Protection of Cultural Heritage and Tourism


Carla Rego

Techn&Art-IPT|Archeology, Conservation and Restoration and Heritage Department, Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal

Lígia Mateus

Techn&Art - Technology, Restauration and Arts Enhancement Centre, Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal

Eunice Ramos Lopes

Techn&Art-IPT|Social Sciences Department, Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Portugal





The protection of works of art in religious spaces has different values – religious and patrimonial, serving different audiences. In fact, the conservation and restoration intervention constitutes, for most of the works of art, a privileged moment to respond to the needs of preservation. This paper will focus on the project carried out since 2013 by the Laboratory of Conservation and Restoration (LCR) of the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, in collaboration with the Foundation Maria Dias Ferreira, based in Ferreira do Zêzere. This project, named Project Restore, is part of one of the Foundation's missions, which is based on the protection of the municipality’s cultural heritage.

As is well known, the Church, as an institution, and churches, places of worship, hold a vast artistic, historical and cultural heritage that must be taken care of in the same way as the heritage of museums. The awareness of the need to preserve this heritage doesn’t always exist, and the fact that churches are places of worship sometimes becomes an obstacle, different from the ones experienced in museums. However, since the Foundation has other missions, including the support to the local community, it is also relevant that it has an interest in safeguarding the testimonies of its identity, such as its cultural heritage.

The intervention and protection of the churches’ heritage in the municipality of Ferreira do Zêzere so far has focused on sculptural and pictorial works, which have been shown to be at risk due to their poor conservation. The main objective for the LCR is to return these assets to the community in conditions of cultic and tourist fulfillment. In this context, the adopted research strategy privileged contacts with key players who manage this type of heritage, exploring the collections of local churches, in the cultic but also in the cultural perspective.

Key Words: Heritage, Conservation, Restoration, Tourism




The Laboratory of Conservation and Restoration of the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, in its several fields (Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Documents, Carving, Furniture, Stone and Ceramic Materials), collaborates with different institutions through protocols, including, museums, autarchies and foundations. This collaboration becomes essential, either for the academic training of undergraduate students and Masters in Conservation and Restoration, as well as institutions with cultural heritage. On the one hand, students need to work on real works of art to reinforce their formative process, namely in the field of research, or also in the intervention of conservation and restoration. On the other hand, the institution benefits from this collaboration, since its assets are studied and intervened, contributing to the valuation and preservation of its heritage. Most of the works studied and treated in the LCR have never been studied before and therefore their entry into the laboratory is considered a privileged moment to know and recognize with rigor the materiality and sometimes even the authenticity of these assets.

The conservation and restoration contributes to the valuation of the heritage through the rigorous study and diagnosis of the works and the specialized intervention carried out, respecting the principles established by the Restoration Theories of Brandi (2005), Salvador Muños Viñas (2004), and European Confederation of Conservator -Restorers Organizations (ECCO) (Brussels, 2003). The code of ethics inherent to the conservation and restoration activity also presents as main recommendations: the respect for authenticity; the minimum intervention; the use of materials and techniques differentiated from the original, so that they can distinguish, without doubt, those used in the intervention and the originals ones; the reversibility, as far as possible, of the techniques applied in the intervention and the materials used in the interventions; and respect for the different values and functions of works of art, including artistic, historical, functional, cultural and cultic works of art, responding to different audiences – tourists, researchers, believers, among others.

Different and global audiences in the search for tourism destinations represent an increased challenge for the conservation and restoration activity, where the presence of testimonies and inheritance of local communities encourages not only their "authentic appropriation" (Lopes, 2015), but also a cohesive link between heritage and cultural tourism. In this way, the valuation of the heritage presents itself as a strategic option relevant to the understanding, diversity and qualification of the territories, increasing its attractiveness and reinforcing its interpretation and patrimonial identity. Supported by the valuation of the heritage, it is possible to contribute to the improvement of the quality of the brand image of the places by reinforcing their authenticity together with the importance of the conservation and restoration of heritage works. In this line of thought, we can deduce that the tourist activity acquires important significance for the promotion of the place, presenting itself as a strategic bet for ensuring, in the long term, the maintenance and preservation of the communities, their values, their heritage and their identity (Lopes & Rego, 2017).



The Church, as an institution, has always held a vast artistic, historical and cultural heritage and represents one of the greatest promoters of national and international artistic creation. However, throughout the years, the Church has not always allowed artistic and cultural assets to be taken care of in the best way. In Portugal, there were some episodes that contributed to the dispersion and disappearance of many of these assets from their places of origin. However, today there is a concern of the Church and other local institutions to preserve this heritage, which belongs to all.

Considering that these assets hold a cultic function, sometimes it becomes an obstacle to its preservation, different from what happens in museums. To this end, it is necessary to establish a commitment, on a case-by-case basis, between cultic function and preservation. Starting from the concept of collection proposed by Luis Fernandez (1999), which states that it is a set of analogous things or the same class reunited to constitute a concrete objective, that is, the set of works that constitute the funds of a museum, may interpret that each church holds at least one collection. Each one possesses a legacy that can be considered of the same class, being the collection of a certain temple and being characteristic of that space. However, within this legacy, collections can also be found defined by the typology of assets, and are also found within a class, in this case a typological class. Within the typologies that can be found in a church it is possible to point out: liturgical implements; canonicals vestments; painting; sculpture; graphic documents (books and archival documents), among others.

The established Law of Portuguese Museums (2004) refers to the collection that can be visited, in article 4 of the diploma, which is the set of cultural objects preserved by a natural person or by a public person, public or private, publicly exposed in specially adapted facilities to this end, but which does not have the means to allow the full performance of the other museological functions that the present law establishes for the museum. Church collections could be included in this definition because they’re publicly exhibited without being housed in a museum. However, it is understood that the space of a temple, built for prayer, can’t be considered an exhibition space suitable for this purpose in a lightly way, since its main function is the religious celebration.



The Maria Dias Ferreira Foundation is a non-profit institution, dedicated to the promotion of social and cultural activities in the municipality of Ferreira do Zêzere, created by the descendants of D. Maria Dias Ferreira and inspired by its meritorious model, of actions in favor of the local community. As an entity, it includes several projects to support the population and to safeguard their heritage. Its main objectives are the well-being and development of the population of Ferreira do Zêzere and, in particular, young people, promoted by initiatives aimed at education and civic education, the exchange of experiences, customs and cultures, the coexistence of generations and occupation of free time, as well as, the concern with the study, preservation and disclosure of their patrimonial assets.

The municipality of Ferreira do Zêzere is located in the central region of Portugal and the sub-region of Médio Tejo, in the province of Ribatejo, district of Santarém. It is subdivided into seven parishes: Águas Belas, Areias e Pias, Beco, Chãos, Ferreira do Zêzere, Igreja Nova do Sobral and Nossa Senhora do Pranto. The municipality is limited to the north by Figueiró dos Vinhos, to the northeast by Sertã, to the east by Vila de Rei, to the south by Tomar, to the west by Ourém and to the northwest by Alvaiázere, all attractive centers for tourism, not only by the natural landscape, but above all by its historical nature and its cultural and artistic heritage. The main tourist attractions of this region are, above all, the churches with its architectural heritage and collection, museums and the various initiatives organized by the autarchy or the Foundation. Also, new trends of "tourist-cultural consumption" point to a tourism that is more motivated for experimentation and emotions, for feelings and "appreciation of authenticity" (Lopes, 2012). In this context, we can highlight that a destination is important in tourism because it can respond to a need for personal development leading to a "unique atmosphere" and a privileged link between the culture of the host populations and visitors.

As a municipality, Ferreira do Zêzere stood out for the connection of some of the most important names in Portuguese culture, such as Ivone Silva, actress and director, and António Baião, historian and pedagogue, both born in this location, and Alfredo Keil, poet, painter, archaeologist, art collector and composer of "A Portuguesa" (Portuguese national anthem). This context brings us to the attractiveness of the places and their importance for tourist attraction sustained in the appreciation of culture and heritage. The local specificities and the uniqueness of this region represent an opportunity for territorial differentiation, especially when the territory has unique patrimonial resources. However, these remarkable resources require prompt safeguard measures in order to enable its exhibition to tourists.

The Project Restore, developed in collaboration with the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, is one of the cases of good practices, which we can refer to. The project aims the recovery of several movable assets coming from churches and chapels of the municipality, such as polychrome sculpture and easel paintings, which are at risk, placing first the safeguard of its patrimony. This project started in 2013 and is being developed to this day. The main objective of the LCR is to return these assets to the community in conditions of cultic and tourist enjoyment. The foundation's works of art were intervened, both in the classroom context and in the context of a professional internship by Tomar's Employment and Vocational Training Center.

The study and intervention of conservation and restoration were carried out in sculptural and pictorial works of art of some of the parishes of the municipality of Ferreira do Zêzere, such as: the sculptures of Our Lady of the Conception (Figures 1 and 2), Our Lady of the Rosary (Figures 3 and 4), Santa Ana teaching Our Lady to read and S. José / S. Joaquim, of the Mother Church of Águas Belas; the sculpture of Our Lady and the Child (Figures 5 and 6), five paintings on canvas representing the steps of the Via Sacra (Figures 7 and 8), and a painting on wood with the representation of the Baptism of Christ (Figures 9 and 10), of the Mother Church of Areias; the sculpture of Saint Anthony with the Child (Figures 11 and 12), of the Mother Church of Igreja Nova do Sobral; and the sculpture of Our Lady of Bom Sucesso (Figures 13 and 14), from the Chapel of Our Lady of Purification, from Frazoeira, parish of Dornes. The carried out interventions allowed us to understand the materiality of the works of art and the techniques associated with their production, to stabilize them and to contribute to a better aesthetic and artistic reading, as well as for a better tourist-cultural interpretation, allowing the observer to enjoy their values clearly and objectively.



In this sense, the tourism activity acquires an important significance for the safeguarding of the heritage, for the promotion of the place, presenting itself as a strategic bet for ensuring in the long term the maintenance and preservation of the communities, their values and their identity.



The conservation and restoration interventions carried out at the IPT under the Project Restore have been disseminated by the M. Dias Ferreira Foundation in two ways, in a magazine with annual edition (Figure 15) and in digital format, through the website (Figure 17) and Facebook platform of the Foundation (Figure 16). In the magazine, a generic description of the performed interventions are followed by the photographic records from before and after intervention. On the official website, the Foundation also reveals the technical reports provided by the LCR, where we can find the intervention methodology adopted and its photographic documentation. On Facebook they reveal the photographs of the works under study and activities provided by the institution.


The dissemination of these types of projects is important in the creation of strategies for safeguarding, preserving and valuing cultic, cultural and artistic assets through the awareness of the local population, who are often unaware of their own heritage and the community that visits and expresses interest.

Through the intervention of conservation and restoration it will be possible to enjoy the tourist product, making it fundamental to identify the interaction between the cultural space and the tourist space. In a plural society, the management of tourism diversity and enjoyment reflects an integrated and participatory access to tourist services that can be seen in the dynamism between conservation and tourism.




The protection, enhancement and dissemination of cultural heritage is a duty of societies and citizens, since everyone has the right to the enjoyment of values and patrimonial assets. The safeguard of the heritage contributes to the improvement of local economic and social development, as is the case of the region that we present in this paper.

The importance of a more multidisciplinary knowledge of existing assets and their intervention will represent a better knowledge and understanding of these same territorial resources. The construction of memories and identities constitute an opportunity for the integration of heritage and its enjoyment in the sphere of tourism activity and enhancement of the attractiveness of the territory. In this regard, Kotler points out that the main element for the success of destinations is the way people implement strategies, plan and coordinate actions for the competitiveness of the place (Kotler, 2006).

In this sense, the creation of territorial identity brands and tourism products based on endogenous resources show a greater attractiveness of places. The perspective of tourism enjoyment based on the safeguarding of the cultural heritage, through the valuation of cultural and tourist activities, constitute an essential support for the renewal of the territories. The reference that we have made in this paper to concrete cases, constitute new opportunities to safeguard, value and enjoy the heritage in a connection to the tourist activity as a stimulus for a better interpretation and understanding of the endogenous resources.

In the context of the development of this work, we note that the wealth of resources and the cultural diversity present in works of art of great cultural importance are elements that may differentiate and qualify the territories as unique, enhancing tourism. The conservation of patrimonial assets for cult and tourist fruition guided the objectives of this paper, as more and more tourists want different experiences by the way they position themselves before the works of art in the dynamics of interpretation, consumption and cultural reproduction. Conservation and restoration contributes to tourism through interventions that highlight specific knowledge about certain works of cultural expression integrated in the planning of actions for the valorization of territories and the creation of cultural products designed for tourist consumption. The idea of developing and promoting services and products that strengthen the cultural roots, is a major challenge today.




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