Florence and Religious-Cultural Heritage

Santa Croce Complex, Florence 15 December 2017


The general objective of the meeting is to deepen and to disseminate plans and methodologies that will contribute to perfecting management practices adopted by the institutions involved.


All the summarised themes in the drafting of a final document, aimed at integrating and highlighting the particularities of the heritage of religious-cultural interest, will be used for the future revision of the Management Plan of the Historic Centre of Florence. It will be a best practice to be compared for other realities, both national and international.




On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the inclusion of the Historic Centre of Florence on the UNESCO World Heritage list, it seemed appropriate to reflect on the heritage of religious interest present in it; as well as on its relationship with the management of the UNESCO World Heritage site.


The central objective of the Management Plan (MP) is the maintenance of the Outstanding Universal Value that allowed the site to enter the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Outstanding Universal Value is identified and codified through a series of criteria that are stated in detail going to constitute the specific identity of the site itself. And therefore of its value from the perspective of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.


Scrolling through the criteria for the Historic Centre of Florence, the vast list of palaces, churches, museums, and monuments appears prominently; among these, there are numerous monumental complexes with individual compendiums linked to the cultural heritage of religious interest.


It is evident the need to deepen what this heritage is or may be fundamental for a reading and a non-superficial interpretation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Historic Centre of Florence, opening an intercultural front linked to the immaterial dimension of the heritage of religious interest.


It is therefore natural to involve those who are asked to manage this heritage of religious interest to understand better what is the situation of this reality, and what conservation and maintenance actions, which forms of management and enhancement (in its broadest sense) have been undertaken over time; and how they can interact and strengthen or, otherwise, weaken the Outstanding Universal Value of the Florence Historic Centre site.


The maximum ambition of this meeting is to establish non-ephemeral connections with and among the various subjects involved and identify short, medium, and long-term strategies for sustainable development for the heritage of religious interest of our city- strategies to be implemented within the MP.




History has always served as proof that different styles and methods of life characterise many cultures. They are by diversified by value systems and anthropological traditions, as well as by various means of protection and enhancement of religious, cultural heritage. This diverse variety of cultural paradigms lays the foundations for establishing a dialogue of mutual knowledge on such unconventional policies and values on which it is necessary to elaborate some collective reflections, also with the social and cultural changes of the different historical periods. Some of these points have already been announced in 2010 on the occasion of the UN International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures; themes that in turn are linked to the topics discussed in ICCROM in 2003, on the occasion of the International Forum on the Conservation of Religious Heritage living and, in a more local context, in a meeting for the coordination of the historic churches of Florence. The event took place in the same year and proved to be very productive.


The question, elaborated in 2003, was: “how could the living religious heritage differ from the cultural heritage in general?” On that matter, the contributions received from different countries, and therefore from diversified cultural areas, showed that there are so many grey areas when it comes to distinguishing between religious heritage and cultural heritage. The level of congruences and complicity is so notable that today we collectively refer to them as religious-cultural heritage.


These essential experiences, aimed at enhancing the full awareness and respect of different cultures (UNESCO Convention 2005,) allow us to make proposals based on the need to reflect on the relationship that has always been established- as part of the considerations related to the heritage- both in relation to its diversified values, ​​and to the meanings it contains. To elaborate a path of knowledge on religious-cultural heritage means, today more than ever, to focus on humans, their creativity, the innumerable syncretisms that generate this heritage, the inseparable relationship between tangibility and intangibility, and the awareness that it is not possible to distinguish a religious heritage from a cultural heritage seen in its general meaning.
In a world where dialogues and meetings between different cultures are normalities of day-to-day life- something that is vastly taken for granted- it is fundamental to understand that the intrinsic nature of religious and sacred cultural heritage must have the opportunity to compare the different authenticities, the different meanings of spirituality. It is essential to know how to share knowledge and, based on that, to be able to build the world on mutual respect, inclusiveness, and dialogue between communities.


The inter-cultural nature of the religious-cultural heritage thus intends to call together all the knowledge connected to it and to bring dialogue into theology, amongst its many disciplines, the sciences of art and architecture, the territory and the environment as well as economy and the many cultural aspects that intervene in the single community contexts. Moreover, in the continuous evolution of our reality, this rich religious cultural heritage plays an important role in “cultural diplomacy”- in which the centrality of the individual and their work is fundamental.


These premises are important to try to define together a path of knowledge and enhancement of religious-cultural heritage that is also sustainable with respect to problems of conservation, functional reconversion and management as demonstrated by the numerous monumental complexes that characterise cities around the world. During the meeting in Florence, particular attention has been given to the heritage of religious interest that characterises both the historic centres and the UNESCO World Heritage landscapes.