The European Heritage Days is the largest social and educational project in Europe, the most important celebration of cultural monuments of the Old Continent.
Its idea originated in Granada where, on 3 October 1985, the 2nd Council of Europe Conference took place. On this occasion, the French Minister of Culture presented the initiative called “Monuments’ Open Doors”, launched in France in 1984, and suggested to extend it to a European level. Then for the first time numerous monuments and sites, usually closed to the public, opened their doors. This initiative enjoyed so much attention that, in 1991, became a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Since 1999, the European Heritage Days have had a permanent slogan: “Europe, a common heritage”.
Each year, national and regional events are organised around a special theme. These themes vary in each country from year to year. They include such topics as:
- specific forms of heritage (e.g. farmhouses, musical instruments, culinary traditions, garden architecture);
- specific periods in history (e.g. the Medieval heritage, the Baroque heritage);
- society’s approaches to heritage (e.g. heritage and citizenship, heritage and youth).
The Council of Europe and the European Commission encourage the selection of trans-national themes which can be illustrated by cross-border activities that are jointly set up by the different countries.
- the European Heritage Days should take place during a weekend in September;
- the European Heritage Days allow the general public to visit monuments and sites all over Europe usually closed to the public;
- the buildings that are open all year round can contribute to the programme, providing that they offer special activities, such as guided visits, exhibitions, concerts, lectures;
- the visits should be free of charge or offered at a reduced price;
- the European Heritage Days programme should include the organisation of specific activities that will involve the general public and, in particular, young people and school pupils; all participating countries are asked to use the official name “European Heritage Days”. Those countries that set up such initiatives before 1991 under
a different name are invited to mention clearly that it takes place “within the framework of the European Heritage Days”;
- the logos of the European Heritage Days, the Council of Europe and the European Commission should appear on all European Heritage Days’ promotional material; the European Heritage Days’ flag should be flown from all buildings open to the public during the event.