The works in the Cloister of the Lisbon Cathedral and the value of truth | Opinion

Since the challenge to the ongoing project in the Cloister of the Lisbon Cathedral intensified, in 2019, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) chose the lie as validation. Much has been lied to! It has been stated that archaeologists did not expect to find archaeological contexts; expected, as the archaeologists responsible said in 2015, at the launch of the project. It was argued that archaeological structures were not classified; they are a National Monument, as the director-general of Cultural Heritage himself admitted in Parliament last October. The DGPC ensures that the archaeological structures have been fully preserved, with two project revisions. Doubly false: the DGPC never “decided” to revise the project, it was forced to do so; and this, even so, caused strong destruction in the ruins and in the cloister. The opinions of the National Civil Engineering Laboratory (LNEC) were not confidential and the law not only allows but imposes the consultation of the project by any interested party. It was the DGPC that decided to hide them, preventing their access to sovereign bodies, associations and citizens.

Key lie: DGPC’s main concern is the stability of the cloister, namely in the event of an earthquake. It was beautiful, but it’s not true. LNEC and an independent opinion concluded that the project did not guarantee acceptable safety conditions in the event of an earthquake and clarified that the construction of a floor under the cloister is an option and not a structural element. The preservation of the fabulous compartment of benches decorated with arches did not put the cloister or people at risk; DGPC wanted to install an HVAC box there!

Recently, the DGPC charged archaeologists and the archaeological heritage itself with very high damages to the public purse! According to the DGPC, the cost of the work, initially at 4.1 million euros, is now 6.5 million euros, due to the legal agreement with the contractor for delays and additional archaeological excavations. But which archaeological excavations the most? Not more was excavated than anticipated, but less!

The work began in February 2018, and in September of the same year, the Islamic building was identified, which the archaeologists refused to destroy. Only five months later did the DGPC agree to revise the project, which took seven months. This second version was almost as destructive as the first. For a year, the work proceeded, slowly, until, in September 2020, the DGPC ordered the destruction of the Islamic ruins, generating strong public protest. In response, Minister Graça Fonseca imposed a new revision of the project, which this time took a year. Only in November 2021 did the DGPC present the third version of the project, with the works restarting in March 2022. With a year and a half gap between the decision to revise the project and the restart of the work, it was impossible not to interrupt and compensate the contractor. What responsibility do archaeologists have in this impasse?

As early as 2018, the project should have been properly reviewed, due to the unavoidable heritage value of the then identified Islamic ruins. The DGPC should have decided that the archaeological crypt MUST be free of any construction. Time and money would have been saved and, above all, the immense value of the usufruct of the heritage had been gained. But, inexplicably, the option (obsession) was to carry out the project, destroying and hiding everyone’s heritage that was stolen from us.

Between impasses and (slow) revisions, the delay is four years and two months and the budget slippage of 2.4 million euros. The DGPC is responsible for its incompetence and inability to protect the cultural heritage and to manage a heritage complex work.

Apparently and surprisingly, it is tolerable for a senior State leader to lie (although he cannot be called a liar). But in this case, in addition to lies, illegalities and irregularities abound. We will see the effect of the participations presented to the competent authorities. We live in difficult times, in which it is acceptable for a stage to cost millions, just for ostentation and boasting, in which the sexual abuse of minors is considered excusable by some, in which there are those who profit, literally, from the hunger of so many.

The destruction and concealment under concrete of fantastic ruins over a thousand years old, by the hand of the State, with the support of the Government and agreement of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, seems little. But it is not! It is an irreversible loss for everyone and for those to come, and it is yet another manifestation of the profound social, cultural and moral degradation in which we are plunged!

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