Heritage and the Holy

"Heritage and the Holy" explores the developing relationship between the heritage tourism sector and faith. With occasional focus on this affiliation in Wales, this column delves into increasingly secular societies, and the impacts these cultural shifts are having on both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of nations.

This past March, Leicester (UK) played host to an unprecedented “heritage ceremony,” where the mortal remains of King Richard III were laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral following his death in 1485. Yet, in all of the excitement surrounding the discovery and burial of the king, did the need to create an “occasion” outstrip the significance of burying a person on holy ground?

Sadly, stories of the destruction of heritage in the Middle East are increasingly becoming the norm, rather than the extreme. As religious extremists target more and more historic sites and collections, are we witnessing not the loss of heritage, but the creation of a new form of “terror heritage”?

As the political situation in the Middle East becomes increasingly unstable, cultural heritage is directly in the firing line. This post explores how faith has helped create, destroy, and, on occasion, come to save heritage sites in troubled Iraq and Libya.

Stonehenge has captured the imagination of visitors for centuries, and following a recent multi-million pound redevelopment, is set to continue to inspire and attract visitors for a long time to come. In recent decades, however, human remains found at Stonehenge have become an increasingly contentious issue. With an active and vocal Druidic community still fighting for the reburial of these remains, to what extent should faith have a say in what happens to heritage?

Wales is a nation defined by a number of cultural stereotypes. Of these, singing and the choral tradition is one of the most heavily exported visions of Wales. The cultural origins for this intangible form of heritage are rooted in a faith-based non-conformist background, but as Wales becomes increasingly secular, what future does the singing tradition of Wales have?