Press Releases


The King and Queen praise the Cathedral restoration

01/09/2004 King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia demonstrated their support to the project to restore the gothic temple during their visit.

01/09/2004 Santa Maria Cathedral received an illustrious visit on 21st June. The King and Queen of Spain, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, saw the workings of the gothic temple first hand and expressed their "maximum" support to the restoration work being carried out there. The visit from the monarchs marked an acknowledgement of the project´s quality, proven just days before in Madrid when Queen Sofia awarded it the ´Europa Nostra´ Special Prize 2002, which is historically the most important prize awarded to a Spanish cultural heritage project up to the present date.

During their trip through the depths of the Cathedral, the royal couple learnt about the history of the building, its structural problems, the solutions for its restoration and the innovative initiative to open the whole restoration process to the public. Agustín Azkarate, Archaeology Professor at the Universidad del País Vasco and the general and technical directors of the Santa Maria Cathedral Foundation, Gonzalo Arroita and Juan Ignacio Lasagabaster, were honoured to inform them with all the details.

The King and Queen showed great interest in the archaeological excavations, especially Queen Sofia, who studied Archaeology when she was younger. In the central nave they could contemplate the damage to walls and pillars, and the provisional attempts to consolidate the cementations. King Juan Carlos expressed his astonishment at the sheer size of the project. "What a job!" he repeated with admiration following the explanations given by the technical supervisors.

He was no less impressed by the idea of opening the restoration process to the public and inviting local people to participate, more than 300 000 in four years. In this way, they showed their enthusiasm that the restoration of Santa María Cathedral has been converted into a tourist, cultural, economic and social phenomenon in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

The monarchs arrived at Santa Maria Cathedral after visiting the multinational Guardian´s glass factory in Llodio, which is celebrating the 60 years of working in the area. In the Old Cathedral they were accompanied by, among others, the leader of the Basque government, Juan José Ibarretxe; the Minister for Industry, José Montilla; the senator for Alava, Ramón Rabanera; the mayor of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Alfonso Alonso; the president of the General Councils, Teresa Rodríguez Barahona; and the bishop of the diocese, Miguel Asurmendi.

´Europa Nostra´ Special Prize
The visit of the King and Queen to Santa Maria Cathedral occurred two weeks after Queen Sofia had presented the project managers with the ´Europa Nostra´ Special Prize 2002. This is the most important acknowledgement awarded by the European Union for restoration and conservation of cultural heritage actions.