UNESCO recommendations to the Bom Jesus Sanctuary were approved by the World Heritage Committee

The inscription of the Bom Jesus Sanctuary on the UNESCO World Heritage List decisively marks the future and sustainability of this site and entails a great responsibility in the management of the property.

One month after the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee , in Baku, in the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Confraternity of Bom Jesus do Monte, as already planned, was notified to carry out the UNESCO recommendations to the World Heritage Center, until December 15, 2020, regarding a set of themes that we now list:

  1. Improve documentation, fix the inventory of heritage elements and archive all types of documents, improve the action plan to include all works currently in progress and those being planned, and improve institutional links between the two municipalities ( Braga and Guimarães) and other stakeholders for fire prevention and fire fighting;
  2. Complete the process of classifying the entire site as a National Monument;
  3. Ensure funding to carry out future planned conservation work in a timely manner;
  4. Complement management planning for visitor control, including within the park;
  5. Develop additional monitoring indicators to address the identified threats to the property (including forest), monitor and address potential threats to the property, such as urban expansion/development and visitor impacts;
  6. Firm and precise commitment regarding the time to remove the esplanade;
  7. Develop a more complete and detailed study on understanding existing plants that complement landscape attributes based on this work, and using this information to update landscape management planning.

The Confraria do Bom Jesus do Monte sent the report in response to UNESCO’s recommendations, the first since the Sanctuary is inscribed on the World Heritage List. The delivery of the report to the World Heritage Committee, in Paris, by the Portuguese State, through the National Commission of UNESCO, took place on December 15, 2020.

On July 22, at the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, which is taking place in Fuzhou, China, the report on the response to the recommendations, made by UNESCO, was considered and unanimously approved by the Committee.

The preparation of this report led the Confraria to carry out several investments, seeking specialized advice and collaborations with entities with competences and responsibilities in the territory.

Regarding the clarifications on point 1, the Confraria do Bom Jesus, with the installation of the Bom Jesus Memories Center, managed to inventory and organize the entire estate. It is accessible locally or online at https://centrodememorias.bomjesus.pt/en/home/ with a Portuguese and English version. Documentation has been progressively becoming accessible to any Internet user, national or foreign. The second part of point 1 was developed to defend the forest against fire, allowing the reinforcement of the protection of Bom Jesus and the entire surrounding area.

Point 2 was concluded with the publication in the Diário da República of Notice No. 20150/2020, which makes public the inscription on the World Heritage List of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, equating it to a National Monument.

The pandemic caused by covid-19 drastically reduced the Confraternity’s revenues. Therefore, securing funding to carry out conservation work and responding fully to point 3 has become an arduous task. However, funding for ongoing maintenance work is guaranteed. On the other hand, the Confraria will seek, from the community funds, to obtain financing for some works and projects of greater importance, as happened in previous years with the Bom Jesus Requalificar I and II projects.

Point 4 was answered based on the project that the Confraria do Bom Jesus awarded to the Architecture Studio of Beco da Boavista, where solutions were presented that will help in more effective and sustainable planning and management for the control of visitors, outside and inside of the Sanctuary fence.

Probably one of the aspects that most concerns the Confraria, together with the risk of fire, is the urban expansion/development. This point was dealt with in conjunction with the Municipality of Braga, which prepared a detailed report of all urban planning procedures approved, or in progress, for the so-called “buffer zone”, defined within the scope of the classification process of Bom Jesus do Monte as World Heritage. The existence of some projects approved before 2017 was a surprise, although we knew and assumed that within the buffer zone we would have some urban areas. At this moment, it is necessary, with the support of the City Council and the Regional Directorate of Culture of the North, to control this urban pressure, in a concrete and efficient way, so that the protection of the property is not jeopardized.

The Confraria has also assumed the commitment to remove the concrete building to support the Bom Jesus esplanade. The demolition will probably take place during the year 2021, and thus point 6 was approved. The requalification and new functions (interpretive center) for the space is already designed by Architect Carvalho Araújo.The seventh and final clarification that UNESCO requested was answered with a complete and detailed study, never before carried out, on the understanding of the existing vegetation in Bom Jesus. This unprecedented work will allow for more sustainable planning and management of the landscape.

The Confraria do Bom Jesus is working at the level of the requirements that UNESCO wants, seeking to surround itself with the best specialists and work together with local and national entities, with responsibilities in the territory.

When we took on the application for a World Heritage Site, we knew that the work would not be finished with the application. Therefore, today we are prepared to provide a capable response to all UNESCO’s demands and requests for clarification, so that Bom Jesus can continue to bear this international seal that honors us so much.

The positive assessment resulted in the approval by the World Heritage Committee, proving that the Confraria do Bom Jesus is honoring its commitments and, therefore, we continue on the right path of safeguarding a World Heritage Site.