Malta Conference on European Cathedrals on ‘The Equilibrium between Conservation and Spirituality’
On Thursday 11th and Friday 12th May 2023 the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation held the second European Cathedrals Conference, at St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. The focus of this year’s conference “The Equilibrium between Conservation and Spirituality”, is an important theme that highlighted the need to strike a balance between preserving the historical and cultural significance of cathedrals and their artefacts whilst simultaneously ensuring that their spiritual significance remains relevant to contemporary society. In 2021, a similar conference on European Cathedrals focused on the good practices and experience in the preservation of works of art through environmental control by microclimatic techniques.
With keynote speakers from Malta, Italy, Germany, Poland, France, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Spain, this conference offered ample opportunities for attendees to share their insights, knowledge, and experience on how to merge the values of the religious community with those of the conservation world. This conference brought together a diverse group of researchers, students, and experts in the field of conservation, science, and architecture from across Europe and provideda space for networking and dynamic discussions.
Mgr. Prof. Emmanuel Agius, President of the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation, began the Conference by emphasising that, “as custodians of our cultural heritage, we have an ethical responsibility to continuously review our current approaches and techniques in conservation methodology to help sustain the spiritual and religious significance of our historical and cultural sites and their priceless art collections.” Prof Agius augured that “this conference will be conducive to a scholarly discussion among the communities of Cathedral curators and conservators regarding the best ethical approaches and integral practices on how to safeguard the integrity and authenticity of religious heritage of outstanding universal value for future generations.”
Present at the inauguration ceremony, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, said that “the Church supports and encourages conservation polices which safeguard the intangible reality of cultural heritage since art has an evangelical purpose”. His Eminence urged all of those who are directly or indirectly involved in the conservation of cultural heritage to ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’, so that each could make his or her own specific work a precious contribution to the Church’s evangelising mission through art.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna stated that, “Conservation of artistic religious artefacts and church fabrics, which are expressions of faith, cannot ignore the religious and devotional sentiments of our communities. When faith, as celebrated in the liturgy, encounters art, it creates a profound harmony because both can praise God in their own way, making the invisible visible. The Church in Malta ardently desires that our sacred spaces and their rich artistic collections be not only regarded as opportunities for cultural enrichment but above all as moments of grace.”
Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government Owen Bonnici stated “Malta is a country rich in cultural and patrimonial heritage, and it is our duty to protect and conserve these treasures for future generations. Minister Bonnici also remarked that we are fortunate to have a strong relationship between the State and the Church and this synergy has played a crucial role in preserving and conserving our sacred buildings and cultural heritage. The Minister concluded his speech by thanking the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation for convening this important conference, “Let us work together to ensure that our cultural and spiritual heritage continues to inspire and enrich our lives for generations to come.”
“Our Catholic Christian faith was and still forms an intrinsic part of what makes us Maltese. The world is changing everyday, yet we must always remain vigilant and respectful to religious traditions. By drawing attention to the island’s religious history, faith tourism can encourage conservation efforts and help to raise awareness of the importance of protecting historic landmarks and artifacts,” remarked Minister for Tourism Clayton Bartolo.
This Conference is organised by the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation, in collaboration with the Opera Della Primaziale Pisana, in Pisa. This European event is supported by the Ministry for The National Heritage, The Arts and Local Government, the Ministry for Tourism, and Bank of Valletta.
The Conference was also the catalyst of a partnership between the St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation and Bank of Valletta, which has a long history of support towards the preservation and conservation of our national heritage, so that together in the coming years they will continue to create awareness and knowledge about the Co-Cathedral and its artistic treasures and glorious history with Maltese and Gozitan students.
We believe that this conference will consolidate the St John’s Co-Cathedral on a European landscape and provide a valuable platform for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, contributing to the further advancement of research in the field of cathedrals, and strengthening the ties between European cathedrals and their communities.
Photos: The St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation;