2012 Venice content

The information that you will find below is a snapshot of the event, and does not attempt to be comprehensive. If you have a particular interest in any of the topics or presenters, do not hesitate to email FRH so that we can put you in touch with the relevant contacts.

Contributor’s biographies

Session 1 – Welcome and introduction

Olivier de Rohan President of FRH and Sauvegarde de l’Art Français, France

“The crisis is the same but the problems are not identical!”

FRHvenice Olivier de Rohan

Crispin Truman Chair of the FRH Networking Group, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, UK
Introduction to Extended Use of Religious Heritage

“Extended use can be subtle.”

“The modern intervention will save most of the historic fabric.”

The traditional cassock cupboard was turned in to a kitchen and broom cupboard in Redgrave St Mary, a large medieval church in the middle of the countryside, which facilitates an extended use of the building.

1 Truman, 17

1 Truman, 19

Thomas Coomans FRH Council Member, Professor at the University of Leuven, Department of Architecture, and Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation, Belgium
Adaptive Reuse and Changing Values of Church Buildings: A Western Tradition for Centuries

“There are religious heritage monuments that exist today only because they were used as jails before.”

“One of the most obvious adaptive re-uses of most churches and convents is to turn them into museums –
this can even be accepted by the Roman Catholics…”

We have four lessons to learn from history:

  1. Re-use is better than destruction.
  2. Adaptive reuse is a continuous process and reflects the society’s constant evolution.
  3. Re-use can alternate between religious and non-religious uses.
  4. The symbolic meaning of churches and traditions sometimes evolves unexpectedly.

*Thomas Coomans, “Reuse of Sacred Places: Perspectives for a Long Tradition”, in: Thomas Coomans, Herman De Dijn, Jan De Maeyer, Rajesh Heynickx & Bart Verschaffel (eds.), Loci Sacri. Understanding Sacred Places (Kadoc Studies on Religion, Culture and Society, 9), Leuven University Press, 2012, p. 221-241 [ISBN: 978 90 5867 842 3].

Session 2 – Poster session


Session 3 – case studies

Petr Wollner Deputy Manager, Building and Restoration Department, The Archbishopric of Prague
Extended Use in the Roman Catholic Churches of the Czech Republic, Experiences and Reflections

“Some voices say that it is a house of god
and it should be a house of god forever…
…or at least until the end of its existence.”

“They do not need perfectly restored churches –
they need open churches!”

Read the full presentation!

Henrik Lindblad Member of the FRH Networking Group, National Coordinator for Cultural Heritage at the Church of Sweden
Old Churches - New Values. Use and Management of Swedish Churches in a Changing Society

“Sweden needs a new strategy for use and management of church heritage in a changing society and church.”

3 Lindblad, 23 Lindblad, 2.pptx3 Lindblad, 73 Lindblad, 83 Lindblad, 93 Lindblad, 113 Lindblad, 12

Lilian Grootswagers FRH Council Secretary, owner of Erfgoed.nu and member of the Task Force Toekomst Kerkgebouwen in the Netherlands, and Jacoline Takke historian, staff member Museum Catharijneconvent and co-author of the ”Guidelines on dealing with religious objects”.
Religious Heritage in the Netherlands: Changes, Challanges and Opportunities

“…26 years later the church in Breda
still does not have a function!”

The Netherlands has approximately 17 million inhabitants. The major religions are Roman Catholic and Protestant. Respectively 25% of the Dutch people is catholic and 11% protestant. But only 6% of the Catholics attends mass on Sundays and only 22% of the protestants goes to church regularly. Each year the combined membership of these two religions declines with a rate of 170.000 people. Which means that if nothing changes the protestant church will cease to exist in the Netherlands by 2050 and the catholic church by 2075. The same development can be seen by the number of people living in monastic communities. Nowadays less than 7000 are left. Many buildings will be left behind empty and the parishes and owners can no longer provide enough money to maintain the building or keep it open.

3 Grootswagers, 6 3 Grootswagers, 8

Session 4 – Site visits

  1. How does the current use (mixed or otherwise) impact on the visitor experience?
  2. How (in your view) is the authenticity of the building enhanced, served or altered by the current use and operation of it?
  3. What sorts of activities are suitable for this kind of church?
Basilica dei Frari

Frari, Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Sestiere San Polo

The Franciscanswere granted land to build a church here in 1250, but the building was completed in 1338. Work almost immediately began on its much larger replacement, which is the current church. It took over a century to build, and the campanile is from 1396. The Frari is one of the largest churches in Venice, and contains magnificent pieces of art: paintings, tombs, sculptures, carvings and more.

The church is still consecrated and is used for services, for which entry is not charged, and concerts. It is a tourist magnet and therefore also a museum, which charges for entry.

Specific questions to consider for this visit:
1) What are the pros and cons of mixingcharging for entry to the museum, and free entry to the place of worship?
2) Are you in a place of worship or in a museum? Why? Where do the boundaries go?
3) How good is the presentation and interpretation of art and the building? Why?
4) What sorts of activities are suitable for this kind of church?

San Maurizio

San Maurizio, Chiesa di San Maurizio, Sestiere San Marco

The church is ancient but was first rebuilt at the end of the 17th century. The sculptor Canova used it as a workshop for a period. The present building is from 1806, designed by the Venetian architect Giannantonio Selva.

This church has been deconsecrated and is now a museum for classical music instruments. The sacristy now exhibits a workshop for making instruments.

Specific questions to consider for this visit:
1) How does the church structure affect the museum, and vice versa?
2) What are the pros and cons about this new use?
3) The sacristy now exhibits a workshop for making instruments. How good is this as an example of reuse? Why?
4) Would an extended use have been more suitable? Why?


San Antonin

San Antonin (Sant’Antonin), Sestiere Castello

The church was initially founded by the patrician Badoer family in the 7th century. It was reconstructed in the 12th century, and again in 1680, under designs of Baldassare Longhena. The bell tower was added in 1750. The chapel on the left, dedicated to St Saba, was frescoed by Alessandro Vittoria on the walls, and in the ceiling by Sebastiano Ricci.  The Chapel’s altarpiece is by Lazzaro Bastiani, but derives originally from the church of San Severo.

The church is consecrated and mass can still be celebrated in the chapel, though it is no longer in regular use for worship.

Specific questions to consider for this visit:
1) Does the consecration affect the possible use of this building, and if so, how?
2) Would a de-consecration have made a new use more flexible? What difference would this make to the visitor?
3) What sort of restrictions should be imposed, and why?
4) What are the values retained in this church, and what has been lost?

Venice2012 146 San Antonin

Session 5 – Parallel sessions

Parallel 5:1 – Religious perspectives

Amra Hadzimuhamedovic Commissioner to Preserve National Monuments at the International University of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Mosque, A Sacred Building With Diverse Uses

5,1 Hadzimuhamedovic, slide 25

Rev Ruth Dowson Senior Lecturer, Course Leader BA Events Management, HND Events Management, UK Centre for Events Management, Carnegie Faculty, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
Anglican and Non-Denominational Approaches

Email FRH for more information.

Don Stefano Costantini Parish priest of sant’Alvise
The Meaning of a Sacred Building for the Roman-Catholic Religion and its Possible Uses

Email FRH for more information.

PARALLEL 5:2 – Material impacts

Graham Bell Member of the FRH Networking Group, Chair of the Hungarian Renaissance Foundation for Built Heritage, and Agnes Szekeres from the Gyula Forster National Centre for Cultural Heritage Management, Hungary
Tradition Through Transformation: Practical inspiration to extended use in Hungary

“Is extended use a response to a threat
or is it an opportunity?”

Giovanni Dalla Costa Architect practicing in Venice, working with profane as well as sacred buildings, Italy
Regarding Heating, Heating with Regard. The Case of San Canciano’s Church in Venice

“You have to put the building first and other needs second, not the other way around.”

Peter Aiers Director of the South East Region, Churches Conservation Trust, UK
Informing the Re-Use of Historic Churches- Balancing Conservation and Community

5,2 Aiers, 5

PARALLEL 5:3 – Interpretation and tourism

Giandomenico Romanelli Vice President of the Chorus Association, professor at the University Ca ‘Foscari of Venice, formerly director of the Venetian Civic Museums, Italy
How do we Present the Religious Heritage of Venice and Make it Relevant to the Vast Numbers of Tourists?

Email FRH for more information.

Sissel F. Plathe Museum Inspector, National Museum of Denmark, Research and Exhibitions, Danish Middle Ages and Renaissance
Introduction to 'Oeret til Vaeggen' or 'Listen to the Wall'; A new app for your smartphone with stories and pictures of wallpaintings from 136 churches in Denmark

PARALLEL 5 – summary session

Panel debate

“We have to respect each other’s differing views
and learn, listen and reason!”
Oddbjorn Sormoen

“Keywords: Suitability, appropriateness,
respectfulness and use.”
Linda Monckton


Session 6 – Authenticity and significance for the future

don Gianmatteo Caputo Director of the Pastoral Tourism and Cultural Heritage for the Patriarchate of Venice and Director of Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra, Italy
The Extended Use for a Extended Meaning and Value.

“Preserving the original intended use and hosting appropriate events is what the Church of Venice has been trying in recent years using their churches. These are not experiments but experiences: this methodological choice is very important, because expresses respect for the place and for the meaning that people give to the site.”


“As for the Catholic Liturgy after the Vatican II, the new use of the churches has to be the result of a project where previous use should not be obliterated, but needs to enter into a complex dialogue with the new one. Every project is a SITE SPECIFIC.”

“I think that as long as there is a community and a Church behind a place of worship, and as long as there is respect for its original use, it will be possible to evaluate new uses.”


Bill Viola – Ocean without a shore

Ohxana Mas

Stefano Cagol Concilium

Flash mob Beato Angelico

Lech Majewski Bruegel Suite

Luc Noppen Professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal’s (UQAM), Département d’études urbaines et touristiques in Canada
The Fate of the Churches in Quebec (Canada) : a Prefiguration of a Trend in the Christian Occident

In Canada, over 500 churches have already been converted to new uses in the last 15 or so years, with the phenomenon most striking in the province of Quebec. A number of them propose a cohabitation of worship and cultural or community functions. In most cases, naves have simply been divided to separate consecrated space from areas of new use.

However, people are moving away from religion at an ever increasing rate, and religious authorities are closing more and more churches. At issue is no longer the sharing of banal oversized naves, but rather the shutting down of historical churches that are classified monuments. What is to be done with these majestic interiors, their works of art, and their very valuable liturgical furnishings? Labeling something a “historical monument” does not confer it with an economic value in terms of use, and maintenance costs have become sky high. But most of all, the various Churches – bearers of historical tradition and current owners – have lost interest in this heritage and want to be rid of it once and for all.

The inserting of new use in these spaces dense with connotations of Christian iconography and invaded by cumbersome furnishings raises complex challenges. From a heritage and public interest perspective, they should clearly be conserved. But concurrently the religious fact is fading away within Quebec culture, and fewer and fewer citizens are able to understand the meaning and value of this heritage. Why sink millions of dollars of public money into these churches?

How can we relaunch an interpretation of these places of anchored identity and have it resonate with the secular sensibility of our times? Who will become owners of this heritage in an era when state control has become a relic of the past?
The presentation will explore possible solutions with respect to ownership and use plans that would allow this heritage to survive, both on the material and immaterial level. It will underline the necessity of transforming places of worship into sacred places since the sacred is more universal and sustainable than the more conventionally religious.

Venice2012 231

Prof. Giorgio Gianighian Universita’ IUAV di Venezia, Italy
Taking Care of Two World Heritage Armenian Fortified Monasteries in Iran

Email FRH for more information.

Session 7 – mini-presentations

Pance Velkov President of the Makedonia Foundation, Professor of Heritage and Architecture at the Euro Balkan Institute in Skopje
A Way to Preserve Religious Heritage of the Republic of Macedonia

“Very few tourists visit historic religious sites in Republic of Macedonia and very few people know of them. Rising awareness through artistic and religious interpretation of the cultural significance of the churches and mosques in the country would allow more visitors. Hopefully this would put pressure to the Macedonian government to review its politics about how to preserve this precious heritage. We need an international network to be involved in this process to make this strategy work. An organization like the Future of Religious Heritage seems to be the right tool to achieve this goal.”


Jennie Hawks Co-ordinator of Art Alive in Churches, England, UK
Open Churches and Art Alive

The goal has been for all churches in Norfolk to be open and welcoming to everyone over the last seven years. Open churches often means thinking of and putting into practice different ways of using churches, thus extending their usage. Churches now have meeting rooms, cafés, have removed pews for performance areas and a new idea is emerging – overnight stay areas for walkers and cyclists.
Additionally there is:
1. An annual Open Churches Booklet both in print and on a website www.norfolkopenchurches.com. A church apps and QR scheme will be added shortly.
2. Support for churches with a team of Church Ambassadors and a Church Promotion pack.
3. Through Art Alive in Churches, encouragement to an appreciation of the cultural and heritage links with near Continental neighbours. Also through an annual themed approach, encourage people to visit churches and appreciate the importance of particular artefacts. To learn from live demonstrations what arts and crafts were used in the building of the churches and making of their artefacts and what specialist skills are needed today to maintain and restore.
4. Support for churches to be well maintained and restored. This includes churches having a development plan to demonstrate what is needed over 5, 10, 20 years. The plans will include extended uses for the building.

7,2 Hawks

Jan Jaspers Director for the Department of Immovable Religious Heritage (CRKC – Centrum voor Religieuze Kunst en Cultuur), Belgium
Expertise Center for the Immovable Religious Reritage in Flanders

Like almost everywhere in Europe, the participation of people to the services in the churches in Belgium is decreasing dramatically over the last decade. At the same time, the number of priests is also diminishing. Nevertheless, most of the churches are still kept open for regular masses on Sunday.
The Centre for Religious Art and Culture is establishing an expertise center for the immovable religious heritage in Flanders (Belgium). It will gather documentation, information and good/bad practices about the valorization, shared use or redesignation of the churches.
The center started a survey among the parish churches in Flanders to make an inventory of the churches and to have a first impression of their situation. In this presentation the first results of this survey will be shared with the colleagues at the conference.

7,3 Jaspers2

7,3 Jaspers

Scott Wham Part 2 Architect, Church Buildings Renewal Trust, Scotland, UK
A Church For The Future

Wham, Scott - A Church For The Future, Abstract

Dr. Uwe Otzen Council member of Foerderkreis Alte Kirchen Berlin-Brandenburg in Germany
The Case of Brandenburg, Germany

The Förderkreis Alte Kirchen Berlin-Brandenburg e.V. (FAK BB) was founded in 1990 as an inter-confessional association for the preservation of historic churches in the eastern part of Germany and meanwhile counts around 600 members. The FAK (BB) supports people to organize themselves to sustain church buildings and assists civil organizations to organize suitable extended use of historic heritage buildings.

The FAK (BB) pursues five main activities:
1. Sustaining predominately village churches in the Federal State of Brandenburg by means of co-finance arrangements,
2. acquiring funds to support measures accord. to its statute,
3. encouraging people to organize themselves to sustain local churches,
4. supporting extended use through cultural activities and
5. public-relations activities.

Within this frame the FAK (BB) awards every year five grants of 2.500 Euro each as an initial capital for newly established local church associations. The capital grants are intended to motivate civil organizations to restore, conserve und use their religious heritage building in an adequate manner. The frame of orientation for “adequate use” is given by the Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg.
In close cooperation with organizations and institutions of the Church, the Federal State of Brandenburg, local communes and the private sector around 300 local church associations have been founded. Latest statistics indicate that out of approx. 1.400 church buildings in Brandenburg 800 suffered from decay and severe material neglect during the GDR-period. Out of these the majority has been restored over the last two decades since the German reunification. The FAK (BB) managed to contribute around 1 million Euro for hundreds of local restoration measures.

Hulya Yuceer Architect and Instructor at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Turkey
Re-Using Religious Heritage Sites in the Absence of Their Community Churches in Northern Cyprus

Assigning new uses for redundant religious heritage sites in order to prevent them from decay and becoming ruins has been accustomed in the Western world. On the other hand, this act becomes critical when undertaken by a different religious or ethnic group especially in conflicts. Over the last four decades, some of the churches, which were abandoned by the Greek Cypriot community in the northern Cyprus following the 1974 war, have been given new uses by Turkish Cypriot community. The new uses are ranging from conversion to mosques to cultural activities that helped ensuring the maintenance of churches, thus prevent becoming ruins in such a long time period. The study presents the actual states of re-used churches that are exemplifying different types of uses along with the ones that were ruined due to lack of maintenance.

7,6 Yuceer

Anneli Randla Associate Professor at the Estonian Academy of Arts
The Former Dominican Friary Church in Tallinn (Estonia) – Challenges of a Religious Ruin


Session 8 – FRH and the future

Possible future projects
Email FRH for more information.