Terreiro do Paço in Lisbon
Terreiro do Paço (Giulia Calabretta - Pexels)

Lisbon seeks World Heritage status for downtown rebuilt after 1755 quake

Lisbon mayor says downtown area is “unique site” and deserves World Heritage status

Lisbon Council has formally presented a bid to the UNESCO National Commission for its Baixa Pombalina downtown area to be recognised as a World Heritage Site, highlighting the “uniqueness of this historic area” and its contributions to the history of humanity.

“We are very committed to obtain the classification of Baixa Pombalina as a World Heritage Site. Lisbon is a unique city: historic and innovative, traditional and cosmopolitan, with a unique identity, but always open to the world,” said the mayor of Lisbon, Carlos Moedas (PSD), in a statement sent to Lusa.

The mayor highlights the city’s heritage assets, “particularly those that recall the impressive response capacity that the Portuguese people had to the 1755 earthquake, one of the most destructive ever,” considering that “they are endowed with an exceptional universal value and deserve to be distinguished and protected.”

The Baixa Pombalina application process to receive this distinction attributed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the goal of protecting sites of “outstanding universal value,” began in 2022.

The Lisbon city council considers that the inscription of the area in the Portuguese indicative list, which is periodically revised, is “fundamental” so that “a future classification may be possible, justified by the exceptional character of this historic area and by its contributions to the history of humanity”.

Carlos Moedas said that the Baixa Pombalina “is a unique site, home to “multiple buildings of recognised historical and heritage value, representing different eras and preserving their authenticity”.

The mayor noted there are “more than a dozen national monuments, as well as several complexes, monuments and buildings of public interest.”

One of the properties is the Torreão Poente (West Tower) of Praça do Comércio, “a building that in itself is a museum piece, dating from the final period of reconstruction of the Baixa area after the 1755 earthquake, and which will be subject to redevelopment to house a centre of the Museum of Lisbon,” the municipality said.

“The world heritage list already includes some historic centres, even of an enlightenment nature, such as Bordeaux, Saint Louis and Saint Petersburg, but the inclusion of Lisbon would significantly enrich that list. It should be remembered that the Baixa Pombalina, unlike many historic centres that were built from scratch, was born on a patchwork of rubble, levelling spaces and incorporating some of the remaining buildings. This is also part of its uniqueness”, the mayor stresses.

Says the council, Lisbon is considered the first modern city in the West, which influenced the creation of other important cities in Europe and the world through the innovative reconstruction of the Baixa Pombalina area, completed three years after the 1755 earthquake.

Besides, it adds, “the value of this asset has not stagnated in time, remaining a current model, functional and adaptable to new uses”.

Stressing that it was in Baixa Pombalina that the city was able to show itself as creative at various levels, the city hall points out several benefits of the candidacy to be a world heritage site, namely in its rehabilitation, thanks to the possibility of incentives and tax benefits, exemption of taxes, creation of a bank of materials and a pool of designers with experience in rehabilitation; in the protection and conservation of the entire group of buildings and “in terms of education, by the possibility of promoting dissemination and information campaigns about the heritage”.

Source: LUSA