Portuguese cobblestone eyes National Intangible Cultural Heritage status

Portugal’s cobblestone or ‘calçada’ was presented on Saturday in Lisbon as a candidate for UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

The proposal was presented at a ceremony at the Lisbon Chamber, attended by representatives of the Calçada Portuguesa Association, which organised the candidacy, and the municipality of Lisbon, Lusa news agency reported.

António Prôa, Secretary general of the Calçada Portuguesa Association, started by identifying the threats the Portuguese cobblestone faces, including lack of maintenance and poor construction, strong competition from other types of pavements, and the decline of the extractive and stone transformation industries.

Prôa pointed out that in 1927 there were 400 pavers in Lisbon, while in 2020 there were only 18, of which only 11 were active.

The main reason for this decrease was the profession’s poor social and remunerative recognition, he explained.

The promoters of the candidacy highlighted the importance of promoting cobblestone as being a “distinctive and identity element”, recognising the profession of paving stone and it requiring “a unique know-how”, and of enhancing “efficiency and environmental sustainability.”

Prôa explained that a set of measures to safeguard the Portuguese sidewalk would be put in place, either through his “study and investigation”, or through “dissemination, valorization and awareness.”

The Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, said it was “a very special day”, since the Portuguese sidewalk was “part of the Portuguese identity.”

The Portuguese sidewalk consists of irregularly shaped stones, usually white and black limestone, which form decorative patterns or mosaics. In addition to Portugal, it can also be seen in Spain, Gibraltar, Belgium, Czech Republic, China, Macau, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Brazil, United States and Canada.