Religious buildings in Europe find belated protection and support

    Église Saint-Denis de Saint-Omer
    (Pas-de-Calais, France)

After a long period of neglect, European religious buildings are finding new patrons and organized efforts at protection, reports Itxu Diaz in the magazine First Things (November 18). “The closure of many religious buildings has propelled them toward an uncertain fate, as they are left at the mercy of patrons, private entities, or local, national, or European public organizations,” Diaz writes. In many cases, the Catholic Church oversees the conservation of religious buildings, often with the assistance of government administrations if they are declared of “cultural interest.” In Spain, the Hispania Nostra association, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, has created a “Red List” of endangered historical heritage sites, many of which are religious. These sites are first evaluated by a scientific committee to determine whether they meet necessary criteria to be included in the list. Those structures that are saved by private or public intervention are added to the group’s “Green List,” while those that end up being demolished or radically altered are added to its “Black List.” Diaz reports that 401 religious heritage buildings are currently deemed to be at risk, while 89 have passed from the Red List to the Green List.

The Europa Nostra organization, founded in 2013, similarly compiles a list each year of seven endangered religious sites in Europe, chosen from a pool of nominations, and with assistance from the European Union the selected sites are given immediate attention by public administrations. Among the nominations in recent years have been the wooden Orthodox churches of Maramures in Romania, the complex of the David Gareja Monastery in Georgia, and Saint-Denis Church in Saint-Omer, France. Diaz writes that conservatives more than progressives have been at the forefront of the church preservation movement.

(First Things,