealousy, one of them took out his sword and spilled his brother’s blood. Grief-stricken at the sight of his fallen irmão, he then brought the sword to his own stomach and ended his own life.
Both brothers are said to be buried in São Pedro de Penafrim, their tomb marked with two spheres the size of human heads on each end.
The Legend of the Yellow Rock
In one remote part of Sintra, there is a large stone protrusion that springs very strangely from the ground. Beneath this rock, it is said, lies a treasure that will belong to whoever can topple the rock with an egg.
One legend goes like this: An elderly woman who wanted the treasure armed herself with as many eggs as she could and approached the rock. Egg after egg, she threw with all her might, laying siege against the geological formation that nonetheless was impervious to the assault, until she ran out of eggs. Legend has it that to this day, the yellow moss that grows on the rock came from the woman’s yolks, which, much like her dreams of treasure, were shattered against the yellow stone.
The Girl on the Road
This is a modern legend that has recently been debunked, though there is still a shred of mystery to it, enveloped in the paranormal.
A group of friends was traveling through the Sintra Sierra, filming their trip as they went along. At some point, they came across a confused-looking girl waiting on the side of the road. The girl had a bewildered look on her face that creeped out the person filming the ride. They decided to pull over anyway and picked her up. She started to feel sick and then she screamed. What followed is unclear, but they had an accident that took the lives of all the passengers. The body of the girl on the road was nowhere to be found.
The video, directed by David Rebordão, shows the couple picking up the ghost at minute 4:20 of the film. Coincidence?
The ghost of the white lady is Teresa Fidalgo, who supposedly died at that curve in the road in 1983. Social media and the internet abound with variations of the story. There’s even evidence of a mentally ill man coming forward, claiming to be the sole survivor of the car crash that was reenacted in the film.
The Stoning of Penha Verde
On an October night in 1984, a call for help was made by the residents of Quinta da Penha Verde over the police radio. Apparently, the inhabitants of the farm were being assaulted by flying rocks. The GNR police and firefighters rushed to the scene, with light projectors. They found that rocks were appearing out of thin air and striking the 10 inhabitants and anything that stood in their path. The police shot rounds into the surrounding woods but to no avail.
One of the firefighters boldly stated to everyone in earshot that he did not believe in witchcraft and was convinced this was only an illusion. A stone the size of a fist promptly shot at him and, had he not stepped back, it would have slammed into his face. Upon closer inspection of the stones themselves, he noticed that they were actually warm to the touch.
The phenomenon seemed to center around the female groundskeeper of the house, Elvira da Conceição Teodoro, who was targeted relentlessly by the stones no matter where she hid. The police and firefighters noticed that when the rocks hit people they would not hurt them badly, but when they hit objects like doors and cars they left a deep dent. The stoning only stopped when the groundskeeper and her family left the farm, finding solace in Queluz.
The reporter that followed this story dug deeper and tracked down Ermilia for an interview. Though suffering from epilepsy, she swore on her life that the story was true, and what’s more, that she had been followed by these strange events all her life.
No one has ever been able to explain what happened that night.