Sep 23, 2016


Faculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto

“[…] this land is very mountainous for the most part and it is all taken advantage of, none goes to waste, particularly for the Douro. And the men of the land are so beneficent that they take the basket of earth on their backs up the highest cliffs […]”.

SABROSA: Territory and Heritage
The cultural landscape of the Alto Douro Wine Region (ADWR) is listed as World Heritage (UNESCO, 2001). Although wine production dates back earlier, it was in the 18th century that it became the main crop in the region (UNESCO). Port wine became renowned worldwide for its quality. This long winegrowing tradition produced an exceptional cultural landscape which reflects its technological, social and economic development. As a cultural, evolving and living landscape, the ADWR was appreciated for its land use that, apart from representing the evolution of a wealth of material and immaterial culture, it comprises a type of landscape which illustrates representative moments in history, patent in its terraces, vineyards, settlements, chapels and pathways. It is also a unique testament of a tradition that still lives on but has been modernised, that uses and builds a new landscape, builds material heritage and preserves its immaterial legacy. The ADWR is indeed Living Cultural Heritage. The listing of the ADWR as World Heritage “involves the space and mankind and, consequently, the activity generated through a centuries-long relationship, which is constantly renovated by the soil, the cultivation of wine, wine production and a whole range of associated material and immaterial heritage assets” (CENTRO NACIONAL DE CULTURA, 2013: 46). The Québec Declaration on the preservation of the spirit of place (“Spiritu Loci”) (ICOMOS, 2008) emphasises the need “to safeguard and promote the spirit of places, namely their living, social and spiritual nature.” The ADWR materialises a way of life connected to the culture of vines and wine, which shape the monumental and humanised landscape, designing unique forms with its terraces; for its religious and civil heritage, which is only intelligible in its perfect relationship with the more vernacular culture. But above all, for the intangible heritage which bestows meaning, values and context on this cultural, evolving and living landscape. According to the Québec Declaration, “Spirit of place is defined as the tangible (buildings, sites, landscapes, routes, objects) and the intangible elements (memories, narratives, written documents, rituals, festivals, traditional knowledge, values, textures, colors, odors, etc.), that is to say the physical and the spiritual elements that give meaning, value, emotion and mystery to place” (ICOMOS, 2008). In the ADWR and in Sabrosa, the spirit of place persists, shaped by mankind in response to their most varied needs, part of “a continuously reconstructed process, which responds to the needs for change and continuity of communities” (ICOMOS, 2008, Art. 3). This exhibition intends to respond to one of the most innovative principals of the Québec Declaration, the use of new digital technologies to “to better preserve, disseminate and promote heritage of places and their spirit”(ICOMOS, 2008, Art. 7)

The traveller who has never visited the Alto Douro Wine Region will have an experience of incommensurable impact, the landscape taking one beyond daily life, delving into an attractive world with a strong sense of place.

The rostrum of this retable, framed by archivolts emphasising their scenographic dimension, bears a number of sculptural works of the crowning of the Virgin Mary.

From a river that was tough to navigate, as Almeida Garrett (1700-1854) noted, to a Douro of calm waters which invites contemplation of nature and travel, a territory has been built with a singular landscape.

The Douro wine estates are surrounded by carefully landscaped gardens and kitchen gardens with a scattering of architectural fountains.

Heritage encompasses all that has quality for the cultural and physical life of man and has profound meaning for the existence and affirmation of communities, from the rural and parochial, to the municipal and regional, as well as national and international. Heritage is quality and a wealth of memory that is ideally alive. Without quality, whether intrinsic or circumstantial, there is no fundament. Heritage cannot be seen only as a reserve and even less as a recollection or nostalgia of the past. It should, rather, be regarded as part of our present (CAFA, 1998: 10-17). Based on these ludic reflections, and considering heritage as the conjugation between past and present, we have elected the council of Sabrosa as the theme for this exhibition, selecting parishes that are most closely related with winegrowing, due to their location. The quality of the council’s landscape, a handmade landscape (common to the entire territory of the Alto Douro Wine Region), results from domination of adverse geomorphological conditions.  We owe the aesthetic wonder the landscape has today to the arduous work of Man over the centuries and to the control the dams built have taken of the irregular, turbulent waters of the Douro River. In the council of Sabrosa, spatial planning has mitigated the dissonances arising from the expansion of the settlements. Its wealth of heritage, of incalculable quality, comprises old and contemporary architectures for housing and production, vernacular constructions, urban design, religious architecture and public architecture dedicated to culture. The quality of this heritage has been its own cause and effect.

Among the diversity of red grape varieties in the Douro, only 5 should truly be highlighted. First, because they are the most common among the vineyards and, second, for their exceptional versatility and how they have adapted to the Douro’s schist soils.

Located at the extreme end of the settlement of Celeirós do Douro, the new wine-ageing warehouse of Quinta do Portal, keeps up with the transformation of the business sector, where agro-industrial activity coexists with cultural tourism.

The architecture serves to highlight its insertion in the landscape and the building’s energy efficiency.

Two large wine storage and ageing vaults showcase its laboratorial nature, employing digital technologies to control the environment, the state of the art in wine production and the investment that has been made.

The ‘patamares’ (ledges) and ‘vinha ao alto’ (vertical rows of vines) are among the new landscaping techniques, having become widespread in the 1980s.

There is an obsessive repetition of a single element at the Miguel Torga Centre, the wall. The walls extend unbounded, tying the building to the urban fabric and, at the interstice, a square-market-parking lot appears.

The apparently minimalist interior of the Miguel Torga Centre, dismissing formalist concessions, does not denounce the conceptual work accomplished, demanding and patient, with attention to detail, the harmony in materials and the placement of technical equipment.

Dominated by viticulture, the Douro landscape holds within it the layers of several eras.

The Quinta da Marka, located on privileged ground on the north bank of the Douro, an area that has become more densely populated with new estates, cohabit with old manor houses and anonymous constructions.

The window reflects and seems to absorb the surrounding territory and the schist wall replicates the vine terrace walls, in a mimetic continuity which seems to deny the evidence of a world in permanent change.

Homes, production facilities and, often, a chapel can be found scattered on higher ground. On the steep slopes that extend to the right-hand bank of the Pinhão River and its tributaries, the vineyard dominates.

The ‘cardanhos’ [farm barracks] were modest structures where harvest workers would stay temporarily, in berths.

The heritage of Sabrosa is spread through the parishes described in this section. They either stand out due to the appreciable number of noble houses they are home to, their orderly urban design, the richness of their sacral interiors, or the presence of a vernacular heritage and high-quality contemporary architecture. These parishes reveal a diversity that should be viewed within an historical process and according to the distinct economic power of their populations. The council’s heritage landscape, in the area closest to the Douro and Pinhão river valleys, is profoundly marked by constructions from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the 20th and 21st centuries. It is home to the region’s more imposing heritage, richer and more visible, revealing greater “artistic will”. Viticulture and the international trade of wine are the cause and effect of buildings of an accentuated architectural quality, both in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as today. The old settlements, founded in the Middle Ages, show a taste of the Baroque in manor or noble houses, the parish churches and chapels, the fountains, crosses and via sacra. It is in the wealth of the churches’ interiors especially that the Baroque stands out. Elevated with imagery and retables in gilded woodcarvings, the elaborateness and decorative detail of the interior contrasts vividly with the exterior, which are often quite modest. This heritage remains alive due to its use in the present, with rituals of devotion and new collective celebrations, the dynamics of viticulture and winegrowing supported by modernised facilities of attentive architectural design, and a keen awareness for the value of the heritage of the past in contemporary life and the region’s international projection and that of its products. Thus, the council of Sabrosa is today highly sought-after by those who wish to discover the Alto Douro Wine Region in the present and past.

Located at mid-slope, on regular land in comparison to other settlements in the region, Provesende has developed a rather orderly urban design.

Although viticulture has ancient roots in this region, the creation of the Demarcated Region and the founding of the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro [General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture] (1756) gave new life to the settlements and brought renewed wealth.

The architecture, for the substantial means it requires, for the expression of power it represents, for being a creation of spaces and volumes that mark, profoundly, the social life and the places.

Among the noble houses of Provesende, the Solar dos Beleza stands out for its urban and even palatial character.

The Casa do Santo is located at the western boundary of the town of Provesende, which gives it a more rural nature, although the main façade is facing the street.

In the settlements of Sabrosa, we find a systemic relationship between the noble architecture, derived from winegrowing, and the more vernacular architecture, telling of a diversified social structure sustained by the vineyard.

The vernacular architectures are usually built from schist (the main rock of the region), and usually follow the same functional structure of the manor or noble houses.

Mural paintings, the gilded woodcarvings and the imagery, with their polychrome and profuse forms, elevate the spaces of devotion scattered throughout the region.

The centrality and quality of the Fountain of Provesende (although it was repositioned and heightened when the town was renovated this century) reveals its importance during the early modern period.

The Parish Records of 1758 tell us that “the patron saint [of Provesende] was St. John the Baptist. The church is the most excellent of the entire Archbishopric, in grandeur, idea and architecture” (CAPELA Et. Al., 2006: 429).

The House of Calçada, built in 1715 by Jerónimo da Cunha Pimentel, is imposing in size and breadth.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, a new winegrowing system was introduced, in the wake of the phylloxera outbreak, as a way to fight the plague, which involved the use of American rootstocks, the only vine resistant to the bug.

Described in the 18th century as a united, well-paved settlement with many noble houses, Celeirós, mentioned in documents dating back to the 12th century when it got its charter (1160), it is the most urban of the settlements in the Sabrosa Council, on the area facing the Pinhão River valley.

At the extreme east, on Rua Direita, the main road of the town of Celeirós, there are a number of long warehouses, whose size and equipment bear witness to the dynamism of viticulture and its agro-industrial character.

The Casa do Bucheiro is not bigger than the houses around it. With a horizontal structure, it features a garden at the back, a farming plot and the wine cellars on the ground floor.

Saint Anthony of Lisbon or Padua, a renowned miracle-worker, appears at the centre of the altarpiece, easily identifiable for its most common attributes: he holds a bouquet of lilies on his right hand – a symbol of purity – and the baby Jesus rests on a closed book, on the left, an iconography suggestive of the miracle vision of the saint preaching.

Consecrated to St. Francis of Assisi, this chapel was built by decision of Francisco Furtado de Azevedo Sottomayor (?-?), it is one of the most remarkable examples of private religious architecture in the municipality.

Although dominated by the cultivation of wine, the Alto Douro Wine Region is quite diverse, visible in the various types of landscaping forms adapted to the geomorphological conditions of the land and to historical developments.

It is always fascinating to see a manor house in the Portuguese rural landscape. Isolated or built within the boundaries of small settlements, the manor or noble house of the 17th and 18th centuries has very specific aesthetic features.

The garden of the House of the Viscount of Vilarinho de S. Romão preserves its original characteristics. The carefully built monumental fountain features a sculpture of St. Peter.

In the Alto Douro Wine Region, Man strongly affected the environment, creating special habitats that have also been consecutively altered until the mid-20th century.

The primary school of Vilarinho de São Romão, the model-project of which was designed by the architect Adães Bermudes (1864-1948), located at the far end of the oldest settlement, once hardly inhabited.

Surrounded by a wall and with a theatrical entryway, the house of the Viscount of Vilarinho de S. Romão stands on the outskirts of the town. Open to the public, the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Salvação, founded in 1492.

The more populated centre is characterised by a main church dedicated to the Saviour (18th century), the chapel of St. Roque (17th century) and by the narrow streets.

The portal of the tabernacle of the Sabrosa parish church contains a small wax plate known as “Agnus Dei” since the late 12th century, a rare feature that makes this tabernacle a unique piece.

The ceilings of the churches, chapels and shrines are, in a way, the architectural representation of heaven, built using the illusion of architectures or gilded woodcarvings.

This is a clear example of the diversity and coexistence of different types of vineyard landscaping forms.

The cultivation of wine and of other products typical of the Mediterranean gastronomic culture found expression with the Romanisation of this region. It is proven archaeologically that vines already existed at least since the 3rd millennium B.C. when the Romans settled in the Douro Valley. Although the grape seeds found in various excavations are not proof of the transformation process of grapes into wine, they do prove that vineyards and grapes did exist in this region (ALMEIDA, 2006: 370-372). The extension of vineyards or where they were planted across the territory is still unknown. The cultivation of vines and the transformation of their fruit into wine were boosted during Roman times. This is shown in the various archaeological findings over time, for example, the various ruins of wine-related facilities such as wine-presses, and also ceramic fragments of containers used for storing wine (ALMEIDA, 2006: 372-373, 375).

Only the wine produced on these slopes had the features appreciated by the English market.

In 1756, the Marquis of Pombal founded the General Company of Alto Douro Viticulture to control wine trade and ensure the quality of wine and the balance between its production and trade.

John the Baptist is a recurrent figure in the Douro.

The prosperity of this culture was severely affected from the second half of the 19th century by several grape diseases – downy mildew, powdery mildew, and especially phylloxera, which appeared in 1868, reducing the many vineyards to mortórios (vine mortuaries).

Born in Provesende, Joaquim Pinheiro de Azevedo Leite was the first to introduce American rootstocks to fight the diseases that destroyed this crop.

Phylloxera led to significant changes in the cultivation of vines and helped it grow through new ways of preparing the land and plantation, consisting of new ways of building the schist terraces

Douro wine owes its unique identity to the schist soils and to the significant human action that has shaped the landscape through the construction of ledges on the steep slopes and has prevented erosion.

This landscape is constantly changing as it adapts to modern technologies, without neglecting its typical features, customs, knowledge and techniques.

The application of this heritage to UNESCO highlights the exceptional construction work carried out in the schist walls, which supports the authenticity and integrity of this cultural landscape.

Formed by schist terraces, the so-called “Wine Country”, reflects the history of the first demarcated and regulated wine region in the world and offers a monumental anthropic landscape.

In September, the terraces of the Alto Douro Wine Region come alive with the harvest that closes the vine cycle before vinification.

In early Spring, the vine’s resting period comes to an end making way for its vegetative cycle that varies according to the location.

From August on, the grapes develop their particularities, especially their sugar level. This is the ripening stage which precedes the harvest.

Harvesting can take place between August, September and October, depending on the desired characteristics and the intended type of wine.

While grape-stomping in the wine-presses is today a tradition still followed in many places, it has been replaced by technology to crush the fruit.

Whereas many companies still choose the traditional method, others prefer to use systems that allow them to better control product fermentation.

Wine vats used to be made of wood, especially oak. Today, their materials allow the control of temperature and humidity through mechanical and monitoring systems.

Being under continuous transformation, the Alto Douro Wine Region never overlooks that which defines it: the customs and mores, so it is a cultural, evolving and living territory.

The most important culture in the Douro region after the vine was, and still is, the olive tree, a species well adapted to the climate of the region.

Olives are harvested between December and January. Traditionally, the transformation of olives was done in wine-presses.

The clay jars used for storage, the cans used to carry them and the containers to measure the olive oil

São Martinho (St. Martin) is one of the most famous saints in Portugal, and that shows in the number of parishes of which he is the patron saint.

St. Martin is carried in the procession as a Bishop, a role he played during part of his life.

The festivities in his honour are held on 11th November, the day he is said to have been buried.

Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
Credits: Story

EXHIBITION COORDINATORS: Lúcia Rosas (FLUP) and Maria Leonor Botelho (FLUP)
SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE: Ana Cristina Sousa (FLUP), Lúcia Maria Cardoso Rosas (FLUP), Manuel Joaquim Moreira da Rocha (FLUP) and Maria Leonor Botelho (FLUP)

CURATORSHIP: Lúcia Maria Cardoso Rosas (FLUP), Maria Leonor Botelho (FLUP), Nuno Resende (FLUP), Gisela Araújo (TVU./UP) and Paulo Cunha Martins (TVU/UP)

TEXTS: Ana Cristina Sousa (FLUP), Hugo Barreira (FLUP), Lúcia Maria Cardoso Rosas (FLUP), Maria Leonor Botelho (FLUP), Miguel Tomé (FLUP), Nisa Félix (FLUP) and Nuno Resende (FLUP)

IMAGE PRODUCTION: Paulo Cunha Martins (TVU/UP) and Gisela Araújo (FLUP)

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: Nisa Félix and Gisela Araújo

PHOTOGRAPHS: 1st-year students of the Master’s in History of Portuguese Art (2015/2016), Delfina Brochado, Francisco Vidinha, Gisela Araújo and Nisa Félix

TRANSLATION: Carla Augusto and Teresa Cruz

Sponsors: CITCEM and Department of Heritage Studies/FLUP
University of Porto
Sabrosa Municipal Council
Quinta do Crasto
Quinta da Marka
Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Quinta do Portal

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