The Clérigos’ Church and Tower in Porto
Before major interventions were initiated, this unique Baroque ensemble of buildings located in the city of Porto could no longer guarantee the safety of both visitors and staff. A comprehensive restoration project of both the interior and exterior was needed to preserve and enhance the city’s most visited monument. The entire restoration project, from preliminary research to conclusion, was completed in just two years in a collaborative effort by the Brotherhood of the Clérigos, who own the ensemble, the Regional Cultural Directorate of the North, the Porto City Hall, the Porto Santa Casa da Misericórdia and the Universidade Católica Portuguesa and with support from the European Regional Development Fund.
The restoration extended not just to the architectural heritage but also to the movable and integrated heritage contained within which included centuries-old collections of sculpture, paintings, ecclesiastical robes, books and documents. A comprehensive conservation to tackle a wide range of issues was therefore undertaken in myriad fields: architecture, painting, sculpture, furniture, metals, textiles and paper. This project, in the breadth of its expertise, is an extraordinary example of a complex, multifaceted intervention. It was greatly admired by the jury who remarked that “the interdisciplinary approach applied to this project was exemplary and has expertly recovered this important landmark within the UNESCO World Heritage historic centre of Porto for current and future generations. The team behind the project has struck a balance between research and high-quality craftsmanship and this was undoubtedly a complex task”.
The rehabilitation and conservation works were complemented by a ‘musealization’ of the site and its heritage. This was achieved by creating new exhibition spaces, establishing an exhibition route, restoring the archive and installing interpretative signposting. “The project has enhanced the entire complex and has created cohesion between the building and its collections”, noted the jury.
In addition, the restoration project has enabled the Church of the Clérigos and the Chapel of Our Lady of Lapa to reopen for regular worship. “The project has revitalised the infrastructure of the complex and has also enlivened the surrounding area as great efforts were made to promote the site and boost visitor numbers following its restoration. The social recovery of this historic building, in reopening the chapel for religious services, also sets an important example for other sites as these are social buildings first and foremost”, added the jury.