30 Jun Historic Centre of Oporto
The Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar, built along the hills overlooking the mouth of the Douro River in northern Portugal, is an outstanding urban landscape with a 2,000-year history. The Romans gave it the name Portus, or port, in the 1st century BC. Military, commercial, agricultural, and demographic interests came together in this place. Its continuous growth linked to the sea can be seen in its many and varied monuments, from the cathedral with its Romanesque choir to the neoclassical Stock Exchange and the typically Portuguese Manueline-style Church of Santa Clara. The urban fabric of the Historic Centre of Oporto and its many historic buildings bear remarkable testimony to the development over the past thousand years of a European city that looks outward to the sea for its cultural and commercial links.
Archaeological excavations have revealed human occupation at the mouth of the Douro River since the 8th century BC, when there was a Phoenician trading settlement there. By the 5th century the town had become a very important administrative and trading centre. In the succeeding centuries it was subjected to attacks and pillage by successive groups, including Swabians, Visigoths, Normans, and Moors. By the early 11th century, however, it was firmly established as part of the Castilian realm. Expansion came in the 14th century with the construction of massive stone town walls to protect its two urban nuclei: the original medieval town and the hitherto extramural harbour area. The Historic Centre of Oporto is located within the line of these Fernandine walls (named after Dom Fernando, in whose reign they were completed in 1376), together with some smaller areas that retain their medieval characteristics. This area conserves to a large extent Oporto’s medieval town plan and urban fabric, along with some later monumental insertions as well as the two remaining sections of the Fernandine walls.
In this area are many important ecclesiastical buildings such as the cathedral – whose Romanesque core dates to the 12th century – and fine churches in various styles. The historic centre also has a number of outstanding public buildings, including the São João theatre (1796-1798; 1911-1918) and the former prison “Cadeia da Relação” (1765-1796). Among the important later structures are Palácio da Bolsa (1842-1910) and São Bento railway station (1900-1916). This rich and varied architecture eloquently expresses the cultural values of succeeding periods – Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical, and modern. The active social and institutional tissue of the town ensures its survival as a living historic centre. This property also includes Luíz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar.
Criterion (iv): The Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar with its urban fabric and its many historic buildings bears remarkable testimony to the development over the past thousand years of a European city that looks outward to the sea for its cultural and commercial links.
Within the boundaries of the 51 ha property are located all the elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar, including the urban fabric and historic buildings that bear testimony to its development over the past thousand years. There is a 186 ha buffer zone. The property does not suffer unduly from adverse effects of development and/or neglect. Several rehabilitation projects included in the property’s Management Plan have been planned and partly implemented in order to contribute to the property’s integrity.
The authenticity of the urban fabric of the Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar is absolute in terms of its location and setting, forms and designs, and materials and substances. The property illustrates over a thousand years of continuous settlement, with successive interventions each leaving their imprints. Individual buildings, such as the rich stock of ecclesiastical properties, are similarly illustrative of this local history. Municipal managers apply regulatory and legal efforts for the preservation and maintenance of physical and intangible assets, defending the existing urban fabric and the built characteristics, monumental or not, the landscape, and its scenic importance. Solutions are being studied to address depopulation issues.
Protection and management requirements
The entire Historic Centre of Oporto is classified as a National Monument under Law No. 107/2001 of 8 September. Additional protective instruments include the Council of Ministers’ Resolution No. 19/2006 of January 26 and the Regulatory Code of Oporto City Council (2008). A large percentage of the historic centre – usually smaller, mainly residential buildings – is in private ownership. The remainder is owned by the State, the Church and religious orders, municipal council, civil parishes, foundations and associations, and Porto Vivo, SRU. The World Heritage Management Plan for the Historic Centre of Oporto includes a survey of the state of conservation, an action plan, a monitoring programme, and a communication plan. Due to the complexity of implementing such a Management Plan, a specific Urban Area Management Unit was created, responsible for solving day-to-day problems in the Historic Centre of Oporto (Porto Vivo, SRU: Sociedade de Reabilitação Urbana da Baixa Portuense, S.A.).
Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require ensuring that the attributes that convey that value are protected, conserved, and managed, and continuing to address, to the degree possible, the issues associated with depopulation.