Religious memories and heritage practices in the Mediterranean: confessional coexistence and heritage assertion (MERAP-MED)

Principal researcher: Maria Cardeira da Silva

External principal researcher: Cyril Isnart (CIDEHUS-UÉ)

Research group: Circulation and Place-Making


Memory | Monotheisms | Cultural heritage | Mediterranean

Funding Institution

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)


(CIDEHUS/Universidade de Évora (coord.); Ecole des Hautes Etudes Hispaniques et Ibériques; Institut d'Ethnologie Méditerranéenne, Européenne et Comparative (IDEMEC); Temps; Espaces; Langages; Europe Méridionale - Méditerranée (Telemme)



Start date


End date





MERAP-MED aims to explore heritage-making processes carried out by religious communities in the Mediterranean from an ethnographic and comparative perspective. In order to renew the field of heritage and religious studies in that region, the programme will concentrate on the various ways in which religious identities are constructed and represented in such a multiconfessional context. Historically, the Mediterranean is considered to be a peculiar cultural space where the co-existence of the three monotheisms seems to be central to local socio-cultural structure. If one can observe a wide variety of modes of coexistence, from the mythical convivencia in medieval Spain to violent religious conflicts, some soft modes of side-by-side living exist, showing that interconfessional life is a long-term reality in the Mediterranean. Mixed marriages, conversions, ritual syncretism appear not only as real plural spaces but also as confessional devices to ensure confessional coexistence and persistence. The affirmation of uniqueness and the softening of differences both form part of this multiconfessional context. The cultural and religious in-between of the Mediterranean has recently become a subject of study for the social sciences and humanities, although the heritagisation of the cultural memories of the monotheisms seems to begin with the colonial conquest enacted by the European states at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and has now become increasingly important for the independent nation states, the revival of minorities and the development of cultural tourism. Monotheist heritage in the Mediterranean has been, and still is, materialized through the preservation of architectural vestiges, archaeological remains, places of worship, museums and religious itineraries intended for foreign or local tourists and pilgrims. On the one hand, however, the history of these religions, the superposition of religious and political powers, and colonial uses of heritage have blurred the boundaries between religious memories and heritage as a political resource for the process of state building. On the other hand, some specific and localized heritage claims appear in the Mediterranean which tend to singularize and safeguard religious heritages beyond the three great monotheisms, which are in fact made up of many confessional subgroups, such as Sephardim, colonial Catholics, Armenian Christians, Sufi, Gnawa or even Protestants. Scholars of the Mediterranean have never published anything on this entanglement of religion and heritage, or, at least, they have only recently begun working on research applied to heritage preservation without questioning the role played by heritagemaking as a social practice that can be used by local actors, by confessional minorities or by ecclesiastical institutions as another device to stabilize identity, power and to negotiate their role on the plural scene of the Mediterranean. So if the pasts of the various religious groups are today being transformed into heritage, the members of MERAP-MED propose to explore religious concern for the past as an essential part of the monotheist way of believing. There is no doubt that the past is theologically and ritually important in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (prophets, temples, saints, or holy texts), but we need to understand what is at stake today in the foundation of museums, archives, guided tours and brochures by the Mediterranean confessional minorities and ecclesiastical institutions. The members of the team, historians, geographers and anthropologists have undertaken several studies of religious-heritage management, shared and mixed devotions, church heritagisation, confessional minorities or ritual revival on the shores of the Mediterranean. They will provide a wide range of competences and will lead fieldwork exercises, which will be shared through a series of 3 closed working meetings and displayed at 2 workshops and a final doctoral school. The two methodological directions, description of case studies and comparison, will allow the team to ensure that better and more accurate knowledge is obtained of current heritage dynamics in the religious Mediterranean milieux. Beyond the academic dissemination of the results through papers in international journals, participation in workshops and international congresses, MERAP-MED will create a website on LusopenEdition.org to publish short working papers and images of fieldwork. A PhD School will also be organised at the end of the programme. In addition, MERAP-MED will allow an international and multidisciplinary team to emerge that specializes in religious heritage in the Mediterranean. The team could therefore act as an expert group based in Portugal, linked to international academic institutions that are also involved in Mediterranean and southern studies, reinforcing the main orientation of the CIDEHUS.UE as a reference point on the south and Europe's peripheral spaces.


Full members

Joana Lucas

Practices and Politics of Culture

PhD students Full members

Nuno Mora

Circulation and Place-Making

Full members

Raquel Carvalheira

Circulation and Place-Making