Convent of the Capuchos wins European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2022
30 Jun 2022
The European Commission and Europa Nostra have just announced the winners of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2022, funded by the European Union's Creative Europe programme. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the most prestigious European awards in the field of heritage, with 18 European countries awarded for 30 outstanding projects in this area. Among the winners this year in the category Conservation and Adaptive Reuse is the restoration project for the Convent of the Capuchos in Sintra.
In reaction to the announcement of this award, Sofia Cruz, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Parques de Sintra, was keen to point out that "winning this prestigious European award is due to the commitment and dedication of all Parques de Sintra employees. Fully self-funded, our company will continue to provide excellent management of the natural and cultural heritage that make up the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, fulfilling our mission of recovery, requalification, revitalisation, conservation and research of this unique body of heritage, allowing its public enjoyment and enhancing its tourism value."
The winners will be honoured on 26 September in Prague during the European Cultural Heritage Awards Ceremony, which will take place in the recently restored State Opera and be attended by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and by Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, Executive Chairman of Europa Nostra.
As soon as the 2022 winners were announced, European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel commented: "I warmly congratulate all the winners of this edition of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards for the exceptional quality of their work and for their openness to innovation. 2022 is a special year as we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage, which has become the most prominent European prize in the field. Many of the winning projects reflect the deep involvement of young people and their interest in heritage, history and cultural identity, which is particularly relevant in this European Year of Youth. A special mention goes to the two Ukrainian winners. Creative Europe, which co-funds these awards, advocates the promotion of culture and creativity as pillars of inclusive and cohesive societies, grounded in our core European values."
Europa Nostra's Executive Chairman, Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, added: "This year's winners are powerful examples of how our heritage reconnects with nature, helps create a sense of belonging and place, and is a key building block in the development of a circular economy that supports a sustainable and inclusive way of life. I congratulate these outstanding winners – professionals and enthusiasts alike – for their commendable and valuable work."
The awards were presented by a judging panel composed of heritage experts from across Europe, through independent assessment by Selection Committees of the applications submitted by 36 European countries.
Restoration of the Convent of the Capuchos
Founded in 1560, the Convent of the Capuchos is a monastic complex located in the primeval forest of Sintra. The convent was inhabited by Franciscan friars for approximately 300 years and is deeply imbued with a sense of spiritual devotion and asceticism. The site is a symbiosis between humble human construction and natural splendour, where the monastic architecture nestles between huge granite cliffs and the surrounding vegetation. It was abandoned in 1834 and went through periods of a total lack of maintenance before being acquired by the Portuguese State. In 2000, its management came under the purview of Parques de Sintra, an exclusively public company created to safeguard and administer the state-owned properties in the cultural landscape of Sintra, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Involving a multidisciplinary team, the restoration project, which visitors can learn more about through a small exhibition at the monument, focused on the restoration of all the buildings and their decorative elements. The process included cleaning the site's characteristic cork pieces, used profusely in the convent for thermal insulation and as a decorative and finishing material. Traditional techniques were combined with innovative solutions such as the implementation of a fire safety system to prevent the spread of forest fires. Accessibility conditions were also improved by rehabilitating all the paths and reducing obstacles to mobility where possible.
The intervention was fully funded by Parques de Sintra through revenue generated by the monuments under its management that were subject to previous rehabilitation projects. This economic model ensures the sustainability of the management of the cultural heritage entrusted to the company.
Today, the Convent of the Capuchos is a source of national, regional and local pride. The convent plays an important role in the collective memory of the local community and forms part of popular legends and tales relating to the mysticism of Sintra. The rehabilitation of the Convent of the Capuchos contributes to this connection between local residents and the monument, and acts as a catalyst for the rehabilitation of municipal heritage.
"Its remote location and poor state of conservation made the restoration of the Convent of the Capuchos especially challenging. Nevertheless, Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua has carried out a high-quality restoration that is a remarkable example of humble and sensitive heritage. The restored convent stimulates an inherently more sustainable form of slow cultural tourism by attracting visitors to monuments located in a wider area of Sintra", underlined the Judging Panel.
European Cultural Heritage Awards Ceremony 2022
The winners of the Grand Prize and the winner of the Public Choice Award, selected from this year's winning projects, will also be announced at the European Cultural Heritage Awards Ceremony to be held in Prague on 26 September. Each of them will receive a prize of €10,000.
As the winner of one of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards 2022, the restoration project of the Convent of the Capuchos will be a candidate for the Public Choice Award, online voting for which will take place between mid-August and mid-September. For the second time in history, Portugal will have the possibility to win both awards after its double victory in 2018 for the rehabilitation project of the Botanical Garden of the National Palace of Queluz, also carried out by Parques de Sintra
The European Cultural Heritage Awards Ceremony will be one of the highlights of the European Cultural Heritage Summit 2022, which takes place in Prague between 25 and 27 September. The Summit, which is part of the programme of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is organised by Europa Nostra with the support of the European Commission.