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For a scientific dissemination of cultural heritage, especially ecclesiastical heritage | Culture

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Currently, a series of actions are taking place on the Cathedral Mosque of Córdoba by the Catholic Church (registration, attempt to erase the term Mosque from the name, Master Plan…) that are causing an objective and serious alteration of the cultural values ​​recognized in their declarations as BIC and World Heritage and which aim to promote a de-Islamization of the monument. This manipulation of the cultural dimension of the Mosque is neither anecdotal nor isolated and is extendable to many of the dissemination and musealization actions that the Catholic Church is carrying out on its assets, basing itself on the supposed prevalence of the cult function established in the regulations that govern the protection of ecclesiastical heritage in Spain. Although this adulteration of heritage values ​​can occur through the modification of the materiality of the property (the destruction, for example, of Rafael de la Hoz’s latticework in the case of the Mosque), the main way to do so is through through the elaboration and transmission of the contents and meanings of these goods to citizens, that is, through what is tutelarily called dissemination.

This unacceptable manipulation of heritage values ​​is not exclusive to the Catholic Church, but occurs to a greater or lesser extent in many other types of property where it is the owner (whether public or private) who carries out dissemination actions about it. . The intolerable case of the Pazo de Meirás, where, before the recovery of this property by the State, the Francisco Franco Foundation, in charge of carrying out public visits to this BIC, was dedicated to praising the figure of the dictator, is another paradigmatic example. .

Faced with this serious and widespread practice of manipulation, misrepresentation, concealment or, on many other occasions, trivialization of the values ​​and meanings of the cultural heritage declared in Spain, I urge the public administrations responsible for guardianship to take the necessary measures to put an end to it. with it, for which they should keep in mind a series of heritage principles that I explain below.

The purpose of the protection of cultural heritage established in our legal system is its access and enjoyment by society, hence all cultural heritage laws incorporate among their objectives dissemination (interpretation, education, presentation, dissemination), which ends up becoming one of the most important instruments to achieve these goals. In addition to being a responsibility of the administrations, dissemination becomes an obligation of the owner or possessor whose compliance cannot be evaded in any case.

Side facade of the Meirás palace.OSCAR CORRAL

Dissemination, as such a protective activity protected by legislation, must be carried out under the same premises as the rest of protective actions such as restoration or archaeological excavations: scientificity, professionalization and control of the public administration competent in matters of cultural heritage. These parameters are also extendable to management, which is essential for the development of both dissemination and the rest of the guardianship activities. In relation to the competent dissemination professionals, and given the confusion that exists around them, I claim as a general principle that the competent professional for dissemination is the one whose discipline is scientifically responsible for the knowledge of the value that is the object of protection (the historian of art for artistic value, the archaeologist for archaeological value, etc.), this work should be carried out through the figure of the Heritage Interpreter, which we demand be recognized in cultural heritage legislation.

All the same

Special attention, as I say, deserves dissemination, and the rest of the protective activities, in the field of ecclesiastical heritage. To do this, I start from an inalienable principle and that is that the Catholic Church must necessarily submit to the same principles of action established in our legal system for any other owner of a cultural asset. To achieve this, you must start from the following budgets:

The unique legal regime available to the Catholic Church in our country, and extendable to the cultural heritage that it possesses (fundamentally the Agreement between the Spanish State and the Holy See on Teaching and Cultural Affairs of January 3, 1979 and the document relating to the legal framework of mixed Church-State action on historical-artistic heritage of October 30, 1980), cannot exempt him from the control of the public administration in any action carried out on declared property of his property, especially the BIC, since It would produce a serious and flagrant breach of the constitutional principles that support the protection of cultural heritage in our country.

An image of the Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba, with a sculpture of Saint Peter.
An image of the Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba, with a sculpture of Saint Peter.PACO PUENTES

The protective actions subject to public control, including dissemination, must be carried out on exclusively scientific and professional parameters, which is why they cannot be subject to analysis, evaluation and approval in the mixed State-Autonomous Communities Church Commissions, nor of course in the bodies heritage management of the Church, since this work corresponds exclusively to the public administration competent in matters of cultural heritage. Likewise, the participation of any person who is not an accredited professional in the teams that carry out the tasks of guardianship of ecclesiastical property is not admissible.

The dissemination of cultural heritage is, as I have stated, a scientific and professional activity so it must be free of any religious or ideological bias. It is, therefore, inadmissible to convert the dissemination of ecclesiastical goods into an instrument for the liturgical and pastoral work of the Church, so it is not acceptable for this work to be carried out by clerics, lay people or any other person religiously linked to the good, nor nor that the Church unfailingly demands complementary ecclesiastical training from a professional whose training is granted exclusively by the required academic training and, in any case, the required administrative accreditation. If this were not the case, a religious and non-scientific guardianship activity would be accepted as valid.

The supposed priority of the cult function granted to ecclesiastical assets cannot in any case be used as a condition for the technical, scientific and professional protection tasks, obviously including dissemination. It is obvious that this priority of the cult function, if it has a legal basis, could only be applied to goods when they are being used in some liturgical or sacramental act and not in public citizen visits, including tourism.

The management of ecclesiastical heritage, like that of other assets, must be governed by the same scientific, technical and professional parameters that I claim. This means that all plans, projects and measures implemented on a specific asset must be carried out by competent professionals and have the approval of the culture administration. Particularly important is the supervision of master plans, measures related to the control of public visits or the hiring of professionals.

For all the above and in view of the undoubted perverse effects caused by the current regime of protection of ecclesiastical heritage, or at least its practical application, I consider that it is essential to proceed to modify said regime, subjecting ecclesiastical assets in an effective and real way to the same guardianship system as the rest of cultural property, thus making effective the constitutional mandate that the protection of the historical, cultural and artistic heritage of the people of Spain will be guaranteed “whatever its legal regime and ownership.”

But everything claimed here will not be possible to achieve if what I consider to be currently the main problem of cultural heritage in Spain is not resolved, such as the very serious decapitalization and dismantling of the cultural administration in our country, derived from the zealous installation of forgers and destructive neoliberal models of heritage management that forget an inalienable principle: that cultural heritage is a fundamental right of citizens.

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