Restoration of Medieval Spanish Castle Sparks Outrage and Debate


It’s safe to say we can all agree that the preservation of historic ruins is a worthwhile effort, but just how it’s done is proving to be a point of contention for residents in the southern Spanish town of Villamartín.

As reported by The Independent, El Castillo de Matrera (Matrera Castle) has stood atop a grassy hill near Villamartín since the 9th century. It’s been a national monument since 1949, and when rainfall and floods caused extensive damage in 2013, plans to renovate the privately owned castle were already in motion. Those plans were tweaked to accommodate the new state of things, but the result has set off a fierce debate. Both locals and conservators are now arguing over whether the project, with its incorporation of new materials to secure the remains, has in fact ruined the castle.

Cultural heritage association Hispania Nostra called the restoration “truly lamentable” in a post on its website, but architect Carlos Quevedo Rojas, who oversaw the project, told The New York Times that it was approved ahead of time by town authorities as well as the culture and environment departments of the Andalusia government.

“I understand the criticism of local people used to seeing the tower look a certain way,” he told the paper, “but the principal objective was to prevent the collapse of the structure.”

Quevedo Rojas continued: “You can’t make the structure have the same appearance as the original. You can’t falsify the appearance. It has to be clear which parts are new and which are old.”

Another defense of the renovation: it met its three basic goals to “to structurally consolidate those elements that were at risk; to differentiate new additions from the original structure—thus avoiding imitative reconstructions that are prohibited by the law; and to recover the volume, texture and tonality that the tower would originally have had,” Quevedo Rojas told The Guardian.

The incident has prompted many to draw comparisons to another Spanish preservation fiasco: In 2012, 83-year-old Cecilia Giménez tried to restore a fresco of Jesus and the resulting work became an Internet meme and an attraction in its own right.

[h/t The Independent]

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