Portugal: Ceremony for Cathedral and Diocesan Museum in Santarem assembles 400 people

The Cathedral and Diocesan Museum in Santarém, winner of an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2016, hosted a ceremony for 400 people on the afternoon of 10 September. Luís Filipe de Castro Mendes, Minister of Culture, João Tàtá dos Anjos, from the European Commission Representation in Portugal, and Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, Board Member of Centro Nacional de Cultura, which represents Europa Nostra in the country, praised this great heritage achievement from Portugal and presented the winner’s plaque to D. Manuel Pelino Domingues, Bishop of Santarém.

The Cathedral of Santarém and the adjoining Diocesan Museum was the focus of a comprehensive conservation project from 2012 to 2014. This included the restoration of the architecture of the cathedral, originally built in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and the movable and integrated decoration both inside and on the cathedral’s façade, as well as the rehabilitation of the museum which houses a collection of religious art. “The conservation of the paintings, sculptures, ecclesiastical objects and the architecture of the Cathedral and the Museum was carried out proficiently and with great attention to detail by the conservators. This ambitious project is an excellent model for the wider network of cathedrals which are found throughout Portugal”, the Awards’ jury stated.

Ceremony for Cathedral and Diocesan Museum in Santarém, Portugal, 10-09-2016In his address, the Portuguese Minister of Culture stated that the work undertaken by the Diocese of Santarém “is an example of best practice in conservation which deserved to receive the prestigious European Heritage Award from the European Union and Europa Nostra”.

Luís Filipe de Castro Mendes affirmed that “the State has a key role in protecting heritage and stimulating cultural activities, which cannot be replaced” but noted that “this rehabilitation project was only made possible thanks to the cooperation with civil society, local authorities and institutions, such as the Church.”

João Tàtá dos Anjos, from the European Commission Representation in Portugal, championed cultural heritage as a driver for economic development and social cohesion. “Our shared heritage is not always valued as it should be. Nevertheless, it is our historical and cultural heritage that cements the collective memory and identity of European citizens,” he added.

The representative from Europa Nostra highlighted the importance of this European recognition. Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins also linked this “project of excellent” with the role played by the renowned Portuguese writers Alexandre Herculano and Almeida Garrett in promoting Santarém’s heritage.

The Bishop of Santarém spoke about the rehabilitation project of the Cathedral and Diocesan Museum and thanked “numerous institutions and companies and hundreds of professionals for their contributions”. “The support of the Municipality of Santarém, which secured European Union funds, obtained through the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), and the partnership with the Regional Directorate for Culture of Lisbon and Tagus Valley, and later with the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, were crucial for the success of this project,” stressed D. Manuel Pelino Domingues.

The presentation ceremony was enhanced by musical performances by the Schola Cantorum da Catedral de Santarém. The festive event, which also marked the second anniversary of the Diocesan Museum in Santarém, ended with a guided tour of the Museum and the opening of the temporary exhibition ‘Route of the Cathedrals in Santarém (2009-2014): Memory and Project’.

The rehabilitation project of the Cathedral and Diocesan Museum in Santarém – together with the 27 winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2016 – was honoured at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony held on 24 May at the Zarzuela Theatre in Madrid, Spain. This major event was co-hosted by Maestro Plácido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra, and Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

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