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The context of the Venice Charter (1964)


The Venice Charter has been the benchmark for principles governing architectural conservationl
restorationfor over thirty years. We asked Jukka Jokilehto to comment on the context in which it was
drawn up. Now often referred to simply as the 'Venice Charter', the correctfull name of this document
(of which we print the text in an appendix) is: 'The International Charterfor the Conservation and
Restoration of Monuments and Sites', adopted by the lInd International Congress of Architects and
Technicians of Historic Monuments, Venice, 1964.

When the lInd International Congress of Archi- Lanka) declared that the charter was 'a Magna
tects and Technicians of Historic Monuments met Carta for the safeguarding of the monumental
in Venice from 25 to 31 May 1964, and adopted heritage of mankind for the sake of the genera-
the International Charter for the Conservation tions of the present and the future' [31
and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, it hardly The invitation to the 1964 Venice meeting was
anticipated the subsequent fortunes of this docu- issued by the Italian Director General of Antiqui-
ment. Over three decades later the Venice Charter ties and Fine Arts, Professor G. De Angelis d'Ossat,
continues to exercise its validity. Acceptance of at the (Ist) International Congress oLArchitects
the Charter has not been without criticism: imme- and Technicians of Historic Monuments, which
diately ..after the 1964 meeting it was challenged took place in Paris, 6-14 May 1957. The Paris
by Professor Renato Bonelli (Italy), who claimed meeting had been organized by the French asso-
that it contained nothing new, and even that the ciation of restoration architects in collaboration
concepts expressed in it were contradictory to with national authorities and UNESCO, and it
principles promoted after the Second World War, drew particular attention to the need for training
when aesthetic criteria had. gained priority over programmes for specialists, for specialized agen-
historical ones [1]. cies, and for interdisciplinary collaboration [4].
In 1977, in an assessment of the Charter, Cevat There was also a motion addressed to UNESCO
Erder (Turkey) identified some of its defects, calling for the establishment of an international
pointing out that, as it was written mainly by association as a link between restoration archi-
Europeans, there could be difficulties in its appli- tects and technicians - this was eventually to be
cation in all cultures. Erder maintained, neverthe- ICOMOS.
less, that the Charter had performed its task, that There were other precursors to the Venice
it was worthy of the respect due to an historic Charter, including the conclusions of the interna-
document and should be preserved according to tional conference organized by the International
the principles proposed for the preservation of an Museums Office in Athens, 21-30 October 1931,
historic monument [2]. In 1983, Roland Silva (Sri and attended by some 120 professionals from 23



countries, mainly in Europe. These conclusions Raymond Lemaire (Belgium), in collaboration

usually referred to later as the 'Athens Charter', with Paul Philippot (ICCROM) and]ean Sonnier
were presented to the League of Nations member (France) [7,8], The Venice Charter was adopted
states. After the conference, the Italian delegate, by the congress almost unanimously - with one
Gustavo Giovannoni, drafted a 'Carta del restauro', abstention. The first version contained 15 articles,
which was adopted by the Italian Consiglio but was later edited in collaboration with UNESCO
Superiore delle Belle Arti in December 1931 and to include Article 8 on integrity, thus making the
published in January 1932 as an official govern- current total of 16 articles (see Appendix).
ment guideline. (These two documents should There had recently been other meetings with
not be confused with the recommendations of recommendations on the rehabilitation of his-
the ClAM meeting on modern architecture and toric cities, an issue that the Venice Charter does
city planning in Athens in 1933, edited by Le not really address. It is worth noting, however,
Corbusier in 1941 and published as 'The Charter that the concept of 'historic monument' was
of Athens' in 1943 [5],) extended by the Charter to cover historic urban
The 1964 Venice congress was organized by areas and considered previous references to
the General Direction of Antiquities and Fine Arts 'dead' and 'living' monuments no longer rel-
of the Italian Ministry of Education. It was at- evant. Cesare Brandi had published his theory of
tended by some 600 participants representing 61 restoration the previous year (1963), which was
countries, as well as UNESCO, the Council of certainly taken into account [9]. The Venice
Europe, ICCROM, ICOM and the Istituto congress gave clear attention to architectural
Internazionale dei Castelli (I.B.I.). The majority of integrity, but it also emphasized the need to
participants were European, while more than half respect historical integrity - considering that after
of the countries represented were from other the war there had been an overemphasis on
continents. The congress adopted 13 resolutions, stylistic reconstruction. Several speakers stressed
the first of which was the 'international charter' the specificity of each cultural heritage site, and
(Venice Charter). Another concerned the crea- the fact that any charter could only provide
tion of ICOMOS, founded in Poland the follow- guidance - it could not be a rule to be applied
ing year, which came to recognize the Venice uncritically.
Charter as its fundamental doctrinal document - Over the years, there have been several at-
consequently the Charter has often (incorrectly) tempts to revise the Venice Charter, but without
been published under the ICOMOS name. The success, and the Charter has become a major
Venice meeting also recommended the organiza- reference both for national administrations and at
tion of an international architectural conserva- the international level. This is proven by the
tion course at ICCROM, the publication of an translations of the Charter into at least 28 different
international magazine on the theory, techniques languages, and the fact that its principles have
and legislation relating to the restoration of found expression in dozens of national and
monuments (ICOMOS's Monumentum),\ as well international recommendations, guidelines and
as proper attention to the protection and rehabili- charters [10], Perhaps the best known of these are
tation of historic city centres [6]. the Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation
In view of the ravages of the Second World in the USA (first published in 1978 [11]) and the
War on cultural monuments, the organizers of the Burra Charter in Australia (drawn up in 1979 [12]).
Venice meeting, Piero Gazzola, De Angelis d'Ossat, The principles of the Venice Charter have also
Carlo Ceschi and Roberto Pane, decided to pro- been recognized as the basic .policy guidelines
vide an updated reference document for the for the assessment of cultural heritage sites on
international debate on safeguarding the archi- UNESCO's World Heritage List.
tectural heritage. The idea of a revised charter
was presented to the congress by Gazzola and
Pane, who took Giovannoni's 'Carta del restauro' Jukka Jokilehto is Head of the Architectural
as a reference. The first draft was written by Conservation programme at ICCROM.

Contact address: ICCROM, via di San Michele APPENDIX

13, 1-00153 Roma RM, Italy. Tel: +39 6 585531.
Fax: +39 6 58553349. E-mail: THE VENICE CHARTER (1964); INIERNATIONAL

1 Bonelli, R. La 'carta di Venezia' per il restauro Imbued with a message from the past, the historic
architettonico. Italia Nostra, May-June (964) 1-6. monuments of generations of people remain to the
2 Erder, C. The Venice Charter under review. In: ICOMOS present day as living witnesses of their age-old
Scientific Journal, The Venice Charter - La Charte de traditions. People are becoming more and more
Venise 1964-1994. Paris (994), 24-31 (article written conscious of the unity of human values and regard
in 1977).
ancient monuments as a common heritage. The
3 Silva, R. The signific~nce of the Venice International common responsibility to safeguard them for future
Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of generations is recognized. It is our duty to hand
Monuments and Sites, with special reference to eastern
them on in the full richness of their authenticity.
countries. In: ICOMOS Scientific Journal, The Venice
Charter - La Charte de Venise 1964-1994. Paris (1994),
40-44. It is essential that the principles guiding the
4 Verrier, J. Le congres international des architectes et preservation and restoration of ancient lJuildings
techniciens des monuments historiques. Les monuments should be agreed and be laid down on an
historiques de la France ill (1957) 65-88. international basis, with each country being re-
5 On this confusion, see Iamandi, C. The Charters of sponsible for applying the plan within the frame-
Athens of 1931 and 1933. Coincidence, controversy work of its own culture and traditions.
and convergence. Conservation and Management of
Archaeological Sites 2 (1997) 17-28. By defining these basic principles for the .first
6 ICOMOS. 'llmonumento per l'uomo '.Atti delII congresso time, the Athens Charter of 1931 contributed
internazionale del restauro, Venezia, 2~ 31 maggio towards the development of an extensive inter-
1964. Marsilio Editore, Padua (971).
national movement which has assumed concrete
7 Gazzola, P. and Pane, R. Proposte per una carta form in national documents, in the work of ICOM
internazionale del restauro. In: ICOMOS. 'Ilmonumento and UNESCO and in the establishment by the
per l 'uomo '. Atti del II congresso internazionale del
latter of the International Centre for the Study of
restauro, Venezia, 25-31 maggio 1964. Marsilio Editore,
Padua (1971), 14-19. Reprinted in Gurrieri, F. (ed.), the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural
Teoria e cultura del restaurodei monumenti e dei centri Property. Increasing awareness and critical study
antichi. Edizioni CLUSF, Florence (1974), 215-224. have been brought to bear on problems which
8 Lemaire, R. A propos de la Charte de Venise. In: have continually become more complex and
ICOMOS Scientific Journal, The Venice Charter - La varied; now the time has come to examine the
Charte de Venise 1964-1994. Paris (994), 56-58. Charter afresh in order to make a thorough study
9 Brandi, C. Teoria del restauro. Edizioni di Storia e of the principles involved and to enlarge its scope
Letteratura, Rome (963). Reprinted G. Einaudi, Turin in a new document.
10ICOMOS Scientific Journal, The Venice Charter - La Accordingly, the lInd International Congress of
Charte de Venise 1964-1994, Paris (994). Architects and Technicians of Historic Monu-
11 The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for ments, which met in Venice from May 25th to 31st
Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic 1964, approved the following text:
Buildings. Revised 1983.US Department of the Interior,
National Parks Service, Washington DC (1983).
12 Australia ICOMOS. The Australia ICOMOS Charter for
the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (the
ARTICLE1. The concept of an historic monument
Burra Charter). Sydney (1981).
embraces not only the single architectural work

but also the urban or rural setting in which is found may only be removed from it if this is the sole
the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant means of ensuring their preservation.
development or an historic event. This applies not
only to great works of art but also to more modest REST ORA TION
works of the past which have acquired cultural
significance with the passing of time. ARTICLE 9. The process of restoration is a highly
specialized operation. Its aim is to preserve and
ARTICLE 2. The conservation and restoration of reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the
monuments must have recourse to all the sciences monument and is based on respect for original
and techniques which can contribute to the study material and authentic documents. It must stop at
and safeguarding of the architectural heritage. the point where conjecture begins, and in this
case moreover any extra work which is indispen-
AIM sable must be distinct from the architectural
composition and must bear a contemporary stamp.
ARTICLE 3. The intention in conserving and The restoration in any case must be preceded and
restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less followed by an archaeological and historical
as works of art than as historical evidence. study of the monument.

CONSERVATION ARTICLE 10. Where traditional techniques prove

inadequate, the consolidation of a monument
ARTICLE 4. It is essential to the conservation of can be achieved by the use of any modern
monuments that they be maintained on a perma- technique for conservation and construction, the
nent basis. efficacy of which has been shown by scientific
data and proved by experience.
ARTICLE 5. The conservation of monuments is
always facilitated by making use of them for some ARTICLE11. The valid contributions of all periods
socially useful purpose. Such use is therefore desir- to the building of a monument must be respected,
able but it must not change the lay-out ordecora- since unity of style is not the. aim ofa restoration.
tion of the building. It is within these limits only that
modifications demanded by a change of function When a building includes the superimposed
should be envisaged and may be permitted. work of different periods, the revealing of the
underlying state can only be justified in excep-
ARTICLE 6. The conservation of a monument tional circumstances and when what is removed
implies preserving a setting. which is not out of is of little interest and the material which is
scale. Wherever the traditional setting exists, it brought to light is of great historical, archaeologi-
must be kept. No new construction, demolition calor aesthetic value, and its state of preservation
or modification which would alter the relations of good enough to justify the action. Evaluation of
mass and color must be allowed. the importance of the elements involved and the
decision as to what may be destroyed cannot rest
ARTICLE 7. A monument is inseparable from the solely on the individual in charge of the work.
history to which it bears witness and from the
setting in which it occurs. The moving of all or ARTICLE 12. Replacements of missing parts must
part of a monument cannot be allowed except integrate harmoniously with the whole, but at the
where the safeguarding of that monument de- same time must be distinguishable from the
mands it or where it is justified by national or original so that restoration does not falsify the
international interest of paramount importance. artistic or historic evidence.

ARTICLE 8. Items of sculpture, painting or deco- ARTICLE 13. Additions cannot be allowed except
ration which form an integral part of a monument in so far as they do not detract from the interest-

ing parts of the building, its traditional setting, the critical reports, illustrated with drawings and
balance of its composition and its relation with its photographs.
Every stage of the work of clearing, consolida-
HISTORIC SITES tion, rearrangement and integration, as well as
technical and formal features identified during
ARTICLE14. The sites of monuments must be the the course of the work, should be included. This
object of special care in order to safeguard their record should be placed in the archives of a
integrity and ensure that they are cleared and public institution and made available to research
presented in a seemly manner. The work of workers. It is recommended that the report should
conservation and restoration carried out in such be published.
places should be inspired by the principles set
forth in the foregoing articles. The following persons took part in the work of
the Committee for drafting the International Char-
EXCAVATIONS ter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monu-
ARTICLE15. Excavations should be carried out in
accordance with scientific standards and the Piero Gazzola (Italy), Chairman
recommendation defining international princi- Raymond Lemaire (Belgium), Reporter
ples to be applied in the case of archaeological Jose Bassegoda-Nonell (Spain)
excavation adopted by UNESCO in 1956. Luis Benavente (Portugal)
Djurdje Boskovic (Yugoslavia)
Ruins must be maintained and measures neces- Hiroshi Daifuku (UNESCO)
sary for the permanent conservation and protec- P.L de Vrieze (Netherlands)
tion of architectural features and of objects dis- Harald Langberg (Denmark)
covered must be taken. Furthermore, every means Mario Matteucci (Italy)
must be taken to facilitate the understanding of Jean Merlet (France)
the monument and to reveal it without ever Carlos Flores Marini (Mexico)
distorting its meaning. Roberto Pane (Italy)
S.C.J. Pavel (Czechoslovakia)
All reconstruction work should however be ruled Paul Philip pot (International Centre for the
out a priori. Only anastylosis, that is to say, the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of
reassembling of existing but dismembered parts, Cultural Property)
can be permitted. The material used for integra- Victor Pimentel (Peru)
tion should always be recognizable and its use Harold Plenderleith (International Centre for
should be the least that will ensure the conserva- the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration
tion of a monument and the reinstatement of its of Cultural Property)
form. Deoclecio Redig de Campos (Vatican)
Jean Sonnier (France)
PUBLICATION Fran~ois Sorlin (France)
Eustathios stikas (Greece)
ARTICLE16. In all works of preservation, restora- Gertrud Tripp (Austria)
tion or excavation, there should always be pre- Jan Zachwatovicz (Poland)
cise documentation in the form of analytical and Mustafa S. Zbiss (Tunisia)