UK – Conservation Strategies for Church Buildings

The third Church Buildings Council International Symposium will explore the latest conservation strategies for the management and development of churches and their collections. Partnerships and multi-disciplinary approaches play a key role in protecting these unique treasures and ensuring they remain open to a wide audience. The Symposium will explore the conservation of the East Anglia Rood Screens (the largest collection of medieval paintings in Europe), as well as current projects in Naumburg, Cologne, Flanders and Mount Sinai. There will be a unique opportunity to visit the triforium at Westminster Abbey to learn about the development of a new museum space. The Symposium is for those caring for church buildings, to share best practice, ideas and common challenges.

Date: 31 October 2013
Venue: Cheyneygates, Westminster Abbey, London
(by kind permission of the Dean of Westminster)
Cost: £75 (incl VAT)

Conservation Symposium 2013 programme

SWEDEN – Summer church guide lists accessibility and curiosities

The freely available online guide gives you opening times, as well as listings of whether the building has a WC and wheelchair access. Historic imporatance and coffee for sale is also indicated!

To give you an idea – Ytterlannas gamla kyrka will be serving home-made buns, and Grundsunda kyrka is close to the local fleamarket. The bell tower of Nordero kyrka is just renovated and the Havero kyrka has a sculpture of Michael from the 13th century.

Sommarkyrkoguiden 2013.

SCOTLAND – Historic church sold and saved for £1

A dilapidated historic church, considered to be one of the architectural gems of the 20th century has been saved for the nation through its sale to a charity for £1, thanks to the initiative of local people.

The transfer of ownership will trigger the development of a major £1.3 million project to restore the building and transform it into a cultural hub and a unique venue for traditional music.

The Category A listed St Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Braemar has been on the Buildings at Risk Register since 2003 and was last used by the congregation in 1997.  The church is derelict and in poor condition but in its late Victorian heyday was celebrated for its architecture and filled every Sunday with hundreds of worshippers who flocked to fashionable Royal Deeside during the summer months.

With the future of the building looking increasingly perilous the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust (SRCT) has stepped in and, working in partnership with Braemar residents, accepted the offer of the Rt. Revd. Dr Bob Gillies, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, to transfer ownership of St Margaret’s for £1. Dr Gillies said that he was “delighted that this has come about” and praised local people for their support.

FINLAND – Nordic Church Building Conference

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, emoƟonal and cultural values.

The Nordic Church Building Conference of the year 2013 deals with both topical quesƟons 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.

Kyrkan och miljön

Paradisrummet Seminarier

SWEDEN – Record sums to religious heritage conservation

The Church of Sweden is giving a record sum to conservation of its heritage since the beginning of the 21st century, a total of 700 milj Swedish krowns (ca 80 milj Euro).

Kkyrkostyrelsen har beslutat om högsta fördelningen av kyrkoantikvarisk ersättning under 2000-talet. Stiften kommer att få dela på ca 700 miljoner kronor för att bevara och skydda det kyrkliga kulturarvet.

via Svenska kyrkan – Rekordutdelning för att bevara kyrkligt kulturarv – Mynewsdesk.

NETHERLANDS – Lege church is now a columbarium


What do you do with an empty church? In Arnhem, the St. John’s Church converted into a memorarium. This is a place where you can leave the urn of a deceased Hans Kluijver, creator of the concept, tells more.

Wat doe je met een lege kerk? In Arnhem is de Sint-Janskerk verbouwd tot een memorarium. Dat is een plek waar je de urn van een overledene kunt bijzetten. Hans de Kluijver, bedenker van het concept, vertelt er meer over

Lege kerk is nu memorarium

via Lege kerk is nu memorarium – YouTube.

Sormoen, Oddbjorn, “A future after Venice”

The Venice conference in November last year was indeed a boost to the FRH network. It opened our eyes, gave an overview of what goes on in many countries and put our own situation into a greater perspective. Meeting with international colleagues sharing the same vision but contributing with such different experiences, is always inspiring!

Religious heritage is not only about buildings. These buildings are often full of precious and beautiful objects, great craftsmanship, objects for practical use or parts of religious veneration.

We are working with religious heritage. Religion has always been fundamental to European culture, and it still is. Understanding the religious heritage, regardless of our personal encounters with religion, is important for someone who wants to appreciate and understand the European identities, history, literature, architecture, art and languages. Saving and opening up people’s eyes to this heritage is therefore important for many reasons.

The Venice conference brought many highlights. The simple fact that the peaceful and sunny event was sandwiched between two weeks of rain and “aqua alta” (high water) was an unexpected blessing. The presentation of don Gianmatteo Caputo brought in new perspectives that in some ways changed the tide of the conference, at least for me. He spoke about “opening the senses” so we can experience the religious heritage in a new and perhaps deeper way. Who will ever forget entering the San Marco basilica in total darkness, “listening” to the space and the many shapes of the room, feeling the steps of the millions that for centuries had wandered through the building, the silence of the holy place, sensing the remains of incense – and then seeing the mosaics above our heads: the apostles sitting with the burning, spiritual, human tongues above their heads, while listening to the story of Pentecost? Suddenly, the question was not only about new use, architectural values or of what is appropriate in such a building, but about letting the building convey its own message in its own language.

Seeing 86 delegates with many professional backgrounds from 24 nations mingling, reflecting, exchanging stories and ideas, I understand that FRH is alive, appreciated and needed. Listening to a Muslim scholar exchanging thoughts and ideas with a Christian clergy about what makes a building sacred, was also a fulfilment of one of my personal visions for the network: To bring people and knowledge together, to understand, inspire and point a direction for a better European future.

To me the term “Extended use” gives more sense than before. Many places of worship that struggle with finding sufficient resources for maintenance and development inhibit values and resources that in fact belong to the whole community and often the whole nation, whether they belong to the specific faith or not. Extended use can open people’s mental eyes so they can let these resources contribute to the enrichment of their lives. Often the owners are short sighted or blind to what others find so obvious. Working to save this heritage is finding the communicative link between the values and the people; make them see, understand and contribute to the future of these buildings.

We live and work in a turbulent time. The unemployment rate is climbing, the political equilibrium is in many regions shaking, and the resources are scarce. There is demand for initiative, creativity and optimism. The debate about new use and redundancy of religious heritage has also come to the Norwegian shores. The debate about who is responsible for this heritage, and for whom it is important has started. In Oslo one Lutheran Church was just a few weeks ago leased to a Roman Catholic congregation for the coming years, since the demography of the local community altered due to immigration. Another particularly beautiful and valuable church is being closed because of the merger of parishes, and there are other similar cases coming up in the near future.

These examples lead me to the topic of the next FRH conference, in Utrecht in November: Moveable religious heritage. Religious heritage is not only about buildings. These buildings are often full of precious and beautiful objects, great craftsmanship, objects for practical use or parts of religious veneration. They are often important for the appreciation of the building, the period they were in use, and the understanding of the liturgical or cultural context. This part of the religious heritage is more often in jeopardy, because religious buildings might not only be emptied and filled with new use. Those which live on with religious use might lose many valuable movables due to change of liturgy and taste, regardless of the quality of the objects and how important they once where for the actual interior.

A network like FRH definitely has a role to play in the years to come. I am already looking forward to meeting and making the next steps together in Utrecht in November!

Oddbjørn Sørmoen
Director of the Department for Church Buildings and Heritage Administration
KA Association for Employers in the Church of Norway and Church-related NGOs
FRH Networking Group Member
Chair of the FRH Venice Conference Committee


*Photograph borrowed form the Catharijneconvent, which will host the conference in Utrecht, 4-5 November 2013.


TURKEY – Restorations of religious heritage to boost tourism

As religious and heritage tourism becomes an increasingly important part of Turkey’s tourism sector, the restorations and new projects are set to enhance the interest in this tourism.

Thanks to restoration works, interest in historic structures is increasing, according to the Foundations Regional Director Kenan Ünğan. He said that many important structures in the eastern provinces on the Silk Road have been restored while many more places are awaiting restoration.

via TRAVEL – Restorations increase in Erzurum to boost heritage, religious tourism.

SLOVAKIA – Conserve a manor house chapel on your holiday

Heritage & regeneration working holiday:  Reviving Veľký Biel Manor House, near Bratislava, Slovakia

This holiday is run by the National Trust of Slovakia which was established in March 1996 by six enthusiastic people as a non-governmental, non-profit organisation. Their mission is to support the permanent protection and sensible use of the historic environment, heritage sites, objects of great values and places of natural beauty for the benefit of Slovakia and its people.   

The holiday: The participants will assist with the renovation of the largest baroque manor house in Slovakia, situated  in Veľký Biel, a few kilometres from Bratislava. It was built in the second half of 18th century by the famous Csáky family. The main task will be to help with light reconstruction work inside the manor house, especially in its baroque chapel, and outside in the surrounding English-landscaped park. These works will be led by heritage professionals, owners of the site and NTS staff. The participants will have two days off, one of which will be spent sightseeing in Bratislava.

Meeting point: At Bratislava airport at 17:00 or Bratislava Main train station at 16:30 on the start day of the holiday.

Accommodation: You will stay in a small house, in the grounds of the manor house, in twin or triple rooms. Participants need to bring sleeping bags.

Dates: Sun 7 Jul – Sat  20 Jul 2013               13 nights              EUR230              

To book, or for further information, please contact Michaela at with your contact details. For further details about the National Trust  of Slovakia go to