Venue of MME10

The proposal is to host MME'10 in Coimbra, one of the most enchanting Portuguese cities. Coimbra is located in central Portugal, 40 km east of the mouth of Mondego river, 195 km north of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, and 120 km south of Porto, the second Portuguese city. Coimbra was the first capital of Portugal, founded in 1143 by King Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal. Having ceased to serve as the capital of Portugal in the 13th century, Coimbra has nevertheless retained considerable importance as the capital of the former Beira province, now designated the Centro region. It is considered the most important city of Portugal outside the Lisbon and Porto Metropolitan Areas, playing a role as the chief city of the whole central area of the country. With a dense urban grid the city of Coimbra is famous for its monuments, churches, libraries, museums, parks, nightlife, healthcare and shopping facilities, but above all for its intense cultural life, centered on the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in Europe. This relevance within the context of the country's cultural life can be seen in the large number of writers, artists and academics connected with the city, which has thus secured throughout its history a reputation as the Lusa Atenas (Lusitanian Athens).

View of Coimbra city from Mondego river.

The city name is derived from the bishopric of Conimbriga which moved to the area in the 9th century. Before than that, the town of Conimbriga[1] was inhabited, at least, between the 9th century B.C. and 7th-8th A.D. When the Romans arrived, in the second half of the 1st century B.C., Conimbriga was a florescent village. Thanks to the peace established in Lusitania, a quick romanization of the indigenous population took place and Conimbriga became a prosperous town. Following the deep political and administrative crisis of the Empire, Conimbriga suffered the consequences of the barbaric invasions. In 465 and in 468, Suabii captured and plundered partially the town abandoned by part of its population. Conimbriga nowadays is an area designated as national monument, defined by ordnance in 1910.

Archeological museum of Conimbriga.

Lively Coimbra is renowned for its University, which was established in the 13th century and is the 3rd oldest university in Europe. Centuries of history lie under by a fine mantle of huddled white washed houses, intersected by endless winding streets, steps, arches and lanes that decorate this beautiful, centuries old upper Coimbra.

Airborne view of Coimbra.

Different perspectives of Coimbra: general view (top), downtown (middle), “Quebra-Costas” stairs (bottom right), St. Sebastian’s Aqueduct (bottom-left), Mermaid’s Garden (“Jardim da Sereia”), and pedestrian bridge Pedro&Inês.

Overlooking the city stands one of the oldest and most beautiful universities in Europe, dominated by its baroque tower. Founded in the year 1290 by King Dinis I, the University has a magnificent baroque library, a chapel and gates of style “Manueline”.

Tourist points of interest inside University of Coimbra: by lines, from top-left, baroque tower, King Dinis’ statue (University of Coimbra’s founder), “Joanina” library, St. Michael’s Chapel (inside), gate of St. Michael’s Chapel, “Porta Férrea” (iron gate), Faculty of Medicine, and Art’s College, respectively.

Sé Velha (Old Cathedral), an austere, fortress-like structure, was started in the 12th century. Despite modifications in the 16th and a restoration in the 19th century, it remains perhaps Portugal’s finest Romanesque church. The gilded wood altarpiece was carved by the Flemish sculptors Olivier de Gand and Jean d’Ypres in the late 15th to early 16th century. There is an impressive 13th century Gothic cloister. Every year, in the beginning of May, the Old Cathedral is the venue for "Monumental Serenata" (serenade) of University of Coimbra’s students, a very symbolic event of “Queima das Fitas” (the burning of the ribbons), one of the biggest students’ festivals in all Europe.

Sé Velha (Old Cathedral) of Coimbra.

Sé Nova (New Cathedral) was built on the 16th century by the Jesuits. It is situated inside the main University campus (pole 1).

Sé Nova (New Cathedral) of Coimbra.

Just outside Coimbra, there are also several picturesque mountain towns such as Lousã and Penacova, and spa towns and villages such as Luso, Buçaco and Curia.

Fado (Portuguese: destiny, fate) is a music genre which can be traced from the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word “saudade”, that has no match in English but it could be understood as nostalgia felt while missing something or someone important. Coimbra fado is closely linked to the academic traditions of the University of Coimbra and is exclusively sung by men; both the singers and musicians wear the academic outfit (traje académico): dark robe, cape and leggings. It is sung at night, almost in the dark, in city squares or streets.

The most typical venues are the stair steps of the Santa Cruz Monastery and the Old Cathedral of Coimbra. It is also customary to organize serenades where songs are performed before the window of the woman to be courted. The Coimbra fado is accompanied by either a Portuguese guitar or by a classical guitar; the tuning and sound colouring of the Portuguese guitar in Coimbra are quite different from that of Lisbon. The most sung themes: student love, love for the city and bohemia, and the ironic and critical reference to the discipline and conservative nature of the professors and their courses.

Coimbra fado: group performing Coimbra fado (left) and the virtuoso Carlos Paredes playing Portuguese guitar (right).



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