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Forest Park of the Discalced Carmelites, Bucaco

Date of Submission: 26/11/2004
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
National Commission of Portgal to UNESCO
Coordinates: 40°33'N 8°28'W
Ref.: 1984
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Description

Measuring 1450m by 950m, the National Forest is surrounded by a wall with several gates scattered around the perimeter, providing access to the leafy woods which surround the church, part of a Carmelite convent, a monumental palace, and several other buildings of a religious nature. Bucaco's cultural landscape predates this, the only "wilderness” of its kind in Portugal, which was created by the Order of Discalced Carrnelites between 1628 and 1630. The friars of the Monastery of Vacarip, situated five kms away, had already been active in altering the natural environment, since the sixth century. The National Forest of Bucaco boasts a remarkable botanical and scenic heritage, with a large number of gigantic, century-old trees, in which one species is especially noteworthy, Cupressus Lusitanica Miller, originating in the mountains of Mexico and Guatemala, and commonly known as the Bucaco Cedar, which, due to its age, adaptation, number and height has become a symbol of the Forest. The landscape was created on a continuous basis, over a lengthy period, not only by the planting of indigenous and exotic trees and bushes, but also by the construction, at different times, of certain architectural features. Significant contributions to the transformation of the landscape were made by the building of the small Convent of Santa Cruz in 1628, and the wall which isolates the Forest from the exterior (accessible only through the Coimbra Gates), built with the aim of edifying a Carmelite "wilderness", as it existed in Jerusalem. The architectural features of the "wilderness" contributed towards the physical and symbolical transformation of the landscape and left their mark on its morphology, endowing it with religious significance, and leading eventually to the creation of a "sacred landscape" which is punctuated by chapels, hermitages, stone crucifixes, gateways, fountains and the Sacred Way. In the nineteenth century, at the time of the extinction of religious orders in Portugal, the monks were forced to withdraw, and the property was forfeited to the State. Unlike other Church properties, it was excluded from public auction and fell under the jurisdiction of the General Administration of Royal Forests. In an attempt to make the properly profitable, new, exotic species were planted, pathways were built, and access gateways to the Park were made, a decisive step in the transformation of the original landscape. Now, after so many years have passed by, Bucaco has become the archetype of an eighteenth-century romantic landscape. Conservation and restoration works were carried out on some of the buildings in the forest, and other features were built, such as the Santa Teresa Chalet, lakes and waterfalls. In 1887 new edifications were planned which would have transformed the Park once again, and works were commissioned from the firm of G. Roda e Figli, but never camed out. The Convent, however, was transformed into a hotel, following the design of Luigi Mannini. Intent on basing the works on a national architectural style, the designer transposed to the building some of the most beautiful Portuguese revivalist motifs, creating an atmosphere of petrified nature, redolent of the true essence of the Portuguese neo-Manueline style. Later, works by Nicola Bigaglia, Jose Alexandre Soares and Norte Junior, were added, after the completion of the building in 1907. The new Palace-Hotel, allied to the unique contemplative atmosphere of the Forest, soon began to attract tourists from the local spa resorts. The group of buildings complement each other in a wealth of contrasting architectural and decorative styles, uses and environments. In addition to its symbolic and spiritual significance, the rare and outstanding beauty of this place is the fruit of a perfect symbiosis between the buildings and their natural surroundings. Special attention should be paid to the artistic quality of the decorative features (sculpture, mural paintings and tiles.)