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Web Summit furore - Director of National Pantheon refuses to resign

NationalPantheonNational Pantheon Director, Isabel Melo, said that authorisation for the Web Summit organisers to host a dinner at the National Pantheon was given by the Directorate General of Cultural Heritage, so she certainly is not going to resign.

The National Pantheon is the final resting place of Presidents of the Republic Manuel de Arriaga, Teófilo Braga, Sidónio Pais and Óscar Carmona, the writers João de Deus, Almeida Garrett, Guerra Junqueiro, Aquilino Ribeiro and Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, the fado singer Amália Rodrigues, and the footballer Eusébio.

Hosting a dinner in the central area, not among the tombs, has been regarded by many as sacrilegious and the press this weekend erupted with righteous indignation as this offence against Portugal’s noble historical figures and the sanctity of the church in which they rest.

Few realised that permission for the event was given by the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage which is empowered to do so under laws passed in 2014.

The prime minister considered the use of the monument for festive events, "absolutely unworthy of the respect due to the memory of those who honour it," but he will be well aware that the use of museums, palaces and national monuments for promotional purposes, cultural events, filming and other such fiscally rewarding gatherings is covered by the 2014 regulation which even includes a price list.

The law stipulates that ‘dignity must be preserved’ in the nation’s historic sites. The dinner was in the centre of the former Church of Santa Engrácia, which houses memorials to Luís de Camões, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Afonso de Albuquerque, Nuno Álvares Pereira, Vasco da Gama and Henry the Navigator, and deemed to be far enough away from tombs and monuments so as not to disturb them.

The furore has panicked the Ministry of Culture into banning all events in the central area of the National Pantheon.

Isabel Melo explained that there are no bodies in the area used by the Web Summit hosts entertained top business people and the unwitting Web Summit organisers apologised "for any offense caused" by using the venue, adding that the event was, "conducted with respect,” and that all rules were observed.

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The Church of Santa Engrácia (Igreja de Santa Engrácia is a 17th-century monument, originally a church, which in the 20th century was converted into the National Pantheon (Panteão Nacional) in which important Portuguese personalities are buried. It is located in the Alfama neighbourhood, close to the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora.

The National Pantheon aims to honour and perpetuate the memory of Portuguese citizens who have distinguished themselves for services rendered to the country, in the exercise of high public offices, high military services, in the expansion of Portuguese culture, in literary, scientific and artistic creation or in defence of the values of civilization, by dignifying the human person and in the cause of freedom.

Comments  

0 #3 Neil M 2017-11-15 12:01
I think that the Director of the National Pantheon is within her rights not to resign as she had already acquired permission from the Minister of Culture to hold the dinner in honour of the organisers of the Web Summit. This dinner has always been held at a historical venue in the past, so the National Pantheon was a natural choice.
I am sure that the great hero's of Portugals past would not mind their final resting place been shared with these great young minds.
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0 #2 Peter Booker 2017-11-13 18:30
The church of Santa Engrácia was founded in 1568 by the Infante D Maria de Portugal (1521 - 1577), daughter of D Manuel I. Her church was destroyed in 1681, and the current structure was begun soon afterwards. It was finished nearly 300 years later in the 1960s, at the insistence of Dr Salazar. Its construction gives rise to the Portuguese saying "Obras de Santa Engrácia", which signifies a project which seemingly never ends.

I agree that a church and Pantheon of this nature is a strange place to hold a dinner. Yes, there are no mortal remains in the central area, but it seems like holding a celebration in a mortuary chapel.
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+1 #1 Neil M 2017-11-13 08:17
I would imagine that all of the people attending this meal would have been respective of their surroundings as they would been made aware of the significance of the National Pantheon.
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