December 5, 2021
Innocastle Final Conference
In August 2022, INTO staff joined the final conference of our Innocastle Interreg Europe project in Romania. This was an opportunity to bring together and celebrate all the learning, policy development and connections made over the past five years. And to share these with Romanian stakeholders.
We began the two days with site visits to properties in the Alba Iulia region. First stop was the Bethlen-Haller Castle in Cetatea de Baltă (above). Situated atop beautiful, rolling agricultural lands, the Castle has been recently adapted into guest accommodation. Here we discussed valuing and valorising castles with Claudiu Necșulescu, President of the Jidvei winery group, which we enjoyed tasting over a delicious lunch.
From there, we travelled to the Bethlen Castle in Sânmiclăuș (below left). The manor house was nationalised in 1945 and used as a food processing plant, apartment building and kindergarten before Mr Necșulescu took it on. Delegates were able to share thoughts on plans for the restoration work and neighbouring barn conversion.
Next stop was the of Cultural Center Sâncrai Castle (below) where we considered regional strategies for valuing and maximising the impact of castles, manors and estates. Sâncrai is a 19th century Banffy family Renaissance manor which was expanded and embellished in the 1890s. In 1947 it was converted into an orphanage, when the gardens and connection to the Mureș river were gradually lost. It was restored and repurposed by the Alba County Council.
In the evening we visited some sites within the complex of the Alba Carolina Citadel, including a very moving evening prayer service in the Orthodox Cathedral (above far right).
The star-shaped fortress was build by 20,000 serfs between 1715 and 1738. The city of Alba Iulia received 47.5 million lei in 2009 for the restoration and conservation of the Citadel.
The following day was the Innocastle Final Conference, held in the magnificent Apor Palace, now home to the “1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba Iulia. The conference was an opportunity to share the project outcomes with the wider stakeholder network in Romania.
Catherine presented the National Trust’s people-centred approach and Alex spoke on the panel about regional development. Our colleague, heritage resource expert June Taboroff planned, developed and recorded a presentation which opened the latter discussion. Catherine also moderated and reported on a workshop discussion about heritage policy and funding instruments.
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It was fascinating to hear more from the wider Romanian heritage sector as well as our partner stakeholders. We discussed modifications that could contribute to sustainable development such as mindset change; bringing in volunteers; the idea of ‘charming ruins’; using good data and research to valorise our work as part of a regional offer; education, training and talent development.
In terms of new instruments or regulations to support the valorisation of castles, manors and historic estates, we looked at the introduction of new policies to allow buildings and landscapes to be managed in one holistic way; the removal of income restrictions at sites receiving public funding; no tax on restoration work and entrance tickets; more monitoring in some cases – and less regulation in others. We also invented the new role of ‘Heritage Mediator’, paid by the state and whose job would be to facilitate discussions between different stakeholders.
In all, there was so much that was familiar across the INTO family of members. And it was good to hear that many of the things that concern us are the same wherever we are in the world. It makes the notion of coming together to collaborate, learn and share through INTO ever more powerful.