Czech heritage jewel wins prestigious European prize

Kuks, photo: Marta Guzmán

The restoration of Kuks, one of the most beautiful baroque complexes in the Czech Republic, has won the European Grand Prix for heritage conservation. The prestigious award was presented by the Europa Nostra association in Finland’s Turku on Monday. The jury praised the interdisciplinary approach of the restoration work, saying it should serve as a strong example for conservation projects across Europe.

Kuks,  photo: Marta Guzmán
The village of Kuks, located on the river Elbe, boasts a unique baroque hospital building, built by Count Franz Anton von Sporck in the late 17th century. The decorations include a series of famous allegorical sculptures of virtues and vices by Matthias Braun. In the near vicinity of the hospital is Braun’s Nativity, a natural park with a gallery of Baroque sculptures, depicting Biblical scenes.

Between the years 2013 and 2015, Kuks underwent a wide ranging renovation, including the creation of an educational centre, which cost a total of around 440 million crowns. Naděžda Goryczková, the head of the Czech National Heritage Institute, who picked up the award on Monday, said it was an historic success, since it was the first time that the Grand Prix went to a Czech project:

“It is a great success both for the country and the Czech National Heritage Institute. The Czech Republic was the most successful country of this years’ Europa Nostra competition, winning a total of three awards: two of the individual categories and of course the top Grand Prix award for Kuks.

Braun’s Nativity,  photo: Vojtěch Ruschka
“I think that Kuks was successful thanks to the complex approach to the renovation. It includes all kinds of cultural and social activities, as well as the restoration of the nearby cultural landscape, the herbal garden and of course all the baroque buildings.”

According to Naděžda Goryczková, opening up to the public is crucial for the success of newly renovated monuments. She also says Kuks will definitely profit from receiving the award, becoming even more popular with visitors and getting even more publicity:

“There is also the financial reward of 10,000 euros, which is going to be invested in further renovation works. Although Kuks underwent a thorough renovation, there are still many things to do in the vicinity of the hospital, including renovation of the cemetery and the chapel. So the money will definitely be well spent.”

Kuks - sculptures by Matthias Braun,  photo: Marta Guzmán
The winners of Europa Nostra were chosen from among more than 200 projects. The top award, the Grand Prix, went to the seven best European heritage conservation projects shortlisted from a group of 29 nominations, all of which received the Europa Nostra heritage awards earlier this year.

Along with Kuks, the Europa Nostra Association also awarded the National Heritage Institute’s programme promoting cultural heritage.

The baroque complex of Kuks, which is included on the list of national cultural monuments, belongs among the country’s most popular state-owned tourist destinations. A record 140,000 people visited the monument in 2016, the first year after the renovation.