UK Study day – Encountering the sacred in museums

Friday 15 March, 10.30-17.00

What role do museums play in visitors’ religious and spiritual lives? Join us for a unique day of discussions on the varied ways visitors practise their faith and encounter the sacred in museums. Featuring speakers from a mix of museum and academic backgrounds, this event will explore the visitor experience at venues including the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, the Creation Museum in Kentucky and the recent ‘spiritual journeys’ exhibitions at the British Museum.

Programme details:

‘What is sacred?’ 

  • Karen Armstrong, Historian of Religion
  • ‘Presenting Islam’

Qaisra Khan, Project Curator- Faith & Islam, ZNM Project, The British Museum

  • ‘Beyond belief – the role of museums in interpreting religion’

Rickie Burman, Development Manager, The National Gallery and Emeritus Director, Jewish Museum London

  • ‘Humans riding on the backs of Dinosaurs: A walk through the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky USA’

Dr. John Troyer, Deputy Director of the Centre for Death and Society Department of Social and Policy Sciences University of Bath

  • ‘Keeping magic live’

Dr Fiona Candlin, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies, Birkbeck

  • ‘Visitor responses to the British Museum’s Treasures of Heaven exhibition’
    Stuart Frost, Head of Interpretation, The British Museum and David Francis, Interpretation Officer, The British Museum
  • ‘God in the museum’ 
    Steph Berns, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Researcher at the University of Kent and The British Museum

Event details:
£35, Members/concessions £28
The Stevenson Lecture Theatre, the British Museum, London
Morning and afternoon refreshments will be provided
The Museum will remain open until 20.30

Book online at:

FRANCE – Dispute over church demolishing

Le conseil municipal d’Abbeville (Somme) doit se prononcer jeudi soir 7 février sur l’éventuelle démolition de l’église Saint-Jacques d’Abbeville, qui tombe en ruine. L’évêque d’Amiens, Mgr Jean-Luc Bouilleret, affirme ne pas avoir été averti.

« C’est la destruction d’un bâtiment cultuel, ce n’est pas simplement la destruction d’une église. Et nous n’avons pas été avertis, nous n’avons pas eu de demande de désaffectation de cette église », a affirmé mercredi 6 février Mgr Jean-Luc Bouilleret, l’évêque d’Amiens, sur France Bleu Picardie.

via La mairie d’Abbeville pourrait décider de démolir une église délabrée |

FINLAND – Nordic Church Building Conference

28 August to 1 September 2013, Helsinki

The Nordic Church Building Conference of 2013 will be arranged in Helsinki, Finland with the theme The Room of Paradise – the Church and the Environment. The theme of the conference deals with the church building from several points of view: the theological, the architectonical, the artistic, the cultural and the ecological. The church buildings also stand for strong symbolic, emotional and cultural values. The Nordic Church Building Conference of the year 2013 deals with both topical questions and future perspectives. How do historical traditions and modern requirements meet when restoring and decorating churches. Which ecological demands are made on heating, usage and on the grade of use of the churches? How to make the church room more Ňexible to meet the changed spiritual and cultural needs?
The conference is addressed to theologians, architects, curators, artists and persons who are interested in the church building.

Note that three of FRH’s most active members, and promoters of this network, will speak:
Oddbjorn Sormoen from Norway (read his article from the newsletter here)
Henrik Lindblad from Sweden (read his article from the newsletter here) and
Crispin Truman from the UK  (read his article on the Venice conference here)

Download the programme and booking information

NORWAY – Course on “How to make church building accessible to all!”

The church is for everyone, and managers of church buildings are responsible for everyone being able to enter and participate in church events. This course offers help to achieve this. It will explain why this is important, the various laws, suggest good and constructive processes and provides tips on practical implementation. How to make church building accessible to all! is a course which will be held in Oslo 22 april.

Hvordan gjøre kirkebygget tilgjengelig til alle!.

FRANCE – Bell towers in danger, is it too late?

There are between 40,000 and 60,000 towers located in the 36,861 communes in France. But how to find them and know their characteristics?

This is still a “mystery” or a “way of the cross”; to access the literature and internet documentation. This site is dedicated to all those towers so dear to our communities both literally and figuratively – very thought-provoking!

patrimoine religieux en danger.

DENMARK – Church to close 14 churches in Copenhagen

The Copenhagen diocesan council decided to close 14 of its 119 churches. Theology Scientist believe that 200 churches in Denmark will be closed over the next ten years.

The People’s Church in Copenhagen has long struggled with declining membership and  poor economy, and during a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the diocesan council decided that 14 churches have to lock the doors. This is the biggest cutback in the number of churches since the Reformation in 1536.

via København bispedømme stenger 14 kirker –

Prégent, Édith “Religious Objects in Quebec. How to manage the problem and find a solution?”

In Quebec, like in many others countries in Europe, we have to deal with a new phenomenon, the church closures and the parishes diminishing. This situation is no longer an only ecclesiastical problem but a challenge for the society at large. This situation raises the problem of the conservation and the conversion of the religious buildings but also all the questions around the future of the religious objects.

We don’t actually have any real policies to deal with this problem. But recently, the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec made an announcement about his interest to develop a concerted strategy between all the people and associations concerned by the religious heritage. In the same way, la Société des musées québécois (an association who regroup the museums of Quebec) made a specific recommendation about the urgency to find a solution to protect the religious objects.

For the Société des musées québécois, the future of the religious objects is a preoccupation since many years now. In 2009, the Société began an inventory of the religious objects conserved in situ. The objective of this project is to identify and describe the religious objects still conserved in open churches. To be selected these objects must have a historic and artistic value for the national heritage. All the information and photography are diffused on the website of the Government of Quebec in the Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec.


Outside inventory in the bell-tower of Saint-Timothée Church.
Photo : Sébastien Daviau, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. 2011


But this inventory project has no concrete effect on the churches closures. When a church closes, the religious objects are taken out of the building for storing, sale or destruction, in these cases the only thing that survives is the virtual information. Already, some objects present on the website are no longer conserved in the church or anywhere else and sometimes, they no longer exist at all.


Inventory in the Saint-Télesphore Church.
Photo : Sébastien Daviau, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. 2010

The other problem about religious objects in Quebec is the important influence and role of the parish in our territorial development, history and social culture. The foundation myth of Quebec is intimately connected to the catholic religion. Each parish has his specific history, specific heritage and identity and, during many years, the citizens were more attached to their parish than to their city or village. Consequently, in the determination of the religious heritage objects, we are confronted with the problem to chose between national or parish religious heritage. The national museums are not interested in taking any kind of religious objects and most of the citizens do not want to see these objects leave their region. The perception of the religious heritage is not the same for the expert and for the parish community. For the parishioners, the object is important because it is a witness of the family and parish history even if it doesn’t have a financial value. In this situation the questions are: which objects should be kept? Which cultural values do these objects represent? Why and where should we keep them?


Monstrance manufactured in France in the first half of the twentieth century. Immaculée-Conception de Bellerive Church.
Photo : Sébastien Daviau, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, 2011.


Monstrance manufactured in France in the first half of the twentieth century with the names of the donors. Immaculée-Conception de Bellerive Church.
Photo : Sébastien Daviau, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, 2011.


Gold and silver chalice. Robert Cruickshank in 1775. Saint-Michel de Vaudreuil Church.
Photo : Geneviève Langlais, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. 2010


Gold and silver chalice. Robert Cruickshank in 1775. Saint-Michel de Vaudreuil Church.
Photo : Geneviève Langlais, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. 2010


This year, the Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, with the support of the Société des musées québécois, begins a new project to collect information and oral history about some of the religious objects kept in different parish to try to identify another kind of cultural value and to try to understand the construction of these different values. The participation of the parishioners and the knowledge of the local history are an important part of this project.


Discussions between experts and parishioners for a better knowledge about the cultural value of the religious objects. Sainte-Madeleine de Rigaud Church.
Photo : Bernard Bourbonnais, Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. 2010

The work and the Guidelines on ways of dealing with Religious Objects produced by the Museum Catharijneconvent are a real inspiration for the success of this project even if the situation is very different in many ways between Europe and Quebec.

We hope this project will help our public institutions and governments to be more concerned and effectives in the way to find a solution for the future of religious objects.

Édith Prégent
Université du Québec à Montréal
Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges

CZECH REPUBLIC: Exhibition: Destroyed Jewish Monuments of the Northern Bohemia 1939 – 1989

Klementinum National Library, Prague, Czech Republic

The Klementinum Gallery which is a part of the National Library, Czech Republic has prepared a fascinating exhibition about destroyed Jewisch Sacral Monuments of the Northern part of the Czech Republic. The exhibition highlights the destruction of synagogues and culture of the Jewish population during the Nazism and Communism. It thematically follows the previous exhibition revealing the destruction of churches of the Northern Bohemia 1945 – 1989 and it is based on unpublished photographs accompanied by archival documents.

It was opened on Wednesday, the 23rd January and it will be available to see until the 3rd March 2013.

For more information in Czech please follow the link.