Loulé council to spend €1.3M on Islamic Baths museum

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 18-07-2019 10:00:00 · 0 Comments
Loulé council to spend €1.3M on Islamic Baths museum

Loulé council aims to create a museum in the city’s former Islamic Baths and a 15th-century palace, as part a project aimed at preserving and showcasing what it describes as a "heritage unique in Portugal".

The project, which is budgeted at €1.3 million and the public tender for which was published in the state journal, the Diário da República, on Friday, aims to restore and present remains that were first discovered in 2006 and left unexcavated for years, according to the council’s director, Dália Paulo, herself an archaeologist by training.

Work began in earnest in 2015 in collaboration with archaeologists based at Mértola, in the neighbouring Alentejo region, where extensive remains from the Islamic period have been identified, documented and preserved.

"This is the only Islamic bathing space conserved throughout the country; there is no other,” said Paulo. “The great value of this space and this archaeological site is that it is unique in Portugal. It was not known until its discovery … and we were fortunate to have them and get to know them here in Loulé.

The council has grasped that this heritage is "essential for the development" of the region and that it "had to turn this space into a museum and make it accessible to all who might want to visit", Paulo said, adding that it has so far been open to guided visits only once a year, during the Med festival, one of the city’s main cultural events.

"We talk about making a museum out of the space of the Islamic Baths, but to be rigorous we should really talk about … the Islamic baths and the Paço Quatrocentista, which is another dimension, already at the Christian level, of the occupation of that space," stressed Paulo, describing the Paço as a "rare 15th-century building".

This would give Loulé "something important in terms of heritage" for "the history of Portugal, but also the history of the Islamic world in the Iberian Peninsula," she argued.

As well as presenting the structures themselves, as part of a project by the architect Vítor Mestre, she explained, the plan is to create a space where the remains are given a historical context, with an interpretation centre for people to visit. This would also feature information on "another fundamental element” of the city’s heritage, a castle wall that is classified and is also to be subject to restoration work.

There will also be an effort to involve schoolchildren, with suitable activities, she said.

Paulo highlighted the collaboration with archaeologist at Mértola in recovering this heritage, as well as the role of Luís Oliveira, a professor at the University of the Algarve, and Marco Sousa Santos, the researcher who studied the Paço Quatrocentista, as well as the Algarve Regional Directorate of Culture.

Paulo, herself a former regional director of culture, stressed, however, that the project is "fully supported" by Loulé council, which has given itself 730 days to create the museum. Together with “one to two weeks” to set up the exhibition, the new space sould be open to the public within two-and-a-half years, she said.


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