University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia

N40 12 28.12 W8 25 32.79
Date of Inscription: 2013
Minor boundary modification inscribed year: 2019
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Property : 36.2 ha
Buffer zone: 80.8 ha
Ref: 1387bis
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Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University of Coimbra with its colleges grew and evolved over more than seven centuries within the old town. Notable university buildings include the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Cruz and a number of 16th century colleges,  the Royal Palace of Alcáçova, which has housed the University since 1537, the Joanine Library with its rich baroque decor, the 18th century Botanical Garden and University Press, as well as the large “University City” created during the 1940s. The University’s edifices became a reference in the development of other institutions of higher education in the Portuguese-speaking world where it also exerted a major influence on learning and literature. Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages.

Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University of Coimbra-Alta and Sofia has grown and evolved over more than seven centuries to form its own well-defined urban area of two components within the old town of Coimbra. Created initially as an academy in the late 13th century on the hill above the town (Alta), it was established in the Royal Palace of Alcáçova in 1537 before developing as a series of colleges. Coimbra University is an exceptional example of a university city, which illustrates the interdependence between city and university and in which the city’s architectural language reflects the university’s institutional functions.

As the centre for training the elite for all the territories under Portuguese administration, the University played a key role in the institutional and architectural development of universities in the Portuguese colonies. Key components of the university’s pedagogical institutions are the 16th & 17th century buildings including the Royal Palace of Alcáçova, St Michael’s Chapel, the Joanine Library, the Colleges of Jesus, Holy Trinity, St. Jerome, St. Benedict, St. Anthony of the Quarry and St. Rita; the colleges along Sofia Street including St Michael (Inquisition – old Royal College of the Arts), Holy Spirit, Our Lady of  Carmel, Our Lady of Grace, St Peter of the Third Order, St. Thomas, New St Augustine, and St Bonaventure; the 18th century facilities in the Alta area including the Chemistry and other laboratories, Botanical Garden and the University Press, and the large ‘University City’ created during the 1940s.

Criterion (ii): The University of Coimbra-Alta and Sofia influences educational institutions of the former Portuguese empire over seven centuries received and disseminated knowledge in the fields of arts, sciences, law, architecture, town planning and landscape design. Coimbra University played a decisive role in the development of institutional and architectural design of universities in the Lusophone world and can be seen as a reference site in this context.

Criterion (iv): The University of Coimbra demonstrates a specific urban typology, which illustrates the far-ranging integration of a city and its university. In Coimbra the city’s architectural and urban language reflects the institutional functions of the university and thereby presents the close interaction between the two elements. This feature has also been reinterpreted in several later universities in the Portuguese world.

Criterion (vi): The University of Coimbra — Alta and Sofia has played a unique role in the formation of academic institutions in the Lusophone world through dissemination of its norms and institutional set-up. It has distinguished itself from early on, as an important centre for the production of literature and thought in Portuguese language and the transmission of a specific academic culture, which was established following the Coimbra model in several Portuguese overseas territories.

Suggested Bases:

Coimbra is a historic city in Central Portugal, which serves as the regional capital. With almost 150,000 inhabitants, it is the largest municipality there and one of Portugal’s four largest metropolises. An important urban and administrative centre since the birth of the Portuguese nation, the city has amassed vast cultural and architectural heritage and is the seat of one of world’s oldest universities with a UNESCO-listed campus. Most of the things to see and do in Coimbra, and most of the places to eat, drink and sleep are within reasonable walking distance of each other and of the rail station, in Baixa. There are several hotels, residencias, pensions, restaurants, cafes, pastry shops, and nightclubs. Most monuments are in Baixa and Santa Clara (across the Mondego river). Smaller shops, restaurants and hotels are mostly in Baixa and Santa Clara. Major shopping malls are in Alta, by Solum and near the municipal stadium/pool. Have a walk up to the top of University Hill from the Mondego river (one of the three great rivers of Portugal), a gorgeous view [read more].

Aveiro is the provincial capital city of Beira Litoral province, nestled next to a “ria”, or salt water lagoon and the Vouga River delta on the Atlantic coast of Central Portugal. Its origins go back to pre-Roman times. From the 8th until the 11th century, the region was under Muslim control. The charter elevating the town to city status was conferred in 1759 by King João I. Aveiro was already a major salt producer in Roman times and later on, mainly due to the age-old dry codfish industry, continued to be so until the 1970s. It also played a major role in ceramics, ship building, metal working and machinery manufacture as well as being a natural shipping port for centuries. Next door to Aveiro, the city of Ílhavo still has remnants of the cod fishing and drying industry. A famous porcelain and cut glassware factory was established there in the early 1800s and is still in operation today (guided tours are available) [read more].

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal situated on seven hills at the wide mouth of the river Tagus (Tejo) where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. With half a million citizens in the city proper and 2.8 million in the Lisbon Region and a thriving mix of Portugal’s rich history and vivid contemporary culture, Lisbon enchants travellers with its white bleached limestone buildings, intimate alleyways, and an easy going charm that makes it a popular year round destination. The Lisbon Region comprises many other splendid tourist destinations such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sintra, the seaside resorts of Estoril, Cascais, the world class museums or Almada famous for its hilltop Cristo Rei statue, all of which are connected with Lisbon by excellent public transportation links. Lisbon is built on seven hills, so getting around Lisbon can be a workout. Many slopes and few really flat areas is one of Lisbon’s trademarks [read more].

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