Local Award Ceremony at Biblioteca Bardensis honoured by Chancellor Angel Merkel

The Local Award Ceremony at the Biblioteca Bardensis in Barth in Northern Germany, which was held in the afternoon of 15 August, gathered more than 400 people and was honoured by the presence of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Chancellor Merkel, Richard Kühnel, Representative of the European Commission in Germany, and Claus-Peter Echter, Council Member of Europa Nostra, unanimously praised the remarkable restoration of the 14th-century library and acknowledged the key role played by the Association of Friends of St. Mary’s Library Church in making these impressive renovations possible.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated the Association of Friends of St. Mary's Library Church on the Award. Photo: Ostsee-Zeitung / Detlef Lübcke

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated the Association of Friends of St. Mary’s Library Church on the Award. Photo: Ostsee-Zeitung / Detlef Lübcke

It was a memorable afternoon for all those who participated in the Local Award Ceremony at the Biblioteca Bardensis, a winner of a 2014 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards. Heritage and cultural professionals, volunteers and supporters and representatives from local, regional and national Governments gathered to celebrate this outstanding heritage achievement from Germany. Chancellor Merkel – who attended as a Member of Parliament to her electoral jurisdiction, Vorpommern-Rügen/Greifswald I – praised the commitment of the Association, as well as the strict schedule it held to, and encouraged the audience to give further support and donations towards the project.

“Protecting our cultural heritage is not about the adoration of the past, but about the preservation of its spirit for the present and the future. The voluntary commitment of all those who helped this project to succeed is a wonderful expression of our way of life and the European spirit,” stated Richard Kühnel.

The Award was presented to the Association by Claus-Peter Echter, Council Member of Europa Nostra and Vice-president of Europa Nostra Germany, and Piet Jaspaert, Board Member of Europa Nostra. In his address, Claus-Peter Echter stressed the significance of support from across Europe towards protecting cultural heritage and recognising it as an important factor in human society.

Ulrike Volkhardt, President of the Association, referenced the speech Europa Nostra’s President Plácido Domingo gave in Vienna in which he urges for voluntary citizen’s engagement with their own local cultural heritage. “This is precisely what the Barth initiative set out to do and has accomplished,” she stated.

Ursula Gather, the President of the Board of Trustees of Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Foundation, the project’s largest single sponsor, expressed her satisfaction with the long-term significance of this project.

Falk Eisermann, from the Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage and scientific advisor of the church library, held a short lecture entitled ‘In the Middle of Europe: History and Present of the Biblioteca Bardensis’, giving an insight into the treasure kept in the books and providing perspectives of research and usage.

After the ceremony, other important cultural projects in Barth were visited together with the prestigious guests: the Papenhof, a historical priest’s house, now in the process of being restored as a cultural centre, and the exhibition in the Vineta museum in honour of the 250th anniversary of the Helvetic-German dialogue between Spalding, Lavater, Füß̈li und Heß in Barth, which is supported by Chancellor Merkel and the Swiss Ambassador to Germany, Tim Guldimann. In this exhibition, an original manuscript by Johann Spalding from the church library is shown.

More than 400 visitors from all over Germany attended this Local Award Ceremony. St. Mary’s and the Biblioteca Bardensis thus became a forum for communication and exchange of ideas. Spontaneous collaborations were formed, including the idea for the revival of the family library of the Bismarck family, and the necessary next steps for the Biblioteca Bardensis were laid out.

The Biblioteca Bardensis, mentioned for the first time in 1398, is an unique example of a church library in Germany, as its collection of over 4000 books have remained throughout the ages in the same church. The invaluable richness of the titles and origins of the books has, after decades of neglect, been saved for the future and will be reopened for research and for public access, thanks to the cleaning and restoration of the library and its contents.

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