São Francisco Square, in the town of São Cristovão, is a quadrilateral open space surrounded by substantial early buildings such as São Francisco Church and convent, the Church and Santa Casa da Misericórdia, the Provincial Palace and the associated houses of different historical periods surrounding the Square. This monumental ensemble, together with the surrounding 18th- and 19th- century houses, creates an urban landscape which reflects the history of the town since its origin. The Franciscan complex is an example of the typical architecture of the religious order developed in north-eastern Brazil.
Aerial View, the city and the rivers Vaza-Barris and Paramopama, São Francisco Square in the town of São Cristovão
Outstanding Universal Value
The São Francisco Square, in the town of São Cristóvão, in the North East of Brazil, is an exceptional and homogeneous monumental ensemble made up of public and private buildings representing the period during which the Portuguese and Spanish crowns were united. The São Francisco Square constitutes a coherent and harmonious ensemble which merges the patterns of land occupation followed by Portugal and the norms defined for towns established by Spain. Established in accordance with the length and width required by Act IX of the Philippine Ordinances, this square incorporates the concept of a Plaza Mayor as employed in the colonial cities of Hispanic America, while at the same time inserted in the urban pattern of a Portuguese colonial town in a tropical landscape. Hence, it may be considered a remarkable symbiosis of the urban planning of cities of Portugal and Spain. Relevant civil and religious institutional buildings, the main one being the complex of the Church and Convent of São Francisco, surround the square.
Criterion (ii): The São Francisco Square represents the outcome of the merging of the modes of territorial occupation and settlement of Portugal and Spain according to which urban settlements were established in their respective colonial empires. This property exhibits an important fusion of urban models, which occurred during the unification under one crown of two rival Empires.
Criterion (iv): The São Francisco Square is an outstanding example of harmonious and coherent architectural ensemble that has been preserved as a social landmark of the town and a place for important cultural and social manifestations. It shows a paradigm of integrated rational town planning and adaptation to the specificities of the local topography.
The integrity of the property is sufficient as the attributes necessary to convey its Outstanding Universal Value are encompassed in its boundaries. These attributes are intact and complete and are not under threat.
The Square and associated buildings within the nominated property are authentic in terms of the way they portray their historical and social significance within the life of the town. Works to the Square itself have retained its characteristics while improving the infrastructure, amenity and security for pedestrians.
Protection and management requirements
The property and its buffer zone enjoy sufficient and adequate legal protection that has been improved throughout the years to ensure their proper conservation. The architectural and urban ensemble was protected by the Federal government by procedure 785-T-67 of 31 January 1967, in the framework of Decree - Law 25 of 30 November 1937. At the State level, the ensemble was registered as Historic Monument by Decree Law 94 in 1938, supported by Article 134 of the new State Constitution. In 1967, the Architectural, Urban and Landscape ensemble of São Cristóvão was registered on the Archaeological, Ethnographic and Landscape Protection Book, on page 10, number 40. The buffer zone corresponds to the historic centre of the town of São Cristóvão and is protected at state and national levels.
Appropriate management policies are in place, among which an Urban Plan devised with the participation of stakeholders, including the local population and religious orders. However, the management structure and procedures could be improved by the development and implementation of a management plan for the property and the increase, diversification and improved skills of the staff involved in it. The Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN), through its regional office, is responsible for the physical conservation of the property, while the local government is responsible for land use and compliance with planning regulations.
São Cristóvão was the old capital of Sergipe del Rey; it demonstrates the occupation processes of the region and the development of towns founded during the reign of King Philip II, during the 60-year period when Portugal was under Spanish domain.
The modes of territorial occupation and settlement used by Spain and Portugal in their American colonies between the 15th and the 17th centuries were distinctive. Portugal established a maritime trade network, and was able to occupy coastal territories in Africa and Asia prior to establishing trade and colonial settlements in Brazil. Portugal occupied the Brazilian coast, founding port cities as connection points with Portugal and its other colonies. The urban plans of these settlements respected the topography by adapting the layouts to local conditions.
The history of São Cristóvão is related to the colonisation of Sergipe, when due to the strong resistance of the indigenous people, it was vital to establish a constant communication between Salvador and Olinda, the two most important urban centres of the colony. It was also crucial to secure free access to the main rivers, often blocked by French smugglers.
In order to strengthen the colony in its conflicts with the Brazilian Amerindians and the French smugglers, Cristóvão de Barros founded the city of São Cristóvão, on the isthmus formed by the Poxim River, in the present-day Aracajú region. The land was granted to him by King Philip II with the expectation that it would be divided among the colonists, encouraging the settlement process. The town was moved in 1594-95 and again in 1607 to its present location. São Cristóvão became the capital of Sergipe, the administrative and commercial centre between Salvador and Recife, and the departure point for the colonisation of the hinterland up to the mid-19th century.
In 1855, the state capital was transferred to the city of Aracajú. São Cristóvão, with its churches, convents and secular mansions, remains as a testimony to the past of Sergipe and Brazil.
In 1938, São Cristóvão was declared an Historic Monument by the State government. Between 1941 and 1962 many monuments were individually protected, and in 1967 the Architectural, Urban and Landscape Ensemble of São Cristóvão was registered at the federal level in the Archaeological, Ethnographic and Landscape Protection Book. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation