PORTUGAL – Municipality sets up tours promoting religious heritage

The municipality of Barcelos, in Braga district, Portugal, is organizing tours connecting churches and shrines in order to promote the county’s religious heritage.

The first tour out of three took place on July 14, connecting eight historic places of worship. It aims to heighten the knowledge and enjoyment of the region’s heritage assets. The City Council has been driving initiatives promoting the rediscovery of this heritage, while calling on the community to help in the process of heritage tourism development.

Read the full article in Portuguese here.


FRANCE – Theatrical history lessons to bring in funds

The Friends of the Cathedral of Bazas present a festive history lesson – “The history of France, from the year 1000 to Jeanne d’Arc”, by Maxime d’Aboville, a young theater actor whose star is rising – in order to collect funds for the restoration of one of the cathedral’s stained glass windows. This will be the first in a series of performances covering the whole history of France up to the Revolution, and also including a musical recital.

Read the whole article in French, including ticket information, here.


EUROPE – stronger European support for cultural heritage

Commissioner Vassiliou: cultural heritage to gain from stronger European support

In a press release of 22 July, Commissionar Vassiliou announces that cultural heritage in Europe stands to gain from stronger European support. The new policy document, entitled ‘Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe’, states that the sector is at a “crossroads” with reduced public budgets, falling participation in traditional cultural activities and diversifying potential audiences due to urbanization, globalisation and technological change. But it also highlights opportunities for Member States and stakeholders to work more closely across borders to ensure that cultural heritage contributes more to sustainable growth and jobs. 

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said:

Europe needs to maximise the intrinsic, economic and societal value of cultural heritage. It should be the centre of heritage-based innovation, seizing the opportunities created by digitisation and promoting our heritage expertise worldwide. Across the EU, we need to encourage a more people-friendly approach in heritage sites and museums, using new techniques and technologies to attract visitors and reach young people in particular. In short, we need to bring history alive. I am pleased that heritage stands to gain from stronger European support over the next seven years.”

The policy document does not explicitly reference religious heritage, except by saying that “The Preamble to the Treaty on European Union states that the signatories draw ‘inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe’. Article 3.3 requires the EU to ‘ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced’.” However, the mapping report, which lists Cultural Heritage Actions in European Union policies, programmes and activities, does explicitly support projects promoting sustainable “religious-pilgrim tourism” and encourage “transnational thematic itineraries like cultural, religious or ancient trade routes”.

Read the whole press release here. Read the Mapping Report here, and the Policy Document here.


Novelty vs. Loyalty in Cultural Tourism


In a thoughtful article about heritage tourism, Neil Silberman – who regularly blogs about heritage on Discovering Authenticity - raises questions about heritage, authenticity, promotion, and audience, which will interest those involved in heritage tourism.

“The implication is clear:  cultural tourist destination should not concentrate solely on investment in new interpretive technologies and expanding physical restoration and infrastructure– always the most expensive investments– but should put special emphasis on developing the living environment and the cultural traditions and practices of the host community as a focus of interaction, not a one-way, one-time gaze.  In that respect, public engagement should be aimed at enhancing the continuous appeal of a destination for cultural tourists, by sharing– not merely showing– the distinctive cultural assets of local communities.”

Read the whole article by Neil Silberman here. Story via Jewish Heritage Europe.



QUEBEC – Much discussion, little action to save heritage


An article in the Canadian magazine Continuité (no. 141), devoted to Quebec’s religious heritage, states that although there has been much discussion about the preservation of this heritage, with studies, public polls, parliamentary commission, publications and conferences devoted to understanding the challenges and situation, nothing appears to have been done to aid its preservation. The article details some of the threats and opportunities connected to this heritage.

La préservation du patrimoine des congrégations religieuses soulève des enjeux urbains, économiques, sociaux et identitaires. Savoir les reconnaître et les mettre au coeur du projet urbain devrait motiver les acteurs du développement de nos municipalités. Les propriétés conventuelles ont contribué à façonner la spécificité des milieux bâtis dans nos villes et nos villages. En prendre acte collectivement et le traduire dans une vision d’ensemble du développement urbain permettrait d’en sauvegarder davantage. Quant aux espaces verts et aux boisés exceptionnels qui subsistent grâce à ces propriétés dans des zones fortement urbanisées, où la valeur foncière a explosé au fil des ans, ils deviennent un atout indéniable pour assurer la qualité du cadre de vie des citoyens du quartier.

Read the whole article in French here.


FRANCE – Heritage suffers from budget cuts

The French magazine Valeurs Actuelles recently published an article detailing the threats the recent budget cuts on Culture pose to France’s cultural and religious heritage.

The article mentions examples of recently demolished churches, such as the church of Saint-Jacques in Abbeville, whose demolition cost 800.000 euros and replacement with a parking lot 2,6 million euros, leading the Observatoire du patrimoine religieux to conclude: “the municipality had the means to renovate this building.”

Even in Paris, religious heritage is under threat. At least ten buildings are in very bad shape, requiring at least 500 million euros for renovation. Between the first and second term of mayor Delanoë, the budget for religious heritage conservation decreased by 27%, while the total budget of the city grew during those twelve years. The current mayor Hidalgo has promised to invest 80 million, which will not be sufficient.

Nevertheless, the French are very much attached to their religious heritage, and object to its destruction, as recent referendums show. And not only Catholic French citizens; even atheists or Muslims protest the sight of abandoned or ill-kept churches.

Read the article in French here.


FRANCE – Culture falls below 1% of state budget

The French culture budget is now less than 1% of the French state’s entire budget. In a recent article, Alain de de Bretesche, Vice-President of the Fédération Patrimoine-Environnement, wonders: “Will there be any funds for heritage in France?”

Earlier this month, the State announced its budget for culture, which is in decline since two years. The cultural heritage sector is faced with ‘drastic and structural’ budget cuts, while also worrying about the place of heritage in regional reforms; much rural heritage has been left ill-protected since state responsibilities were transferred to the departments in 2004.

Read the full article in French here or a related article in English here.


UK – Heritage has the power to change lives

“Heritage – that expensive, inspiring, prestigious and self-evidently good part of human endeavour”, writes Jonathan Ruffer, “is increasingly having to justify itself in the cold light of cost cuts.” This is why the Heritage Lottery Fund is calling for heritage to engage with social need. To prove its worth, heritage must demonstrate that it can be “the very instrument of social change.”

In a recent article for The Telegraph, Jonathan Ruffer, a hedge fund manager turned campaigner for architectural heritage, discusses the significance of historic buildings in the 21st century. Speaking from a financier’s point of view, Ruffler examines the “gulf” between public and private funding for restorative architectural schemes.

Read the full article here.


UK – Buddhist buildings and English heritage

London Buddhist Centre (Triratna), former fire station. Image by Caroline Starkey (?)

London Buddhist Centre (Triratna), former fire station. Image by Caroline Starkey (?)

Doctoral researcher Caroline Starkey and Dr Emma Tomalin are conducting research about the buildings that Buddhist communities in the UK build and use, and what these tell us about their corresponding communities.

“Several of the groups we visited have renovated buildings that tell an important story about English social history – a Victorian fire-station, several stately homes, an Edwardian industrial school, an Anglican clergy training centre, and a former Catholic abbey, to cite a few examples. Whilst these buildings are now Buddhist centres, most are also opened out to the public, preserving the heritage for all. And the process of building or renovating is often closely intertwined with the development of Buddhist communities themselves, as a shared project helps strengthen community bonds”

Read the whole blog post here.


FRANCE – Youngsters explaining religious heritage

Photo © Ouest-France

Photo © Ouest-France

The association Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Religieux en Vie (Saving living religious heritage) has selected two young students to introduce visitors to the religious heritage of Saint-Aubin, Guerande.

At the initiative of father Yvon Barraud, who set up the arrangements for the sixth year in a row, the students will be working as guides throughout July, and are offered accomodation and transportation by the parish. They have been trained by the association of Friends of Guerande, whose president affirms that the fresh outlook young people bring to the heritage offers an enriching experience for both locals and tourists.

The Sauvegarde has promoted similar initiatives for other locations, such as the Abbbey of Sainte-Croix and the Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption (Quimperle).

Read the full article in French here.