NETHERLANDS – Wanted: disused monastery for care of homeless youngsters


The Dutch care facility Scivias Zorg from Kerkrade is looking for a vacant monastery in which it could house a new project. The organisation wants to help homeless youngsters, who are vulnerable to abuse and addiction, by giving them a roof, education and work experience. The young inhabitants would be taking care of the building themselves, and the monastery and its immediate surroundings would be conceived of as a small village.

Bent u eigenaar van een geschikt klooster, of heeft u een tip, dan kunt u contact opnemen met de directrice Alice Kruijen via of 045-5439300. 

Read more in Dutch here.

RUSSIA – Gothic church’s frescoes destroyed during restoration

It is not just disused places of worship which can suffer damage – sometimes ill-advised adaptations to a building by a new owner can be just as damaging.

Saint Catherine’s, a 14th-century Gothic church at Arnau near Kaliningrad, has been handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church by local legislators in 2010. It contained important frescoes – the second oldest “within the total of the historic realm of the Order of Teutonic Knights” - which, after having been whitewashed for centuries, were rediscovered during the 20th century. After restoration by the Russian Orthodox church, only 2 to 3% of the frescoes remain.

Nicole Riedl, an expert in Medieval wall paintings at Hawk University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim, Germany wrote that the Russian church’s actions have violated both the Charter of Venice (the international code of professional standards for preservation and restoration) as well as Russian culture laws. “A piece of pan-European history has been destroyed,” she says.

Read the full article here.

‘Space age’ Bolton church hailed by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber

A £4.8 MILLION scheme to turn a neglected and vandalised church – Bolton’s All Souls – into a space age community centre has been hailed by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and shortlisted for an English Heritage award.

“A hundred years ago it was place for the people who worked in the mills of Bolton to come and reflect. Now the mills have more or less disappeared. It will serve another purpose for the whole community.”

Read the full article here.

ROMANIA – Medias synagogue coming slowly back to life

Medias synagogue, interior. Photo © Yoraan Rafael Reuben

Medias synagogue, interior. Photo © Yoraan Rafael Reuben

Built in around 1897, the synagogue of Medias can seat about 1,000 — but only a few Jews remain in the town today and for years the building has remained empty and disused, in deteriorating condition. 

Thanks to a grant for archival preservation, a volunteer clean-up operation, and a series of scheduled cultural and religious events, the synagogue in Medias in Romania is slowly coming back to life. The project has received funds from an anonymous donor through the Mihai Eminescu Trust.

Project manager Anda Reuben writes:

The plan is to renovate the synagogue and to turn it into a cultural center and a museum of the Jews in Medias, to create a public, multifunctional space in the former community office building and the courtyard next to the synagogue. Just imagine tourists and locals enjoying their coffee and home-made Jewish pastries, looking over the charming garden and the newly restored synagogue where a permanent exhibition about Medias Jews tells the story of a thriving community in peaceful, multi-ethnic Medias!

Read the full story here. Story via Jewish Heritage Europe.

ITALY – £5m painting stolen from church because of lack of funds

Detail. Photo: ANSA

A Renaissance masterpiece by Guercino from 1639 was stolen overnight from the church of San Vincenzo in Modena. The painting is invaluable, an oil on canvas of three meters tall and nearly two wide. It was most likely a robbery on commission. The church is steps away from the police office and court.

The church did have an alarm system, but lack of funds meant that the security alarm protecting the masterpiece was not working. It had been paid for by a donation from a local bank but once those funds dried up it had been switched off. The well-known Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi asks: “How is it possible that the authorities allowed a work this valuable to remain without any security?”

The mayor of Modena, Gian Carlo Muzzarelli, said: “The theft has affected not just the church but the whole city.”

Read the full article in Italian here and in English here.



UK – Fundraising training “Giving to Heritage”


The HLF- funded two year programme kicked off in June and July with 9 workshops across the country on the subject of ‘Developing a Heritage Fundraising Plan’. The workshops were well attended and were held in a variety of heritage locations including the SS Great Britain Bristol, Bar Convent York, Castlegate Newcastle and Groundlings Theatre Portsmouth. There were some lively discussions on heritage fundraising, facilitated by our Institute of Fundraising trainers and supported by our volunteer heritage fundraising experts.

The workshops are the first of a series of workshops on a total of 13 subjects which will be rolled out over a 2 year period. The new programme of events has been announced and these can be booked on

Once again, the new one day workshops are at £20 per head.

Workshop subjects include  ‘Making the Heritage Case to Donors’, ‘Developing a Heritage Fundraising Plan’, ‘Major Donor Fundraising’, ‘Community Fundraising’, ‘Trusts and Foundations’ and ‘Corporate Partnerships’.

For more information, visit the Giving to Heritage website.


FRANCE – Expo “from sketch to site”, Renzo Piano’s Ronchamp monastery



Religious heritage has many faces – but few quite so young as the Monastère des Clarisses in Ronchamp, designed by the illustrious architect Renzo Piano, and inaugurated in 2011. An exhibition currently shows the different stages in the architect’s work, creating what he has described as “a place of silence, prayer, peace, and interior joy”, and a building in continuous interchange with nature.

The exhibition is on until November 2nd.

Read the full article in French here.


FRANCE – “France, what have you done to your heritage?”


In a long interview with the Figaro, Dominique Ponnau, honorary president of the Louvre and conservator of heritage, has voiced his alarm at the lack of transmission of his country’s cultural and religious heritage.

Although he lauds the efforts of the French government to salvage religious heritage buildings, he compares their efforts to ‘watering a desert with a teaspoon’.

Le reniement des racines chrétiennes de la France se traduit-il par un abandon du patrimoine religieux?

Oui, il ya un reniement de l’âme française par un bon nombre de l’élite française actuelle. Mais je ne suis pas sûr qu’il y ait en France déshérence du patrimoine chrétien par la puissance publique.

Un exemple frappant. Le carmel de Saint-Denis, convent abandonné et convoité par des promoteurs immobiliers, a ainsi été racheté par la municipalité communiste qui en a fait en 1981 un musée d’art et d’histoire absolument magnifique où se mêle l’histoire de la commune et l’histoire des carmélites. On y est accueilli par une statue de la vierge! Cela lèse-t’il Notre dame la laïcité? Au contraire! Elle est honorée dans la diversité qui nous caractérise!

Il faut rendre justice aux autorités publiques françaises: depuis 40 ans, les efforts sont grands pour la protection de ce patrimoine. Mais sont-ils à la mesure des besoins? Certainement pas. C’est comme si on voulait arroser un désert à la petite cuillère.


Read the full article in French here.

Call for Entries: 2015 EU prize for cultural heritage

The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards is Europe’s most prestigious prize in the heritage field. Every year, it honours the most outstanding heritage achievements from all over Europe. It recognises the excellence and dedication by architects, craftsmen, cultural heritage experts, volunteers, schools, local communities, heritage owners and the media. It stimulates creativity and innovation, through the power of example.

Many religious heritage projects have won awards in previous years – like the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza, the Agate Rooms in Moscow and the Dragomirna Monastery in Romania in 2014, or the large collection of neglected churches, hermitages and monasteries in Castile and Leon in 2013.

We think many other religious heritage projects deserve the same honour – so do not hesitate to apply for an award via the Europa Nostra website. Deadline: October 15, 2014.


UK – ‘Champing’: camping in disused churches

Announced by the Daily Mail as “the next big holiday trend’: church camping , or ‘champing’.

Sleeping overnight inside a disused church is the latest initiative by The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), the charity which looks after more than 300 redundant churches nationwide. It hopes that trippers, keen for a quirky and educational holiday experience, will flock to stay in one of their historical Grade I or II listed buildings, and help generate cash for their upkeep in the process.

The try-out at Aldwincle – in a church decommissioned 70 years ago, which has been redundant a long while – is successful, and the CCT are looking to roll champing out to other venues across the country. Any money they make goes back into conserving the churches they look after. Local people had been supportive of the ‘champing’  trips.

Read more here