Cappadocia Church Gets EU Architectural Heritage Prize

 Monday, May 21, 2007

   The European Commission and Europa Nostra, the pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage, announced the laureates of the annual European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards on April 26. “The awards of the past five years have contributed to promote places where cultural heritage is protected,” says the European Commission’s Cultural Representative Jan Figel.This year’s “Conservation of Architectural Heritage” award, which is considered as the top award, will be given to Sarıca Church in Cappadocia, Turkey.

  Sarıca Church in Cappadocia suffered from severe surface erosion due to rainwater infiltration, cracks and flaking. The rock-carved Byzantine church was recently rescued, restored and made accessible to visitors. The project consisted of restoring wall paintings, constructing a new drainage system and replacing eroded rock of the facade with a covering of harder local tuff of similar color.

  The awards will be presented at the annual European Heritage Awards Ceremony, which will take place on 8 June 2007 in Stockholm City Hall in Sweden. Europa Nostra’s President, HRH the Prince Consort of Denmark, Ján Figel’, Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, and Sweden’s Princess Madeleine, and Patron of Europa Nostra Sweden will participate in the event. Also the King and Queen of Sweden will honor the ceremony with their presence.

  Europa Nostra and the European Commission launched European Heritage Awards jointly in 2002 within the framework of the Commission’s Culture 2000 program. The aim of the prizes is to recognize best practice in heritage conservation on a European level. The aims of the Awards Scheme are three-fold: to promote high standards in conservation practice, to stimulate trans-boundary exchanges of knowledge and skills, and to encourage further exemplary initiatives in the field of cultural heritage.

  A total of 158 applications and nominations from 32 countries were received in various categories and assessed in situ by independent experts. The Heritage Awards Jury selected the most outstanding of these. The range of exemplary initiatives submitted illustrated the many facets of Europe ‘s rich cultural heritage, ranging from the restoration of buildings and sites, their adaptation to new uses, new buildings in conservation areas, urban and rural landscape rehabilitation, to archaeological sites, care for collections, research and dedicated service to heritage conservation.

  The prizes, which consist of an award of €10,000, will be presented in various categories. The “Conservation of Cultural Landscapes” award goes to Santo Stefano di Sessanio near l’Aquila, Italy. The visionary action of a private investor has permitted the dramatic rescue of a medieval fortified village in the Abruzzi highlands, which had been completely abandoned under the effects of devastating poverty and rural exodus. Through its rehabilitation as an extended hotel, this important ‘minor’ architectural heritage was thoroughly restored and the local crafts and traditions were revived. The social and economic benefits of the revitalization of the project have radiated throughout the region.

  The third award, Conservation of Works of Art, will be given to Germany’s Farbdiaarchiv zur Wand- und Deckenmalerei. The ambitious project was successfully undertaken by the Zentral Institut für Kunstgeschichte München and the Bildarchiv Foto Marburg to develop a digital database to preserve the color slide archive of a large photo campaign that took place in 1943-1945 to document valuable paintings and interior decoration in buildings destroyed in air raids by the Allied forces.

  The archive features circa 40,000 images from approximately 480 buildings in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Russia, many of which were damaged or destroyed during the last three years of the war. Now accessible and free of charge on the Internet, the archive also serves as an indispensable research tool on which the restoration of damaged buildings can be founded.