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Reuse of unoccupied religious monuments for tourist accommodation: the case of Santa Maria da Ínsua (North of Portugal)


Rolando Volzone, Soraya Genin, João Estêvão, Mafalda Patuleia

ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa


Placemaking and Cultural Landscapes


This paper discusses the reuse of cultural heritage for tourist accommodation, a trend in Portuguese policies around tourism and culture. The convent (and fortress) of Santa Maria de Ínsua, in Caminha, south of the Minho river and close to the Spanish border, is a unique religious heritage site, due to its location on an islet and its diachronic evolution. After the dissolution of the religious orders in 1834, its abandonment and degradation led to the inclusion of this complex in a national programme aimed at conversion into a hotel. Starting from an international literature review, this case is evaluated through an integrated analysis, combining historical, architectural, and tourism data. The result shows the negative impact the programme has had for the protection of the site and the development of tourism without benefit for society. If sustainable tourism and conservation of cultural heritage are to be achieved, this will require an integrated framework for local and national government strategies for economic benefit through tourism and the occupation of abandoned buildings.

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