In a note that anticipates the 4th edition of the international conference “Arquiteturas da Alma”, which takes place from Thursday to Saturday at the Monastery of Batalha under the coordination of ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, a researcher also criticises the impact of the valorisation program of Revive heritage.

Rolando Volzone, who in Batalha will give a talk on “Dynamics of monastic heritage”, believes that “one should not look at monastic-convent heritage only as monuments”.

“This dimension is obviously important, but buildings can and should be at the service of the community for other purposes, namely as an instrument to mitigate the housing crisis”, says the researcher at the Center for Studies on Socioeconomic Change and Territory - Dinâmia.

In Lisbon, for example, a section of the cloister of the Convento das Bernardas, where the Puppet Museum currently operates, is already used to relocate families.

According to data released by the organisation of the “Arquiteturas da Alma” conference, in Portugal, only around 1% of Catholic religious heritage is used for its original functions.

The rest is available for other uses, although a large part is in ruins. For the researcher, these spaces can be reused to house people in vulnerable situations.

Rolando Volzone therefore criticises the option promoted by Turismo de Portugal through the Revive program, which aims to reuse religious spaces for leisure and accommodation purposes, placing public heritage at the service of tourism, especially in the hotel sector.

“We are witnessing our heritage being used in favor of profitability. As the State and municipal councils are unable to maintain the spaces and give them viable functions, they end up granting them to private investors, who decide to build more hotels and luxury developments”, he points out.

The problem, he adds, “is that there is a madness in multiplying hotels, whose impacts rarely translate into income creation and improved living conditions in the communities in which they are located”.

According to data to be presented at the “Arquiteturas da Alma” conference, there is a lot of religious heritage being abandoned.

In an analysis by Dinâmica's specialist in the Alentejo region, it was concluded that of the 131 monasteries and convents, only half have classified functions, with 25% being underused or completely abandoned.

Only around 50% have legal protection, with the other part falling into a state of degradation, reveals Volzone.

With the motto “Understanding the past to change the future”, the 4th edition of “Arquiteturas da Alma” will make public a set of academic works on history, oriented towards the future.

The use of technology in favor of architectural conservation, sustainability, communication and the legacy of monastic-conventual heritage will be some of the topics under analysis.