Sintra was inscribed as a UNESCO site in 1995, in the category of “Cultural Landscape”, as it was described as a model of Romantic monumental and natural heritage. Reputed for its magic, the area of the Sintra mountain is nowadays used by multiple religions as the space for their offerings and rituals, causing conflicts with Catholic believers. The UNESCO classified area includes over 20 different classified religious sites, megalithic monuments, chapels, churches, bringing together ancient pagan religious traditions and elaborated 16th century church altars. One of them is the Convento dos Capuchos, funded in 1560 and given to the Franciscan order, as a result of a religious promise.
Build in a very simple way, the convent materializes the ideals of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi: the search for spiritual improvement through alienation from the world and renunciation of the pleasures associated with earthly life. Its rusticity and austerity relate to the surrounding vegetation, in total integration with nature.
In recent times the convent has been used by different religious groups as a site for offerings and religious contemplation. Since the creation in 2000 of the enterprise Parques de Sintra-Monte da Lua it was fenced and subjected to the rules of the visitable monuments of the Park. This fact causes indignation of the former users of the space, who claim that such buildings and surroundings belong to everyone and one should be able to use it freely. This is a clear case where, although “religious” and “heritage” go hand in hand, their touristified joint venture also causes tensions and disputes. These different heritage/religious regimes and the conflicts between the past austere use of this space in contrast with present day uses will be analyzed.
In a Europe governed by specific standards on patrimonialism, in which all seek the classification by UNESCO of the various performances linked to heritage, we will analyze the response of these religious minorities to the dialogue between patrimonialization and reification / secularization of society.
Clara Saraiva (PhD 1999) is a social and cultural anthropologist, a senior researcher at the Institute for the Social Sciences, University of Lisbon. She was a Visiting Professor at University of California Berkeley (2013), Brown University (2001-02 and 2008) and Michael Teague Research Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown (2001-02 and 2008). She works on the anthropology of religion and ritual, death, medical anthropology, religion and heritage. She was the Portuguese PI of the HERA project HERILIGION, analysing the relations between religion and heritage. She is Deputy-Chair of the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA), past President of the Association of Portuguese Anthropology (APA), past vice-president of the Society for International Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF).