Blog Post

Local Traditions, Global Expertise: A Portugal Travelogue for Our Affiliate’s 30th Anniversary

When World Monuments Fund’s (WMF) Portuguese affiliate was founded 30 years ago by Paulo Henrique Lowndes Marques, our pioneering restoration of Lisbon’s Tower of Belém changed the face of the country’s stone conservation—and garnered Portugal its first Europa Nostra award. What a joy it was, three decades later, to run into his daughter Susan Greco, Marques’s daughter, by chance at the house of WMF Trustee Christian Louboutin during our latest Monumental Journeys trip to Portugal. As I led our group on our travels, I saw first-hand how our long-term engagement with Portugal’s heritage has allowed WMF to work in depth at some of the country’s most iconic structures and unique artistic traditions, using our global expertise to make major local change. 

Our group—composed of Trustees and supporters accompanied by WMF Portugal President Miguel Horta e Costa—embarked on this trip to celebrate the legacy of our decades of work—especially at Lisbon’s spectacular Jerónimos Monastery and Church, where we marked the completion of our ambitious 20-year restoration of the late Gothic complex in partnership with the Directorate-General of Cultural Heritage (DGPC). Our work encompassed the stained glass, cloisters, facades, and more, representing an investment of nearly $2 million from WMF. The completion of our project at a landmark as important as Jerónimos marks another major milestone in WMF Portugal’s three-decade-long history in the country. 

As well highlighting the most well-known masterpieces of Portuguese architecture, our work also engages with the country’s modernist achievements. During our visit to the Port of Lisbon, Teresa Veiga de Macedo, executive director of WMF Portugal, showed us our latest project: restoring a series of striking murals by José de Almada Negreiros. Almada himself was as intriguing as his paintings—a major presence on the Portuguese avant-garde art scene and a friend of the great Fernando Pessoa, he was a jack-of-all-trades whose body of work included poetry, stained glass, dance, and more. Born to a Santomean mother, his murals for the maritime stations show Portugal as a diverse, multiracial society at a time when this kind of representation was rare. 

One of the highlights of our travels was learning about Portugal’s unique arts and craft traditions and the importance of keeping them alive. From the monumental terra-cotta sculptures of Alcobaça to the wall-to-wall azulejo tiles of Sintra to the moving stained glass of Batalha Monastery, our itinerary offered much food for thought as we consider future project sites in the country. Another highlight was our visit to Buçaco National Forest, an extraordinary walled arboretum studded with religious structures built over centuries. Home to one of the finest collections of trees in Europe, the forest showcases the intimate relationship between natural and built heritage.  

Finally, it was very special to visit Queluz Palace, where our Portuguese and British offices teamed up to restore the gardens’ extraordinary lead sculptures. These kinds of collaborations demonstrate the very best of what we as an organization can do: mobilize international resources to safeguard local architectural marvels. 

At our farewell dinner—graciously hosted by WMF trustee Christian Louboutin—I had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of people to making preservation possible. We are fortunate to have such a proud history of safeguarding Portugal's diverse cultural legacy thanks to a community of specialists and supporters that extends far beyond Portugal and Europe. Building on these achievements, I’m incredibly excited for what the future has in store.  

World Monuments Fund's work at Alcântara and Rocha do Conde d’Óbidos Maritime Stations (Almada Negreiros Murals) has been made possible, in part, by support from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust; Friends of Heritage Preservation; Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, GroW @ Annenberg; Tianaderrah Foundation / Nellie and Robert Gipson; REN - Redes Energéticas Nacionais; and Caixa Geral de Depósitos Bank.

World Monuments Fund’s work at Jerónimos Church, led by our Portugal office in partnership with the Public Institute of Cultural Heritage, has been made possible, in part, by support from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust; GRoW @ Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative of the Annenberg Foundation led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten; Richemont International S.A.; EDP; Fundação Millennium bcp; ACP - Automóvel Clube de Portugal; Team Quatro Lda.; and Grupo Brisa.