ROMANIA – Photo essay on Jewish heritage in Oradea

Screen shot of Owen’s web site shows striking photo of Oradea’s Zion synagogue.

the American photographer Daniel Owen has published an evocative series of photos of Jewish life and heritage in Oradea (Nagyvarad), Romania, a town of stunning art nouveau architecture and rich Jewish history a few kilometers from the border of Hungary.

He presents portraits of individuals, community events and striking photos of the town’s synagogues (some showing restoration in progress) and Jewish cemetery

See Owens’s pictures on his web site. Read the full post here.


UK – New opinion poll shows: “British love churches”

The British love their churches, according to the results of a poll for the National Churches Trust by ComRes.

Key findings show that:

· Four in five (79%) British people think that churches and chapels are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history.

· Three quarters of British people (74%) say that church buildings play an important role for society.

Three quarters of British people (74%) say that church buildings play an important role for society by providing a space for community activities, such as playgroups, cultural and social events and meetings. This view is held among British adults of all religions and none with more than three in five British adults of non-Christian religions (67%) and of no religion (64%) agreeing that church buildings play an important role for society by providing a space for community activities.

· Keeping churches in good repair benefits society

· Churches and chapels should have modern facilities

Read the full report on these Poll results here.

RUSSIA – Tatarstan rebrand focuses on diverse religious heritage

"All religions temple" in Kazan, Tatarstan, by local artist  Ildar Khanov.

“All religions temple” in Kazan, Tatarstan, by local artist Ildar Khanov.

Tatarstan, an autonomous republic in Russia formerly part of the Soviet Union, has launched a campaign to improve its reputation. The focus of the campaign is the country’s ‘melting pot’ of Muslims and Christians. ““Everyone who comes to the Kazan Kremlin is surprised and amazed that there is an orthodox church and the Kul-Sharif mosque” in the same complex, says Tatyana Larionova, the executive director of the Vozrozhdenie (Renaissance) foundation.

The campaign has been created by Apostol, a Moscow-based PR company led by Tina Kandelaki, a well-connected television personality. A promotional video includes shots of Muslim minarets and Russian Orthodox onion domes side by side, horsemen in traditional costume and a state-of-the-art IT park. “We are a living example of a true multi-cultural society living according to principles of true tolerance,” a video voice over says. 

The campaign has also been criticised for its selective treatment of history. Read the full article here.

The Kazan Kremlin, with orthodox church and mosque.

The Kazan Kremlin, with orthodox church and mosque.

FRANCE – Movable religious heritage: an expanding clandestine market

Short video interview with Catherine Saint-Martin, conservator of Antiquities and Art objects in Ariege. She speaks of the recent increase in thefts of movable religious heritage items from churches, and the efforts to catalogue these objects to make them traceable.

“After Italy, France is the most pillaged country in the world.”

View the video and read the full text in French here.


CONFERENCE – FRH contributing to “Heritage Counts”, Feb 3-6, Leuven

Heritage Counts


Between February 3-6 2015, the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation will be hosting the International Conference entitled “Heritage Counts” – on the economic, social, environmental and cultural impact of heritage.

The goal is to provide an international overview of discourse, strategies and case studies.

FRH will be contributing to the programme with a presentation on Wednesday 4 February at 15:30, on the subject of “Developing a European Network for the Future of Religious Heritage”.

Click here to view the PDF Programme: Heritage Counts – Programme, or visit this web site.

Click here for directions to the Arenberg Castle.

UK – Lottery money will help North East historic churches take on new roles

St Thomas' Church, Haymarket, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Photo: The Journal

A new scheme called The Inspired Futures project, an initiative of Inspired North East with funding from the Lottery, will help 18 churches in the region to create new community uses.

Enabling more diverse use of these church buildings alongside their traditional worship role will lead to more stable and sustainable futures, with more users contributing towards upkeep, maintenance and running costs. (…)  “These historic churches are of great significance within their local communities. We hope that the Inspired Futures project will pave the way towards improved facilities, inject new life and engage wider local use, and make these valued places sustainable for future generations.”


Read the full article here.

UKRAINE / SLOVENIA – New books on Jewish heritage

Spurensuche by Christian Herrmann showcases black and white photographs of Jewish heritage sites (and their ruins) in parts of Ukraine.

Janez Premk and Mihaela Hudelja have published Tracing Jewish Heritage: A Guidebook to Slovenia, A comprehensive and richly illustrated cultural guidebook — in English — to Jewish heritage and history in Slovenia; the first such publication in Slovenia.

Read more here.

QUEBEC – Hundred municipalities buy church buildings to prevent demolition

In Magog, the former Sainte-Maruerite-Marie now hosts the municipal library.

In Magog, the former Sainte-Maruerite-Marie now hosts the municipal library.

Some hundred municipalities in Quebec have recently bought their local church building to prevent its demolition, the Huffington Post Quebec writes in this article in French. Faced with dwindling congregations, the Church often sells the buildings for a symbolic price; in exchange, the municipality pays for restoration and maintenance.

Many municipalities wish to conserve what is often the most important heritage building and turn it into the focal point of local civic society: many churches are turned into libraries or cultural centers. This often allows services to continue, raising questions about the separation of Church and State.

Au Mouvement laïque québécois, on se dit surpris de cette nouvelle tendance. «Ce sont quand même des deniers publics qu’on utilise pour tenir des cérémonies religieuses», dit la présidente du mouvement, Lucie Jobin. Si une municipalité devient propriétaire d’une église, celle-ci devrait être mise à la disposition de toutes les religions, estime-t-elle.


Since 2003, 16% of church buildings in Quebec have been sold.

Environ 16% des églises du Québec ont été vendues depuis 2003, dont la moitié au cours des deux dernières années, selon les chiffres les plus à jour du Conseil. «La tendance s’accélère», dit Denis Boucher. Si les Montréalais ont connu une vague d’églises transformées en condos au début des années 2000, les municipalités sont désormais les plus importants acheteurs. Le bâtiment est généralement cédé pour un montant symbolique d’un dollar et la municipalité s’engage à payer l’entretien, tout en conservant un accès pour les croyants.

Une centaine d’églises sont ainsi passées aux mains des municipalités. «Ce sont surtout des petits villages qui veulent garder le bâtiment le plus important sur leur territoire», dit Denis Boucher.

Read the whole article here.