Mafa Palace and Braga’s Sanctuary ‘Bom Jesus’ have been voted UNESCO World Heritage sites.
There are those who say both should have been recognised years ago.
But now that they have, everyone is delighted – not least President of the republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa says the news is “motive for great rejoicing by all Portuguese”.
The addition of the two national monuments brings the number with world heritage status in Portugal to 17. The others being, in order of selection: the historical centre of Angra do Heroísmo (in the Azores), Batalha Monastery, Christ’s Convent in Tomar (all in 1983); the historical centre of Évora (1986); Alcobaça Monastery (1989); Sintra (1995); the historical centre of Porto (1996); the prehistoric cave art of Vale do Rio Coa (1998); Madeira’s Laurel forest (1999); the historical centre of Guimarães and the Alto Douro wine region (both in 2001); the wine region of Ilha do Pico (also Azores, in 2004); Elvas fortress (2012) and the University of Coimbra (2013).
Will the new recognition change anything? Mafra is already exceptionally popular with tourists as well as Portuguese culture buffs, particularly as there are so many sections of the palace to see and enjoy – not least the cathedral which holds recitals involving the seven organs in place every month, or the enormous library of ancient books where ‘bookworms’ are consumed by legions of bats.
For the Bom João Sanctuary, known for its extraordinary Baroque stairway that climbs 116 feet, Braga mayor Ricardo Rio says the new classification brings with it “huge responsibility to ensure the place remains worthy of its distinction”.
Tweeted prime minister António Costa the news is “another reason for pride in Portugal. Congratulations to all those who contributed to this recognition”.