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Holy See/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

The whole of the Vatican City is listed in the United Nations International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection, as laid down in The Hague Convention of 14 May 1954 (signed by the Holy See on 24 February 1958).

The Vatican City was included on the Cultural Heritage of Humanity list on 31 October 1984, following the Holy See's accession to the Convention on the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Humanity on 16 November 1972. In 1990, all the Holy See's extra-territorial property in Rome was included in this agreement.

The Holy See signed the European Council Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage on 16 January 1992, ratified on 6 May 1999.

On 25 July 2001, the Law for the Protection of Cultural Goods was promulgated, following the updating of the Fundamental Law of the Vatican City State on 26 November 2000. It provides for an inventory of all the cultural property of the Holy See and the Vatican City, and sets out concrete procedures for the management of this property.

The Pontifical Commission for Cultural Goods has drawn up and sent out four circular letters to bishops on the management of cultural goods:

  • Church Libraries in the Mission of the Church, 19 March 1994;
  • The Pastoral Function of Church Archives, 2 February 1997;
  • The Inventory and Cataloguing of the Cultural Heritage of the Church: A Necessary and Urgent Task, 8 December 1999; and
  • The Pastoral Function of Ecclesiastical Museums, 15 August 2001.

These guidelines indicate the need to catalogue the artistic and cultural heritage of dioceses and religious orders where this has not already been done, to encourage the creation of structures for the conservation and development of these goods (museums, archives and libraries) and highlights the need to invest in training staff to manage this heritage (clergy, lay people and volunteers) through special training programmes.


Chapter published: 26-11-2009

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              Council of Europe/ERICarts, "Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 15th edition", 2014 | ISSN 2222-7334