Portugal – University of Copenhagen


In order to inquire into the main research question of this project 'How the heritagization of religious sites, objects and practices relates to religious and secular experiences connected to these; and in particular to secular and religious forms of sacralization linking past, present and future' the Portuguese team will focus on the heritagization processes connected with four strategic sites that highlight the multifarious intersections between the secular and the religious approaches to heritage.

In each of these sites we will investigate the paradoxes and tensions inherent in the heritagization of religious sites, objects and practices. An ethnographic approach will be used, using the methods of participant observation, Informal interviews and talks, and the analysis of local documents. The four case studies are:

  1. Sintra: One of Portugal’s best-known UNESCO World Heritage sites that is increasingly being used and reclaimed by Neopagans, New Agers and by followers of the Afro-Brazilian religions as a sacred place.
  2. The Catholic shrine of Fátima: The second most important Marian pilgrimage site in Europe that is emerging as a location for inter-religious dialogue and used by other Christian denominations as well as Muslims, Hindus and practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions and New Agers.
  3. Mértola: An archaeological site that is being used by governmental and non-governmental organizations (among which the institutional representatives of Portuguese Islam) as a key symbol for Portugal’s Islamic past and the necessity of peaceful cohabitation and tolerance.
  4. Mouraria: The (Moorish) neighbourhood in Lisbon which, due to the historical and contemporary presence of Muslims, is being celebrated as a place of cultural and religious richness.

Furthermore, the subproject will also explore the dialogues established with similar and mirroring processes in the lands of origin of the migrants that brought new religions into the country. Through a comparative approach that combines methods from the anthropology and religious studies, HERILIGION will analyse the paradoxes and tensions inherent in the heritagization of religious sites and the sacralization of secular/cultural spaces.