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The Cathedral of Santa María and the medieval wall are the subject of a heritage congress in Melilla

This event provides a foretaste of the monumental heritage congress held in Vitoria this year.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 3rd April 2008.- Gonzalo Arroita, the former Managing Director of the Santa María Cathedral Foundation, and Agustín Azkarate, a Professor of Archaeology, will be taking part tomorrow in a congress entitled ‘Melilla, the hushed voice of the Mediterranean’. During this event, at which various experts will debate the issues of cities, heritage and water, they will each be giving lectures about the old Cathedral and the medieval walls of Vitoria, and talking about how they have invigorated the city’s Historic Quarter.

The congress is one of the events taking place in the Autonomous City of Melilla as part of its participation in Expo Zaragoza, where it will have its own pavilion. The events held over the past year have aimed to raise public awareness of the development projects planned for the area. ‘City, heritage and water’ is organised by the Spanish Open University (UNED) Centre located in Melilla, in collaboration with the Government’s Department for the Environment.

This meeting will also provide a foretaste of the monumental heritage congress being held in Vitoria this year, in which eminent international experts are expected to participate, from prestigious organisations such as UNESCO, World Monument Fund, the Association of Walled Cities and Europa Nostra, among others. Participants in the congress will study the restoration of the walls as a source of knowledge and the backbone of the old city from a social and urban point of view.
In Melilla, there will be three days of lectures and roundtable discussions to analyse the aspects that characterise the Mediterranean culture. The interest sparked by the initiative to open the Cathedral renovation work to the public, as well as the social function of heritage, will be the central themes tackled by Gonzalo Arroita and Agustín Azcarate in their lectures. They will highlight how public investment in heritage assets must product social returns in the form of education, training, culture, tourism, historical knowledge and environmental recovery.

The congress began yesterday, Wednesday, with the launch of the book ‘Melilla, la voz callada del Mediterráneo’ (Melilla, the hushed voice of the Mediterranean), written by Ángel Morúa, Salvador Moreno and Antonio Bravo. Following this event, the first lecture, entitled ‘The United Nations Programme Water for Life 2005-2015,’ was delivered by Carlos Fernández-Jauregui, director of Water for Life at this international organisation.

Today, Thursday, the keynote speakers will be Venetian architect Rinio Bruttomesso, talking about the network of cities and water, giving his own city as an example, and Mohamed Awad, from the Alexandra Research Centre, will be giving a lecture entitled ‘Alexandra: a case of seafront conservation and development’.

Tomorrow (Thursday), as well as Arroita and Azcarate, Salvador Moreno, Director of the Special Plan for Old Melilla, will be taking the reins along with Nuria Sánz, from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, who will talk about the conservation of the historic city. The congress will come to a close with a roundtable discussion in which Pablo Longoria will speak on behalf of the New York World Monument Fund. The Fund is the largest private patron of cultural heritage in the world, and in 2006 it included the Cathedral of Santa María on its select list of protected monuments in the world.

Furthermore, participants will be taking part in guided tours of Melilla’s old fortress and the city’s modernist buildings, as well as an excursion to discover the city from the sea. The conclusions drawn from the congress will be presented at Expo Zaragoza.

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