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World Heritage Convention

Decision 34 COM 8B.43
Cultural Properties - São Francisco Square, in the Town of São Cristóvão (Brazil)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-10/34.COM/8B and WHC-10/34.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Inscribes the São Francisco Square, in the Town of São Cristóvão, Brazil, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);

3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

Brief synthesis:

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 only testimony of the period during which the Portuguese and Spanish crowns were united. The São Francisco Square constitutes a unique example of an urban settlement 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. Different from other typological layouts of convents, the São Francisco complex has a unique and dynamic composition, emphasized by a rupture from the concept of balance and symmetry as well as by the monumental scale of the São Francisco Square, which constitutes its churchyard and where its monumental stone cross is located. The square reflects the exceptional vitality of an open public space, complete in its urban configuration, illustrating its history over four centuries and adapted to its uses as a place for the cultural manifestations and celebrations of the daily routines and evolution of that society. 

Criterion (ii): The São Francisco Square is the only 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 reflects an exceptional interchange of visions and urban and architectural models, which occurred due to the extraordinary historic circumstances of having the two rival Empires under one crown.

Criterion (iv): The São Francisco Square constitutes an exceptional example of a unique model of urban and architectural typology that has been preserved as a space that seats religious and civil powers. It shows a paradigm of integrated rational town planning and adaptation to the specificities of the local topography. It is a landmark used as a place for social and cultural manifestations.


The integrity of the property is ensured by the fact that all the attributes necessary to convey its Outstanding Universal Value are encompassed in its boundaries. These attributes are intact and complete. No potential threats have been identified. Moreover, the property has maintained a harmonic insertion of constituting elements in its urban and natural surroundings.


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.  Appropriate management policies are in place, among which an Urban Plan devised with the participation of stakeholders, including the local population and religious orders. 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.

4. Recommends that the State Party:

a) ensure the implementation of the Management Plan and improve the management structure of the property;

b) ensure greater coordination among the different levels of government, as well as increased participation of the community and other interested bodies;

c) to establish and implement a monitoring system for the conservation of the property in the long term, including key indicators and the designation of a monitoring body.

Decision Code
34 COM 8B.43
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Report of the Decisions Adopted By the world heritage committee At its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010)
Context of Decision