Press release: FRH Conference 2016

Press release: FRH Conference 2016

FRH Conference 2016. Tourists, Travellers and Pilgrims: Encountering Religious Heritage in Today’s Europe

Press release

While increasing numbers of church buildings across Europe are being closed, deconsecrated and/or demolished, at the same time there is a growth of interest in religious and/or cultural pilgrimage and tourism along Europe’s pilgrim routes old and new.

The FRH Biennial Conference, in Vicenza, Italy, from 9th to 11th November 2016, will put this seeming paradox under the spotlight, and it will bring together experts and researchers from across the world to discuss, debate and define the future of religious heritage.

The conference will examine pilgrimage in both its traditional and modern sense. It will be an outstanding chance to explore the historic and modern meaning of pilgrimage and consider the role it plays for people and communities, in tourism and the landscape of religious heritage in Europe.


Leading experts in religious heritage will be addressing the conference. Keynote speakers include David Freedberg (Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art at Columbia University and Director of The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America) and Stefano Dominioni (Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes).


The Council of Europe has reported a significant growth in religious tourism in recent years, particularly a resurgence of pilgrimage to important shrines and a growth in more general spiritual tourism. This conference will contribute to the understanding of this growth.

As of 2016, there are 32 certified Council of Europe Cultural Routes, which cover varied themes of European memory, history and heritage and contribute to the interpretation of the diversity of present-day Europe.

It is estimated that there are over 250 million pilgrims undertaking tourism trips each year. Increasingly, purely religious motives are becoming mixed with more secular forms of cultural tourism, which often centre around specific religious sites. Spiritual tourism was identified by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) as one of the fastest growing travel segments and continues to grow annually. (Source: UNWTO, Global Report on Cultural Routes and Itineraries)

Tourism represents the third largest economic activity in the EU. It employs approximately 5.2% of the total EU workforce, i.e. about 9.7 million jobs, and involves 1.8 million businesses, primarily small and medium-sized enterprises. 27% of EU travellers indicate that cultural heritage is a key factor in choosing a travel destination (Source: European Commission).

Religious heritage represents by far the largest single category of European cultural patrimony and is one to which Europeans remain highly attached, according to a recent poll conducted by FRH ( Places of worship already attract large numbers of visitors, but the potential of the treasures held in smaller religious sites, both urban and rural, and which constitute ‘Europe’s Biggest Museum’ are still largely underexploited. FRH is working towards changing this.

Technology adds economic value to the heritage sector: digitised resources can be used to enhance visitor experience by providing educational content, documentaries, and tourism apps. FRH promotes this by the development of Religiana, an online tool that easily provides practical and background information about religious buildings to a wide audience and to an international standard. This will be showcased at the FRH Conference.

2018 has been declared the European Year of Cultural Heritage by the European Commission. This conference will also be an excellent opportunity to share, discuss and develop ideas to contribute to the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage.

The conference is organized by Future for Religious Heritage, in cooperation with the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose “Santa Maria di Monte Berico”, the Veneto Region and Vicenza Municipality.


Visit the conference website to learn more, and join the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.


Press contacts:

FRH Office phone number: +32 24 00 77 03


About FRH (

Future for Religious Heritage (FRH) is a secular charity, bringing together those working to protect religious heritage across Europe. FRH members include NGOs, charities, government, religious and university departments. The Association is based in Brussels and it currently has 133 members from 37 countries.

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