26/09/2002 On 26 September, the Santa María Cathedral
Foundation presented its Master Plan for the Comprehensive Restoration of
the gothic cathedral in a ceremony held in the Madrid Circle of Fine Arts
during which it was congratulated by the Ministry of Culture for the excellent
work carried out. The Secretary of State, Luis Alberto de Cuenca, praised
the ´extraordinary quality´ of the recovery work carried out
on the Old Cathedral and defined the activities set in motion as ´a
model for the recovery and management of Cultural Heritage´.
This acknowledgement by the Ministry of Culture is the latest in a long line of tributes paid by a variety of academic, scientific and university organisations. In the case of the Santa María Cathedral, the foundation´s commitment to quality has been recognised by top international specialists and the project has been described as ´one of the best restorations of a historical building currently being carried out in Europe´.
The Master Plan for the restoration of the Santa María Cathedral consists of a comprehensive study of the building carried out with the aim of discovering the extent of its architectural problems and proposing effective remedies. The Plan also aims to recover the cathedral´s functional and symbolic role within the framework of the urban renewal of the city´s Historic Quarter.
The Master Plan is the result of two years of intensive study (1996-1998) by the architects Leandro Cámara and Pablo Latorre, and Agustín Azkarate, a professor of archaeology at the University of the Basque Country, under the co-ordination of the architect Juan Ignacio Lasagabaster, head of the Historical and Architectural Heritage service at the Alava Provincial Government.
Given the scope and importance of the project, the Santa María Cathedral Foundation, which is responsible for the restoration work and is an organisation constituted by the Alava Provincial Government, the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council and the local diocese, decided to publish the Master Plan in order to make it generally available to the scientific community. In December of this year, the project is due to receive international acclaim from top specialists at the Cervantes Institute in Rome.
De Cuenca defined the document as an ´excellent piece of work´ and ´one of the best and most complete instruments to have ever been developed within the field of Spanish cultural heritage´. ´Its contents should serve as an example to all those interested in safeguarding our heritage. It is a credit to professionals currently working in this field in Spain and a shining example for us all,´ he added.
The presentation of the Master Plan was attended by nearly 150 people and was chaired by the Secretary of State for Culture. A number of other prestigious figures also took part in the ceremony, including the General Minister for the Alava Provincial Government, Ramón Rabanera; the provincial minister for Public Works and Urban Development and President of the Alava Provincial Government, Antonio Aguilar; the councillor for Urban Development at the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council, the deputy-chairman of the Foundation, Jorge Ibarrondo and the co-ordinator of the Master Plan, Juan Ignacio Lasagabaster, who spoke on behalf of the authors.
The restoration of the Old Cathedral, as the building is affectionately called by the city´s inhabitants, is much more than a simple architectural restoration project involving a 13th century gothic cathedral threatened by diverse structural problems. In addition to being a monument belonging to the Christian religion, the area surrounding the building and every one of its bricks and stones contain part of the collective history of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The Master Plan, which comprises two 800-page volumes and a folder of 27 plans detailing every inch of the building, approaches the restoration work from two different angles. On the one hand it focuses on the architectural aspect, understood in the broadest sense of the term; and on the other it takes into account its dynamic nature as a focus of social, urban development, tourist, scientific, training, cultural, symbolic and spiritual events and activities.