UK – Launch of ‘Spirit In Stone’ Guide to Churches

A brand-new visitor guide to more than 120 historic North East churches is launched at St Nicholas’ Cathedral, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
on Thursday 14th March 2013 at 1.30pm.

‘Spirit in Stone’ is a full-colour, A5 format booklet which illustrates, describes and maps many priceless local churches across Northumberland, Newcastle, Tyneside and County Durham; a region renowned for its natural, built and cultural heritage, and especially for its Christian history.It has been a focus of pilgrimage since at least the fifth century. In their time, the monastic communities of Cuthbert, Aidan, Bede and other Christian pioneers of North East England drew people from across Europe for spiritual nurture, learning, recording and creativity. This has been a foundational shaping force in the North East’s physical and cultural heritage, and continues to make an impact on England’s national identity.

Andrew Duff of Inspired North East ( which has produced ‘Spirit in Stone’, said, “A wide range of people are drawn to visit the North East and more than half of all people on days out or on holiday visit churches or cathedrals as part of their trip.”

These are not just well-loved old buildings, they are of interest in so many ways: art and architecture, social and political history, battlefields and churchyards, saints and heroes, stories of local communities, family history, and so on – and of course they are also of profound spiritual significance as places of worship, prayer and family events.

“These are beautiful places which bear witness to history and culture and sense of place.”
‘Spirit in Stone’ will be distributed through tourism and visitor outlets as well as churches across the region. Contact Inspired North East to obtain copies.
For further information and if you wish to attend the launch at 1.30pm on Thursday 14th March
2013 please contact Martin Sheppard on 07544 803160,


Hillström, Magdalena “The ‘Heritagization’ of the Lutheran Legacy in Sweden – Some Reflections”

In year 2000 The Church of Sweden and the state separated. The resolution of a separation was adopted in 1995 in large consensus between the political parties. It was then established by the government that the ecclesiastical cultural heritage was a common national heritage of great importance to all Swedish citizens. This is the basic motif of the tax-funded subsidy, The Church Antiquarian Compensation Act, to the Church of Sweden (460 million SKR/ per year). Formally, the state subsidy is intended to compensate the Church of Swedish Church for ‘the antiquarian over costs’ arising from the heritage law. The law stipulates that protected church buildings may not be modified, moved, dismantled, painted, rebuilt, or otherwise changed without the permission of The County Administrative Board (the national government representative office). The Church of Sweden’s parishes own nearly 3000 churches protected by the law.

Contemporary changes, including rapidly falling membership, have diminished the ecclesiastical need for churches. An ‘ecclesiastical overcapacity’ of about twenty percent has been identified. The responsibility for legally protected but redundant churches is formally a matter for their owners, the local parishes. About 20 churches have so far been sold, some are closed, and one, Malgarp’s New Church (built in 1908; closed in 1976) was demolished 2007, after 30 years of discussion and negotiation.  The demolition caused intense media debate and many local protests. In addition, The National Heritage Board condemned the parish’s decision. The archaeologist Jes Wienberg commented these reactions as follows:

It is not a new phenomenon, that churches acquire new functions, are left to decline or demolished. This can be documented as long as churches have been built. More than one third of the medieval churches disappeared in Skåne in the 1700-1800′s, a period when many new churches were built in neo-Classical, neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic style. To recognize redundant churches as an antiquarian problem is, however, a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is the idea of the Church as a cultural heritage that is bold, not the decision to pull them down.[i]

Aesthetic standards and perceptions of what is historically and culturally valuable change, and so do professional principles. The Swedish architect and art historian Sigurd Curman, head of the Swedish National Heritage Board between 1923 and 1946, considered churches built in neo-Gothic style disgusting. In the beginning of the 20th century Curman participated in the restoration of the earlier abandoned medieval church Balingsta in Uppland. The new parish church, built in 1872 in neo-Gothic style, was now instead abandoned, and soon demolished. Curman did not object to this decision, quite contrary, he praised it. Today, the Church of Sweden and its individual parishes are in practice subordinate to a secular law which enforces extensive restrictions on the use and transformation of a large number of churches.

Hence, a distinction is made between secular cultural historical values and religious values in church buildings and in religious objects. This distinction is difficult to uphold in daily practice.

The state subsidy, according to The Church Antiquarian Compensation Act, should be used for the protection and preservation of church buildings and their inventory of significant cultural historical value. The compensation must not be used for religious activities or regular maintenance. The Swedish state has a duty to support the Swedish Church as the owner of an important national cultural heritage, but should not support the church as a religious community. Hence, a distinction is made between secular cultural historical values and religious values in church buildings and in religious objects. This distinction is difficult to uphold in daily practice. In a longer historical perspective it is hardly possible to draw. In a society still dominated by a religious worldview, and where the social order had its definite religious significance, such a distinction between religious and secular, or sacred and profane, could not be articulated.

The separation in 2000 forced the government to make clear, that the state is not promoting the Church of Sweden as a religious community, only as an owner/manager of a national heritage consisting of church buildings and objects of great cultural historical value.

This distinction between religious and cultural historical values in churches is a result of complex modernization processes that involves the many facetted ‘heritagization’ of church buildings and religious objects. In Sweden, this process started in the early 19th century but gained force in the beginning of the 20th century, a period when the theology of the Church of Sweden was nationalized. Leading art historians and church leaders collaborated in defining the Church of Sweden as a national heritage. They all favored the mediaeval church building. The historicity of the church became, in short, a central aspect of the church’s sacredness. The intertwining of secular and religious values and practices was unproblematic as long as the bond between state and church remained. The separation in 2000 forced the government to make clear, that the state is not promoting the Church of Sweden as a religious community, only as an owner/manager of a national heritage consisting of church buildings and objects of great cultural historical value. It is tempting to interpret the state subsidy to the Church of Sweden differently. Ending in year 2000 the old symbiosis between church and state seemed necessary in a post-modern and multicultural situation. The enthusiasm, however, for this divorce was notably moderate in both parties. However deep or tactical, the enthusiasm for the national ecclesiastical heritage, the Church Antiquarian Compensation Act, was an efficient means of preserving a strong bond between church and state, and the longstanding identity of Sweden as a Lutheran Evangelical society.

Magdalena Hillström
Assistant Professor
Department of Culture Studies
Linköping University, Sweden.

Ongoing research projects: “How was the Church of Sweden transformed into a National Cultural Heritage?” and “Old Churches, New Values? Use and Management of Churches in a Changing Society”



Maglarp new Church

Maglarp new Church

Balingsta church ruin

Balingsta church ruin




[i] Jes Wienberg, ”När Gud flyttar ut – ödekyrkor förr och nu”. In: Markus Dahlberg et al (red.). Maglarp: kyrkan som försvann. Stockholm: Riksantikvarieämbetet, p. 60. My translation.



UK – Good visitors’ resources

Places of worship listed on the visit London website.


The Keyholder application, which displays information for visitors to Church of England churches. Its main aim is to show which churches are open to the public during the day and which ones are locked, have keyholders or are open at certain restricted times. In addition, the app allows you to add your own information. The app can be synchronised with a central server allowing you to share information, ratings and comments with others.

The app is designed for those interested in heritage, art and architecture who like to visit English parish churches. It is not intended to provide information on service times or contact details for church officials.

UK – Top tips for Managing Major Buildings Projects in Places of Worship, and HRBA newsletter

The HRBA (Historic Religious Buildings Alliance) first ever training event, held on 21 February, was very successful, with some 90 people present. The subject was managing major building projects in places of worship. The top tips provided by the main speakers on the following topics:

  • Fundraising
  • Planning & Organising for the job ahead
  • Getting Things Done
  • Keeping Everyone on Board during a project and Setting Up Long Term Structures

Read the full newsletter.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Conference: “Transregionality of the Cult and Cultural Regions Bavaria – Bohemia – Silesia at the time of Counter-Reformation”

Tepla/Tepl – 5-8 August 2013-03-02

The Institut für ostdeutsche Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte e.V. (Regensburg) organizes the interdisciplinary conference on Transregionality of the Cult and Cultural Regions Bavaria – Bohemia – Silesia at the time of Counter-Reformation. The conference aims to explore the common cultural heritage of the Czechs, Poles and Germans during the period of the Counter Reformation.

The key topics of the conference will focus on:

  • Cults of saints during the baroque period. Tradition and innovation
  • Architecture and church history. The period of Counter Reformation as a climax in secular and sacral architecture
  • Cultural transfer and migration of artists in the second half of the 17th and first half of the 18th century

Apart from many interesting talks, the organizers have also prepared a day excursion to monasteries at Manětín, Mariánská Týnice, Plasy and Kladruby. The papers will be presented in English and German.

For further information please visit or contact Dr Marco Bogade at:

Detailed description of the conference is available as a pdf attachment at:


SLOVAKIA – Synagoga Slovaca – Slovak Jewish Heritage

Slovak Jewish Heritage Centre is a non-governmental and non-profit institute established in 2006. Among the Institute’s major activities are monitoring, education, promotion and consulting, which lead to the Jewish heritage preservation in Slovakia.

The core of the Centre’s research is Slovak synagogue architecture and other artefacts of the Jewish material culture. One of the side projects of the Institute is the Slovak Jewish Heritage Route that maps Jewish monuments across Slovakia. The route is associated with European Routes of Jewish Heritage and also aims to contribute to the preservation of Slovak Jewish monuments and integrate them into national and local cultural, educational and tourism contexts.

For more information please follow the link below:


ROMANIA/HUNGARY – Conference: “Medieval Religious Architecture in Transylvania”

8th International Conference

Satu Mare – Papos, March 8-10, 2013

The County Museum of Satu Mare and Jósa András Museum of Nyíregyháza have prepared yet another, already 8th international conference dedicated to the medieval architecture in Transilvania.  Announced speakers and their speeches promise an exiting journey throughout medieval Transylvania that will shed a new light on common cultural heritage shared by Hungarians and Romanians. On the final, third day of the conference participants will have an exiting opportunity to visit churches at Satu Mare – Csengersima – Zajta – Vámosoroszi – Kisszekeres – Nagyszekeres – Fehérgyarmat – Mátészalka – Papos. Speeches will be presented in Romanian/Hungarian.

For further details please see attached programme.