Portuguese Culture Ministry suspends opening of Afonso I's tomb

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Statue of Afonso I of Portugal

The Portuguese Ministry of Culture suspended today the opening of King Afonso Henriques' tomb. The opening of the tomb would allow investigators to reconstruct a biological profile of the first King of Portugal, who died 821 years ago.

This afternoon the Portuguese Institute of Architectural Patrimony (IPPAR) announced its decision to suspend the project for the reconstruction of the biological profile of Afonso I. For which the opening of the tomb at the Santa Cruz Monastery, in Coimbra, was scheduled for today at 5 p.m. local time (1600 Thursday, UTC).

The note released by the Institute said that after consulting the "respective internal process it was evident that the adequate and necessary procedures were not fulfilled" which include the "authorization of this institute and of the minister of Culture for the accomplishment of the related exhumation".

When contacted by TSF news agency, the responsible of IPPAR Ilísio Summerville explained that they "had consulted the process and verified that neither the current direction of IPPAR, nor the previous one had given authorization for the act [of the opening of the tomb], because there was missing a series of authorizations, between them the authorization of the minister of Culture."

The responsible clarified that the investigation will be authorized as soon that "all formalities are fulfilled".

The original authorization to open the tomb consists of a letter sent by the regional director of IPPAR, José Maria Tadeu Henriques, on June 23, to Professor Eugénia Cunha, an specialist in Anthropology Biology of the Faculty of Sciences & Technology of the University of Coimbra and responsible for the investigation.

The team of investigators, lead by the anthropologist Eugénia Cunha, is composed of another two anthropologists of the University of Coimbra, Ana Carina Marques and Sónia Codinha, by the medic and anthropologist Miguel Botella (University of Granada), by the medic Bertrand Ludes and the geneticist Christine Kayser (University of Strasbourg), and by the historian José Mattoso (New University of Lisbon).

By analysing the bones and other remains, like hair and nails, of Portugal's founder, the investigators would be able to determinate his stature, genetic profile, diet and any diseases that he might have had.