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Portugal 2027, Coimbra wants to become the capital of literature

Before the indication, by the panel of the pre-selection for the European Capital of Culture 2027 of Portugal, we had interviewed the teams of some of the competing cities. One of these is Coimbra which failed to enter the short list. However, EcocNews wants to make known the precious work also of the excluded cities with the hope that they can continue to realize their projects and their dreams.

Coimbra is a city and a municipality in Portugal. The population of the municipality at the 2011 census was 143,397,in an area of 319.40 square kilometres. The fourth-largest urban centre in Portugal (after Lisbon, Ecoc in 1994, Porto, Ecoc in 2001 and Braga, in Ecoc short list for 2027), it is the largest city of the district of Coimbra and the Centro Region. About 460,000 people live in the Região de Coimbra, comprising 19 municipalities and extending into an area of 4,336 square kilometres.

Among the many archaeological structures dating back to the Roman era, when Coimbra was the settlement of Aeminium, are its well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus. Similarly, buildings from the period when Coimbra was the capital of Portugal (from 1131 to 1255) still remain. During the late Middle Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra began to evolve into a major cultural centre. This was in large part helped by the establishment of the University of Coimbra in 1290, the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world. Apart from attracting many European and international students, the university is visited by many tourists for its monuments and history. Its historical buildings were classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013: "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.

The interview is with Luís de Matos, coordinator of the working group.

What is the title of your first bid book?

The title of Coimbra’s bid book is “Stream of Change”, which is a metaphorical reference to the place occupied by the Mondego River in the city and region and the role that men play in the process of (re)building the city by challenging themselves to reaffirm the position of Coimbra (without deviating from who we are and what we do), reimagining the city as a future laboratory, an inspiring city.

How are you involving citizens in this journey?

The beginning of our journey was greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and by the overall lockdown. With that being said, as a way to involve and be closer to our citizens, we developed "FOR1S", which was a series of meetings that gathered the reflections of the working group members, cultural agents and other partners and gave citizens the opportunity to participate and share their views and ideas for the application to European Capital of Culture.

What objectives do you intend to achieve?

Our general objectives are to combat the clichés that stigmatise Coimbra as a city frozen in time, to create a centralness for the city and the region and to contribute towards rejuvenating the city. Focusing on the strategic objectives, this can be materialised into creating a new centre in the city, taking the river as the focal point, returning Coimbra to its citizenry (pedestrian zones, green areas...), creating new forms of socialisation in the city, promote the creation and dissemination of relevant scientific, cultural and artistic documentation and to consolidate the program “Coimbra: City of Literature”.

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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