202325sepAll Day26International Hybrid Conference: Reconstructing Religious Buildings in Contemporary Europe. Monuments, Heritage and Identity

Event Details

The blaze that destroyed Notre Dame de Paris in 2019, the earthquake that destroyed the basilica of L’Aquila in 2009, or the current devastating war going on in Ukraine – the fragility of historic religious buildings continues to raise the question of why and how the destroyed buildings shall be rebuilt. In past centuries the destruction of a church or cathedral was an incentive to start the construction of a completely new edifice. Several gothic cathedrals were erected after destruction by fire of their predecessor building. A change in approach is perceptible in modern Europe after 1800; a  connection between the historic religious building and national identity is substantial in many restoration projects of the nineteenth century when the restoration of historic churches and cathedrals progressed towards the construction of a supposed ideal. 

Europe has changed profoundly in the twentieth century by wars, secularization, the rise and fall of socialism. With regard to the restoration of historic buildings, the rise of modernism and the establishment of the Athens Charter (1933) and the Venice Charter (1964) have significance. Whether and how historic buildings were rebuilt is a tangible component of these changes. The explanation why these buildings were restored or reconstructed cannot (only) be explained by the need for a place of worship. The decision for a reconstruction was often made for other reasons: to revive or recreate a monument or heritage site that could shape a new identity. The methods why and how this is done remain contested, as the polemics about the reconstruction projects in Paris and Potsdam illustrate.

Whether and how historic cathedrals, churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious buildings should be reconstructed is topical again after the fire that destroyed Notre Dame in Paris, and the ongoing war in Ukraine. At the same time there is a growing debate about how this reconstruction should take place, with Notre Dame in Paris being the most striking example. The current polemics about reconstruction taking place in Paris and Potsdam, among others, can be summarized as a conflict between functionality and connotation as a place of worship, a conflict of alteration of the existing situation due to the intended reconstruction of a historical state, and the way in which this reconstruction is carried out. The approach to the problem of why and how to rebuild the destroyed church has changed in contemporary Europe, through political and religious changes and through changed understandings of restoration methodology. By looking beyond national borders this conference aims to come to a better understanding of the restorations and current polemics. 

This hybrid conference will bring together experts in Architectural and Art History, Architecture and Monument Conservation from several European countries such as Germany, Belgium, France, Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine. By bringing together speakers from different countries in an academic setting, similarities and differences in the approach to the reconstruction of historic religious buildings in Europe and the development between 1918 and the present day will be discussed. 

The event will take place in presence at RWTH University Aachen, but we offer the possibility of online participation. For more information on the Masterclass click here.

For registration and information, please contact:

[email protected] 

Speakers and topics include:

  • Why Ukraine’s Medieval Churches are under Threat of ReconstructionNazar Kozak (Senior researcher, Ethnology Institute, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine/Associate Professor, University of Lviv) 
  • The Second Life of Major Sacred Buildings in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina- Miroslav Malinovic & Jasna Guzijan (Head of Department for History and Theory of Architecture and Building Heritage Protection, University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • The Wismar Miracle: Reconstruction of St George’s Church 1990-2010 – Anja Rasche & Nils Jörn (Head Network Hansekultur)  
  • Transformation of Listed Hungarian Roman Catholic Churches from Vatican II until Nowadays Erzsebet Urban (Architect, Researcher Department of History of Architecture and Monument Preservation, Budapest University of Technology)
  • Museum of Atheism and A Prison’s Firewood Storage. Reconstructing Medieval Churches in Soviet Estonia- Anneli Randla (Head of the Department of Conservation and Cultural Heritage at the Estonian Academy of Arts)
  • Restoration of the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague and the (re)construction of progressive national traditions in socialist CzechoslovakiaJan Randak (Charles University, Prague)
  • The Reconstruction of the Medieval Synagogue in Worms after the Shoa. Motifs, Interests and how it developed into a Jewish space after 1990s – Susanne Urban (Head of Research and Information Department of Antisemitism, University Marburg/Co-chair FRH Conference Lund)
  • Resurrection Church in Kaunas – Giedrė Jankevičiūtė (research fellow at the Art History and Visual Culture Department, Lithuanian Institute for Culture Research /professor of art history, Vilnius Art Academy) 
  • Reconstructing Religious Buildings in the Post-Communist Era: The Saint Friday Church in BucharestMara Popescu (Architect, Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, Targu Mures University / Advisor of Built Cultural Heritage, Cabinet of Minister of Culture of Romania)
  • The Reconstruction of the Garrison Church in PotsdamThomas Albrecht (Architect, Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht Architekten, Berlin)
  • The Reconstruction of the burned down Gothic wooden church in Sröda Råda, SwedenKarl Magnus Melin (University of Gothenburg, Department of Conservation)
  • The Reconstruction of Medieval Heritage in Flanders Following the Destruction of the First World War: The Challenges of Church Reconstruction during the Interwar Period. – Marcus van der Meulen (RWTH Aachen University)
  • The Postwar Reconstruction of Churches in Normandy, France – Mathieu Lours (CY Cergy Paris University)


september 25 (Monday) - 26 (Tuesday)


Aachen, Germany


Future for Religious Heritage (FRH)

Future for Religious Heritage (FRH) was founded in 2011 as an organisation dedicated to the safeguarding of Europe’s diverse and unique religious heritage. It is the only independent, non-faith, and non-profit network of charities and conservation departments of governmental, religious and university institutions, and other professionals working to protect religious heritage buildings across Europe, with over 170 members in over 35 countries. FRH works to ensure the promotion and safeguarding of Europe’s religious heritage, by bringing together organisations and individuals in a Europe-wide network and participating in forums and advocacy networks in order to bring the voice of religious heritage to relevant stakeholders and policymakers.

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