Photographing God: An Examination of Sacred Sites as World Heritage in Northern Romania

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Spring 2010

Project Description/Abstract

In Moldavia, northern Romania, a group of Orthodox monasteries with exterior mural paintings were made a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1993 for their beauty and uniqueness. Although previous studies have examined the relationships between community attachment to such sites and attitudes toward tourism, it becomes more complicated when those sites are currently in use as places of worship by their host communities. In Romania, pilgrimage to monasteries is recognized as perhaps the most important segment of cultural tourism. Vorzsak and Gut (2009) note that a clergy member in their study of Romanian religious pilgrimage stated: “‘the monastery cannot be treated as a mere tourist site where one comes to look, to take pictures . . . and then off you go’ (431).” Yet, this is perhaps the case for the Painted Monasteries of Moldavia. In exploring the reasons that tourists give for their visits to these monasteries, the experiences and feelings of local community members toward the World Heritage Site designation and the tourists that come with it, and the thoughts of members of the religious orders at the monasteries, we can better understand whether or not these sacred spaces can ever be the secular sites in which tourists often experience them without creating conflict.

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