The 7 Most Endangered

Europa Nostra

“Campaigning to save Europe's most threatened heritage sites”
Europa Nostra / 2014

“We draw our strength and inspiration from all those cultural treasures which we inherited from past generations. They form the fertile soil on which our vitality, our creativity and our success as a continent will continue to grow.”

Maestro Placido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra

Every neighbourhood, every town, from booming cities to the most remote villages - have their own unique story to tell. And together all these stories form a greater narrative; our shared European history. 

When heritage sites are under threat, due to a lack of funds or expertise, inadequate planning, neglect, natural disasters or political conflict, it is not just the place itself that is threatened. It means these stories will be lost forever.  

We cannot let this happen. That is why the ‘7 Most Endangered’ Programme was begun, to act as a catalyst for action. By putting a spotlight on these sites and sharing their stories, we can raise the awareness necessary to save them.

It is not too late, but the clock is ticking. 

The time for action is now.

Out of the submissions received for 2014, 11 were shortlisted by an advisory panel of international heritage experts. 

From this list, the Board of Europa Nostra chose the final 7 Most Endangered sites for 2014. 

Site visits will be undertaken in autumn of this year, led by Europa Nostra in partnership with the European Investment Bank Institute. These visits, along with valuable input from all stakeholders involved, will play a vital role in the preparation of rescue action plans for each site.

The 7 Most Endangered list  for 2014 was announced in Vienna 

The 7 Most Endangered sites for 2014 are:

1) Historic Stage Machinery of the Bourla Theatre, Antwerp, BELGIUM

2) Neighbourhoods of Dolcho and Apozari, Kastoria, GREECE

3) Citadel of Alessandria, ITALY

4) Carillons of the Mafra National Palace, PORTUGAL

5) Wooden Churches in Southern Transylvania and Northern Oltenia, ROMANIA

6) Colour Row Settlement in Chernyakhovsk, RUSSIA

7) Synagogue in Subotica, SERBIA

Historic Stage Machinery of the Bourla Theatre, Antwerp


Nominated by: PERSPECTIV
The Bourla Theatre in Antwerp, the last remaining municipal theatre in Europe with original stage machinery


- Engineering Heritage;

- Building and original stage machinery dating from 1834;

- Preserved original understage machinery and orchestra pit;

- Preforms authentic 19th-century stage dramas.


- Modern updates, technical advances; 

- Original machinery being destroyed; 

- Complete refurbishment; 

- Management uninterested in conservation.

Stage machinery of the Bourla Theatre

The authentic 19th-century stage machinery of the Bourla Theater is the only of its kind remaining in service in Europe. 

However, pressure to modernise is putting these pieces of engineering heritage in danger of being replaced.

The original understage machinery at the Bourla Theater makes it unique in Europe. It is one of the last remaining theatres where 19th century operas and dramas can be staged authentically. 

Replacing these parts with modern technology would erase this possibility.

Backstage at the Bourla Theatre

Neighbourhoods of Dolcho and Apozari, Kastoria GREECE

Nominated by: Elliniki Etairia 
Neighbourhoods of Dolcho and Apozari in Kastoria


- 370 Historical buildings dating from the 17th and 19th centuries;

- Private mansions and humble folk dwellings;

- Unique historical, folkloric, aesthetic, architectural and urban-planning character;

- Surviving historic “nucleus” of the city.


- Population growth and developmental pressures;

- Degradation of historic buildings and roads;

- Construction of modern apartment blocks;

- Current economic crisis and growing unemployment rates.

The city of Kastoria dates back to the 6th-century CE. It flourished in the Byzantine times and again in the 17th- to the 19th centuries with the growth of many culturally diverse neighbourhoods. 

The unique town-planning, with interconnected networks of churches and private houses, constitutes a rare example of a Byzantine and post-Byzantine township, and is inhabited to this day.

Historic mansion in Dolcho

Mansions dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries characterise the historic neighbourhoods of Dolcho and Apozari. Insufficient conservation and exposure to extreme weather conditions is accelerating the degradation of these buildings. 

Loss of these houses means the loss of original casings, interior frescoes and wood-carvings, ceiling or grate decorations and a wealth of other construction details and techniques.

NATZI Mansion interior, Dolcho

Citadel of Alessandria


Nominated by: Fondo Ambiente Italiano - FAI
Citadel of Alessandria


- The most important hexagonal fortress in Europe;

- Built between 1732 and 1808;

- An outstanding example of 18th-century fortifications in Europe, among the last remaining of its kind;

- The scene of several important moments for Italian and European history;

- On the Tentative List for World Heritage status since 2006.


- Extremely invasive weeds are seriously undermining the walls, trees are growing on roofs;

- No new purpose since the Italian army moved out in 2007;

- Municipality of Alessandria in difficult financial situation;

- Need international expertise and financial help.

Known as one of the most spectacular forts of the Napoleonic empire and the once-richest arsenal in Europe, the citadel became a symbol for revolutionary movements in favour of the Constitution during the Risorgimento era of Italian Unification.

A wall of the Citadel

The proliferation of the ‘ailanthus’, a highly invasive weed, on the grounds of the citadel poses the most immediate threat to its conservation. Due to its high ability to alter the balance of natural ecosystems, the ailanthus has been included in the list of 100 most dangerous species in Europe.

The infestation of the ailanthus weed at the site causes exponential degradation and widespread damage in a short period of time. Battling the spread of the weed is particularly incisive, costly and prolonged.

View of Citadel wall showing degradation

Carillons of the Mafra National Palace


Nominated by: Centro Nacional de Cultura
The world heritage site of Mafra National Palace 


- Unique set of 120 cast bronze bells dating to the early 18th-century;

- Separate hour, liturgical and carillon bells cover 4 octaves;

- Largest surviving 18th century carillons in the world;

- Both towers possess automatic playing mechanisms and include the largest  known clock system.


- Overall lack of maintenance and poor conservation;

- Wooden support structures are at risk of collapse;

- Iron elements are in different stages of preservation, ranging from good condition to complete breakdown.

Carillons of the Mafra National Palace

The support structure of the bells, made up of wooden beams and trusses, is at risk of collapsing due to advanced degradation, which could cause serious and potentially terminal damage to the carillons and the palace itself. 

Improper conservation of the wooden elements in the late 20th century resulted in water retention, fungi growth, and warping and misalignment of the structure itself.

Wooden support structure

The sight of the carillons has become synonymous with the identity of Mafra, and has become thoroughly integrated in the local heritage. 

The revival of the sound of the bells for the first time in two centuries would be enormously significant to the local community as well as to the intangible heritage of Europe.

North carillon

Wooden Churches in Southern Transylvania and Northern Oltenia


Nominated by: Pro Patrimonio Foundation
Wooden Churches in Southern Transylvania and Northern Oltenia, ROMANIA


- Vernacular structures built by small communities in the 18th-19th centuries;

- Traditional construction techniques using local wood;

- Modest architecture enhanced by privileged location, landscape outline and internal space with fine mural paintings;

- Examples of ancient building techniques.


- Many churches were left abandoned;

- Advanced state of disrepair due to small capacity and lack of amenities;

- Lack of maintenance leads to degradation of the wood;

- Inadequate repair measures.

Painted murals on church interior

These churches, made from wood sourced from the thick Romanian forests, are spread out across the countryside, within hilly or mountain landscapes. Built using ancient construction techniques, they are characterized by small dimensions, simple volumes dominated by tall roofs, with wide gutters.

Most of the churches have become abandoned, and the lack of maintenance and conservation measures has left the wooden structures in need of emergency repairs of the roofs, vertical systematization and conservation of paintings.

Bringing wooden churches back to life with a violin recital for the community of volunteers

The interior painted murals on the walls of the churches make them unique, and set these structures apart from the surrounded village buildings. This, along with their privileged placement, the landscape outline, the interior space, and the construction technique, shows their significance to local religious identity.

The ensemble sums approximately 2000 sqm of wood painting, realized either on wood or on lime plastering ‘al fresco’. In Oltenia area, the exterior of some of the churches are also painted.

Local craftsmen and volunteers at work

Colour Row Settlement in Chernyakhovsk RUSSIA

Nominated by: International Centre of the Roerichs
Colour Row Settlement in Chernyakhovsk


- Built in 1924;

- The only remaining early work of the renowned German architect Hans Scharoun in former East Prussia;

- Prototype of modern domestic architecture;

- Forerunner of later pioneering social housing projects in Germany.


- Restoration requires international cooperation

- No conservation repair work in the past 60 years

- Tenants replace historical elements with modern, ill-fitting and cheap alternatives 

- Local planners lack necessary knowledge 

- No historic cadastral maps exist 

- New road planning within heritage zone

The design of the Colour Row settlement is architect Hans Scharoun's earliest well-known work.

The earliest independent work of famed designer Hans Scharoun, Colour Row Settlement serves as  a living example of the  East Prussian Re-construction style.

The settlement is a prototype of modern domestic architecture and an immediate forerunner of other pioneering social housing projects in Germany. It is the only Scharoun work known to exist in Russia, and therefore important not only for archival research, but also for the greater movement to promote conservation within private, historical homes.

Colour row houses

Built into an agrarian setting, each home is equipped with a garden that served a practical purpose of growing vegetables and housing cattle until the 1960s. Today, historic elements such as this have fallen into disuse and disrepair.

The biggest threat to the integrity of the settlement is the lack of resources that prevent many repairs, and the trend of tenants attempting to make home improvement with little-to-no expert guidance. 

Many original elements are being substituted with cheap, modern replacements, such as mismatching PVC window frames replacing the original wood.

Colour row settlement gardens

Synagogue in Subotica SERBIA

Nominated by: Europa Nostra Serbia
Synagogue in Subotica, SERBIA


- Modern concrete building designed in true Art Nouveau (Hungarian Secession) style;

- Features decorative elements from Hungarian folk art;

- Testimony of multiculturalism of Subotica and its former large Jewish population;

- Powerful symbolic value as a strong reminder of the Holocaust.


- Neglected since WWII;

- Inappropriate use and harmful past restoration works;

- Lack of financial resources;

- Serious structural damage requires immediate intervention; 

- Poor knowledge and capacity for fundraising.

Architectural detail of the Synagogue in Subotica

The exceptionally unique steel and concrete structure, designed by Marcell Komor and Dezsö Jakab and built in 1902, is a gem of original Hungarian Secession architecture. 

The architectural form and style of the building represents a truly gesamkunstwerk, characteristic of the Art Nouveau style.

Interior of the Synagogue in Subotica

A lack of policy and expertise for conservation of 19th and 20th century monuments caused significant restoration work that was inappropriate, unprofessional and of low quality. The lack of professional craftsman and constant change of management has left the monument with considerable structural damage.

If corrective measures are not taken, the Synagogue will suffer further damage from water leakage, aging, deterioration of concrete and steel structure, further damage of wall surfaces, decorative elements, stained glass windows and more.

Seating inside the Synagogue in Subotica

Each and every one of the 7 Most Endangered sites for 2014, as well as the 7 from 2013, are not just of vital importance for the future of their local communities, they are all an integral part of the complex and rich story of our European heritage.

To save these sites we need realistic and sustainable rescue plans. That is why the 7 Most Endangered programme was launched in 2013 in partnership with the European Investment Bank Institute. Experts from many different fields visit the 7 sites and work – together with local stakeholders – towards the best possible solutions. 

Saving heritage at risk is always a solid long term investment, not just on the local level but also for Europe as a whole.

Rescue mission in Nicosia, Cyprus, October 2013
Rescue mission in Sétubal, Portugal, September 2013

“This list is, first and foremost, a call to action. Public and private stakeholders at local, national and European levels are urged to join forces to save the monuments and sites which tell our shared story and which should not be lost for future generations.”

Denis de Kergorlay, Executive President of Europa Nostra

The ‘7 Most Endangered’ programme is a public awareness-raising project to save and revitalise threatened European heritage monuments and sites.

You can help by becoming a member of Europa Nostra and support our cause or you can get involved in the ‘7 Most Endangered’ as a volunteer, donor or supporter. 


Credits: Story

Production — Europa Nostra
Supported by — EIB Institute
Other partners — Council of Europe Bank
Sites were nominated by: —
Perspectiv — www.perspectiv-online.org
Elleniki Etairia — www.ellet.gr
FAI — www.fondoambiente.it
Centro Nacional de Cultura — www.cnc.pt
Pro Patrimonio  — www.propatrimonio.org
International Centre of the Roerichs — en.icr.su
EN Serbia — www.europanostraserbia.org

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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