Romoe Conservators Network

Charter of Venice - Origin and significance

Origin, significance and relevance for the work of restorers today

In 1964, this document was the most recognised text for international guidelines on the preservation of monuments. It is often referred to as the most important text on monument conservation of the entire 20th century.

 

What is the Venice Charter?

In terms of content, the Venice Charter deals with fundamental values and procedures for the conservation and restoration of monuments. The introduction to the Venice Charter emphasises the importance of monuments as living testimonies to centuries and old traditions that convey spiritual messages. It is a further development of the Athens Charter of 1931 and was developed on the basis of an international congress of architects and monument conservators.

Why does the Charter exist? The historical context of its creation

The idea for the preservation of historical monuments by means of conservation and restoration was born before the then very obvious consequences of the Second World War. In the post-war years, it became increasingly clear what an immense loss of cultural assets and, ultimately, a loss of cultural identity had occurred. The necessary reconstruction throughout Europe led to a striving for modernization, which also affected cultural assets. In this context, historians speak of a turning point in European modernity. In view of the loss of the past decades, the Venice Charter was an attempt to bundle the efforts of the past 100 years in the field of monument conservation. Moreover, all measures were redesigned with a view to contemporary and future requirements. The cultural losses in the 20th century have made all those responsible aware that the protection of cultural assets requires consistent and professional care. In this regard, the Charter should be read as a practical guide to this.

Why is it quoted more often than other charters?

The Venice Charter is still often quoted today or practically implemented in the preservation of historical monuments, as it is basically more up-to-date than ever. It still sets central standards for the conservation and restoration of cultural assets. It can therefore be considered the cornerstone of modern monument conservation, as it is practiced today by professional restorers.

Areas of application summarised in compact form

To assess its scope, it should be noted that the Charter is a final declaration of a private congress of technical experts. In contrast to the Hague Convention, it is not part of a binding international law. It is therefore not a binding law, but 'only' internationally recognised guidelines. However, a look at practice shows that the described principles for the preservation/restoration of monuments are observed by many experts.

What exactly does the charter refer to?

Compared to other charters, the openly formulated concept of monument was new. The charter thus refers to individual monuments as well as urban and so-called rural sites. Artistic creations and works whose cultural significance has yet to grow also fall within its scope. The size of the artistic creation is irrelevant. In this sense, industrial buildings may only be able to retain their cultural significance at a later date. The charter also covers ground monuments, movable monuments and areas of monuments. In terms of content, the charter essentially demands that the preservation of historical monuments and associated building interventions must not change their structural form. Should reconstructions be necessary, building contributions from all relevant epochs must be taken into account. In principle, according to the text of the charter, a restoration should always be a measure with exceptional character.

Today's significance and topicality

Although the document is now more than 50 years old and must be regarded as historical, it has lost none of its radiance and meaningfulness. Today, many of the restoration measures described are still being implemented or are in some way part of the legally established protection of historical monuments. As a classic in the field of monument conservation, this important document may be considered a canon of principles for conservation and restoration. This historical document is legitimised with unbroken topicality by the fact that it is recognised worldwide and is also practiced in the work of restorers. The objectives formulated for the preservation of cultural monuments in the Venice Charter have been incorporated in the main features of German legislation on the preservation of historical monuments.



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