Portugal's seven wonders spark controversy

Battle for Basilica

Portugal's seven wonders spark controversy


In Goa, the Freedom Fighters Association said Portugal had no business to claim the Basilica of Bom Jesus as a Portuguese monument and has asked the state government to take up the matter officially with Portuguese authorities. In Africa, where Portugal had several colonies, criticism has centred around the fact that no mention was made that some of the historical sites shortlisted were connected with the slave trade.

The Old Goa Basilica which houses the remains of St Francis Xavier and the Fortress of Diu are among the ‘7 Wonders of Portuguese Origin in World’ announced in Portimao, Portugal on June 10. The other sites are: Fortress of Mazagao (Morocco), Old Town of Santiago (Cape Verde), Church of Saint Paul (Macau), Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi (Brazil) and Convent of St. Francis (Brazil).

The initiative, supported by Portugal’s Culture Ministry attracted 239,418 votes on the Internet and telephone. The organisers said: “The 27 chosen monuments (originally shortlisted) are situated in 16 countries and are a reason of pride for all Portuguese people. They represent our courage, our ingeniousness and dedication. Choosing the New 7 Wonders of Portugal is to divulge and protect a heritage that belongs to us but also to all of humanity.”

Architectural historian Paulo Varela Gomes who heads the Portuguese Fundacao Oriente in Goa said the 7 wonders initiative was a “silly spectacle” conceived in the 19th and 20th century context. It made no sense to apply national classifications to monuments that predated the formation of nations, he said. The Goa Basilica was built by the Jesuits in the early 17th century. They were a multi-cultural order that belonged to no particular nation. Historical sites had to be seen in an ecumenical way, he said. 

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