9th edition of V4 Heritage Academy concluded

A group of close to 30 specialists from the Visegrad countries, Germany, and Ukraine, took part in a week-long training programme on the multicultural heritage of Lower Silesia. Churches of Peace in Świdnica and Jawor, UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2001, were among the major highlights of the programme attended by international and Polish experts in heritage protection.

From 9 through to 15 July 2018, programme participants visited Krakow, Wrocław, Jawor, and Świdnica. They heard a series of lectures on methodology of management of UNESCO listed sites, as well as on the history of reformation in Central Europe. Experts from V4 countries and Germany engaged them in workshops on visual identification of heritage sites and new methods of tourism development.

Among the highlights of this year’s V4 Heritage Academy was the the Lutheran church from the 2nd half of the 17th century – the church of Peace in Świdnica.

Last year’s 500th anniversary of reformation and this year’s 400th anniversary of the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War – the bloodiest religious conflict in Europe, which involved all of its countries – inspired us to locate our project in Świdnica – explains Dr Michał Wiśniewski, the coordinator of the summer programme.

Churches of Peace in Świdnica and Jawor are among Europe’s largest wooden structures with religious function. They were erected by the decision of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ended Europe’s first and one of the bloodiest religious wars – the Thirty Years’ War. Silesia’s Protestants, subjects of the ultra-Catholic Habsburg dynasty, were granted the right to erect three churches: in Świdnica, Jawor, and Głogów (the latter did not survive to this day). This permission, however, entailed a series of conditions. The church could not have a church-resembling shape, a bell-tower, or a parish school. It was also required to be built from non-durable materials, such as wood, straw, sand, clay, and erected in less than a year.

It is quite paradoxical that despite so many wars, particularly the First and Second World Wars, the Świdnica church, founded in 1652, never ceased to function. Over a period of 366 years! It is remarkable that the Church of Peace in Świdnica provided continuity despite the tragedy of the 20th century and complete shifts in the area’s population. In spite of the conditions in which it was built – in compliance with the Emperor’s decision it was built outside the city and from non-durable materials – both the structure as well as its Lutheran community proved amazingly permanent! – emphasised Łukasz Galusek, the ICC’s deputy director for programme policy.

After their visit to the church in Świdnica the programme participants took part in workshops on the policies developed for the promotion of Świdnica church’s unique library of old prints and musical documents. This collection, comprising several thousand old books and ten thousand music scores, is a national treasure. Among its many valuable items are musical pieces written for the church by its cantors, including students of Jan Sebastian Bach. The goal of the workshops was to develop promotional policy for Świdnica on the basis of its recently digitalised collection. The project found its conclusion in a pubic presentation of the workshop outcomes, organised in the Museum of Trade in Świdnica.

The history of the V4 Heritage Academy programme dates back to 2006, when ministers of culture of the Visegrad Group established a special Panel of Experts on Cultural Heritage. At present, this ICC-run group consists of representatives of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Hungary, and the Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic. As part of their collaboration, every two years, the ICC hosts special conferences, the Central Europe Heritage Forum. Since 2009 the ICC has also organised Visegrad summer programmes about the management of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Visegrad countries. Every year, the programme takes place in a different country; in 2018 it was organised in Poland. 2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage, whose Polish celebrations are coordinated by the ICC. On this occasion, this year’s participants from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary were joined by professionals from Germany and Ukraine.
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