» São Francisco Square, in São Cristóvão, Sergipe, receives title of World Heritage
02.08.2010 -

São Francisco Square, in São Cristóvão, Sergipe, receives title of World Heritage

© UNESCOSão Francisco Square - São Cristóvão, Sergipe, Brazil

Brazil now has 18 properties inscribed in the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - UNESCO. Gathered in Session in Brasilia, the World Heritage Committee approved the proposal made by the Brazilian delegation and included the São Francisco Square, in the city of São Cristóvão, in Sergipe, in the List.

The monument was the only Brazilian nomination among the 39 properties being analyzed for inclusion in the List by the World Heritage Committee this year. During the meeting, the Chairman of the Committee and Brazilian Minister of Culture, Juca Ferreira, emphasized that the inclusion of the São Francisco Square in the List of World Heritage represents “a recognition of the singularity of the formation process of the Brazilian cultural landscape.”

The decision was also celebrated by the President of the Brazilian National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage - IPHAN, Luiz Fernando de Almeida. He defended the Outstanding Universal Value of the square, the best representation in Brazil of the period of the Iberian Union (in the 16th century), when Portugal and Spain were united under a single crown. For Almeida, the “São Francisco Square is a unique example of that historical moment”. He also highlights the exuberant and preserved natural formations that compose the area, conferring the Square an unequalled constructed landscape.

The document presented by IPHAN to the World Heritage Committee highlighted that the Square’s Architectural Ensemble, within which is inserted the Convent of São Francisco, is one of the most expressive remnants of edifications erected by the Franciscan Order in colonial Brazil.

Its composition has very unique, dynamic composition of elements, mainly due to the monumentality of the churchyard and crossing, and to the breaking of equilibrium and symmetry paradigms common to other Franciscan Convents. The Square is clearly built in compliance with the provisions of Law 9 of the Phillipine Ordinations, which makes it an unparalleled edification in the process of occupation of the Brazilian territory.
According to the document, “The case of the São Cristóvão Square represents an intact and authentic record of a unique urban phenomenon in Brazil, whose context is a representative period of the country’s history: the alliance of Portuguese and Spanish Crowns under the rule of Phillip II and Phillip III”.

With regard to justifications for the valuation of the São Francisco Square, the document was grounded on the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (criteria ii and iv), highlighting that the monument bears witness to an exchange of values that is also a representative example of a building which illustrates a significant period of the history of mankind. Besides, the document stated the São Francisco Square is proof of the merging of influences from Spanish and Portuguese urbanity practices and legislations into the formation of colonial urban nucleus. Thus, the authenticity of the São Francisco Square is also made explicit by its design, surroundings, techniques, use, function, historical and cultural context.

São Cristóvão is one of the oldest cities in the country, and also the first capital of Sergipe. It was inaugurates in 1590, during the Phillipine Dynasty in Portugal. The main monuments, in the Cidade Alta (Highlands), are composed by approximately 10 buildings surrounding the square, which also holds the Church and Convent of São Francisco.

The building started in 1693, funded by donations from the community to the Franciscans. When the city was the capital of the Province, the Convent also headquartered the Provincial Assembly, and the hall of the Third Order was used by the Province’s General Treasury. Later on during the Republic period of Brazilian history, São Cristóvão also sheltered the batallion troops who fought the followers of Antônio Conselheiro, in Canudos, in 1897.

The city was registered for protection by IPHAN in January 23, 1967. The Institute purchased and restored one of the two-story houses of the square, where it currently holds a technical office and cultural exhibits. The Sacred Art Museum is also part of the historic complex, and holds the 3rd largest collection of that type of art in the country. Also installed in the area is the Sergipe Museum, where visitors can look at items belonging to noble families in the area. (Source: Iphan)
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