Endangered European heritage sites

By | Category: Travel news

For the last seven years, independent experts advise Europa Nostra about endangered heritage sites in Europe. Up to this year some 43 sites have been listed and, thankfully, some have had work on them so that they have been removed from the list.

Yesterday Europa Nostra added seven more sites with the European Investment Bank Trust (a partner of the organisation) announcing that the awards would now be made each year. In addition, up to €10,000 as seed money would be made available to each of the selected sites so that plans and an assessment for remedial work be made which could be submitted for government and other third party funding.

The seven are;

For over 130 years the Achensee Steam Cog Railway (this website is only in German) has chugged between Jenbach and Lake Achensee in the Austrian Tyrol. Last year the narrow-gauge railway company went bust and, although promised support by the Tyrolean provincial government, none was delivered. In this European Year of Rail, that such a railway may not survive is unfortunate but rail heritage groups and volunteers throughout Europe are unlikely to let the railway disappear.

Five islands in the  Cyclades in Greece – Amorgos, Kimolos, Kithira, Sikinos and Tinos – are due to be altered by the installation of wind turbines in different parts of each island, often next to archaeological sites, some within protected Natura 2000 areas and others as backdrops to traditional villages. The number of turbines exceeds the islands’ actual needs according to third party university research. Described as little dots with big beauty by the nominators, these islands and the wind turbines illustrate problems affecting communities throughout the world.

The central post office in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje does not, on the face of it, sound like a building that would concern heritage bodies.  Less than fifty years old and designed in the Brutalist architectural style of the post-war era this lotus shaped building was intended to symbolise rebirth after heavy earthquake severely damaged the city in 1963. A fire eight years ago, disuse and erosion caused by rising groundwater makes he building a difficult and expensive one to restore.

There are few surviving gardens that date back to 1570. The Giusti Garden in the Italian city of Verona is one. Still owned by the Giusti family it may be unique in that it has always been open to visitors.  How many renaissance gardens have survived four and a half centuries almost in the state they were originally planned? The Giusti doesn’t as it was hit by three thunderstorms causing a third of the trees to be uprooted, walls to collapse, irrigation systems damaged and the palace adjacent was also damaged. The site cannot fund all the work required hence the addition of the gardens to the list.

Mirogoj in the Croatian capital of Zagreb is an historic cemetery complex that was badly damaged by two earthquakes in 2020 causing structural damage to the neo-classical designed church and the domes on many of the buildings. The importance of the building – apart from its architectural significance – is that it contains the graves of many significant figures from Croatia and Yugoslavia’s past

The fourteenth century monastery of Dečani is in Kosovo, one of the places that was in the forefront of confrontation in the last century. Guarded for the last twenty-two years by NATO peacekeeping troops, it has been on the at-risk UNESCO list for much of this time. Now local development is putting the cemetery at risk.

Dating back to between 660-680 A.D., the Cantabria San Juan de Socueva Chapel and Hermitage is thought to be the oldest religious construction in Spain’s Cantabria region. It is set into mountains and built next to a series of caves which have been inhabited since ancient times. The portico of the chapel is in an advanced state of disrepair: its wooden roof is no longer securely fixed to the rock face, and is at imminent risk of collapse.

The monument itself is not physically protected (visitors can freely enter the site) and the deterioration of the chapel continues. A covering is needed to protect it from the weather whilst an assessment is made of what work is needed.

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