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Figueira da Foz Salt Pans: Artisanal Salt Pans are now an Intangible National Heritage


Salinas da Figueira da Foz Património Imaterial

Figueira da Foz is to be congratulated, with its first intangible heritage to be classified and legally protected, but especially the technical team led by the Department of Culture and Tourism of the Municipality, which developed the winning application. We are talking about the inclusion of “Traditional knowledge of the artisanal production of sea salt from Figueira da Foz” in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The Salinas da Figueira da Foz receive the fair tribute, but above all they gain another level of protection and a boost for the future as a relevant economic, tourist and ecological asset of the municipality.

The order dates back to May 31, but has only now been made public, crowning a background work that began with the acquisition at the end of the 21st century, by the City Council – at the time led by the current president, Pedro Santana Lopes – of the Salina do Corredor da Cobra, in the Lavos Warehouses, where the magnificent Salt EcoMuseum was installed, an eco-cultural structure that is much more than a museum and that ended up decisively boosting this official recognition of salt production in the Mondego estuary and all its cultural and environmental surroundings.

MeetFigueira has already highlighted this tradition of the Salinas da Figueira da Foz and this will be a good occasion to reread another succulent prose of our collaborator Fernando Curado or this inspired chronicle of a visit to Morraceira Island.

In addition to recognition as a cultural practice of national importance, the decision of the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) is also based on a commitment to the future, noting “the safeguard measures proposed for the enhancement and future viability of this manifestation are relevant, also valuing their articulation with the requirements of sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental aspects”.

In a press release, the DGPC underlines the antiquity of this tradition, explaining that “Lasting until today, the production of sea salt in Figueira da Foz dates back to the 12th century, having known different cycles throughout history. The collection is entirely done by hand, according to ancestral techniques that have been passed down between generations “. Currently, according to the same source, there are 37 active holders of this knowledge, of both sexes and mostly residing in Lavos and Vila Verde, “places with strong roots in the production of traditional sea salt, and most of the marnoteiros own their navy”.

It also highlights what makes them unique among the various national salt traditions: “Although with common principles in the various producing regions of Portugal (Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, Tejo, Sado and Algarve), the artisanal production of sea salt assumes markedly regional characteristics, both in the layout of the marinas (salt pans) and in the techniques and practices of the mariners, differentiated according to the environmental conditions. The salt pans of Figueira da Foz are located in the estuary of the Mondego River, which gives them a specific morphology, determining the layout of the salt pans, which is divided into three distinct parts – the water reservoirs, the evaporators and the crystallizers.”.

In addition “the practices and techniques inherent to the production of salt in this geographical context are closely linked not only to the set of marinas still in activity (more than three dozen), but also to the salt warehouses of Figueira da Foz, a very characteristic and exclusive type of construction of this salt flat, of which there are still a few dozen examples that retain their original characteristics”. The dossier with the historical background can be consulted here, where you can learn more about this tradition and its historical, cultural and economic implications.

At the beginning of the millennium, on the other hand, the situation of the salt pans of Figueira da Foz “raised concern, having been at risk the survival of the activity and the continuity of its marks in the landscape – as well as its natural functions, as an ecosystem. Several initiatives then emerged within the framework of European programs that allowed the Municipality of Figueira da Foz to develop actions to safeguard and boost the salt activity, among which the recently approved project ‘Quinta Ciência Viva do Sal – cooperation, safeguarding and innovation’, supported by EEA Grants”., the DGPC points out.

The interest of young producers, some of them heirs of family salt pans, was also decisive for the revitalization of the salt activity. “The new generation has been able to adapt and recontextualize traditional know-how to the circumstances offered by the current economic context, in line with the gastronomic and tourist potential that the activity offers”, stresses the state entity.

The mayor told Agência Lusa that the inscription in the National Inventory was “a reason for great satisfaction”. For Santana Lopes, the artisanal work of sea salt is an economic activity, but it is also “a cultural wealth, an artistic expression”. This decision by the DGPC coincides, he said, with his desire to “give a new impetus to the valorization” of Morraceira Island. “Salt, like the sun, is part of Figueira’s identity. So it is a day of satisfaction, which is added to the recent day when [o mosteiro de] Seiça was elevated to a national monument(MeetFigueira news). So that’s good news”, the mayor stressed.




João P. Cruz