Spain: Convent of St. Anthony of Padua in the sights of heritage and financial experts

On 26-27 September, a delegation of heritage and financial experts from Europa Nostra and the Council of Europe Development Bank visited the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua in Spain, listed among the 7 Most Endangered’ heritage sites in Europe in 2016, and took part in various working meetings with local and regional stakeholders. The main purpose of the mission was to perform a preliminary evaluation of possible funding lines and strategies to rehabilitate the historic site, which was nominated for the 7 Most Endangered programme by Hispania Nostra. The key findings and recommendations of the expert mission to the site will be presented in the coming weeks.

7ME Mission to Convent of St. Anthony of Padua, Spain

Located in the village of Garrovillas de Alconétar, the Franciscan Convent of St. Anthony of Padua was for centuries a religious and cultural landmark in western Spain. Built in the late 15th century and greatly renovated and expanded in the mid-17th century, it featured a Gothic church and a Renaissance cloister. Although it was classified as a Monument of Cultural Interest in 1991, the Convent is now in an advanced state of disrepair. The site is owned by the Regional Government of Extremadura and private owners.

The delegation was comprised of José Alonso Campanero, Member of the Scientific Council of Europa Nostra, Campbell Thomson, Technical Consultant provided by the Council of Europe Development Bank, and Bárbara Cordero and Enrique Calderón Balanzategui, representatives from Hispania Nostra.

On 26 September, the delegates met with representatives from the Regional Government of Extremadura in the city of Mérida, including Miriam García Cabezas, Secretary General of Culture; Francisco Pérez Urbán, Director General of Libraries, Museums and Heritage; and Ricardo Claver Misas, Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Historical Archives.

The Regional Government reported that the key issue for the take-off of the project, the dispersed ownership of the site, has progressed favorably as the current owners had expressed generalized intention of transferring the ownership of the land to the Government by January 2018.

All participants agreed on the priority of developing a phased project, breaking down partial budgets and timelines, and differentiating each level of intervention in the buildings. The first phase would comprise intrusion prevention measures and preliminary stabilization works, in order to grant the safety of the site prior to implementing subsequent phases. The Government stated its intention to have this first phase developed by the second semester of 2018.

After traveling to Garrovillas de Alconétar, the delegation had a meeting with the local authorities, represented by the Mayor, Cándido Javier Gil, and their consultants.

Agustín Mateo Ortega, the architect of the Convent’s rehabilitation project, explained the preliminary studies for the implementation of a variety of proposed compatible uses: exhibition space, an interpretation centre of Franciscans (the religious order that founded the convent), educative spaces to organise public or private courses, accommodation for the participants of the courses and also for touristic rental, and all required administrative spaces.

On 27 September, the delegation met with the manager of the publicly-run rural inn located in the remains of a 15th century palace. The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the viability of tourism based businesses in town, and the influence of surrounding cultural and natural resources on the economy of the inn, whose restoration project was financed by the Regional Government of Extremadura.

After the meeting, the delegates and the relevant authorities visited the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua to assess the current conditions of the buildings, which are in severe and progressing stage of decay, and the main challenges of its restoration.

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