Theses Master's

Cultural Diplomacy and Transnational Heritage: Toward Suitable Management of The Apse of San Martín de Fuentidueña in Spain and the United States

Balbuena Lorenzo, Blanca del Pilar

In the past decade, there has been a shift in sensitivity towards the interaction of artifacts with their environment, their movement, transformation, and permanence over time and space. Instances of artifacts undergoing traumatic displacements, separating them from their origins, have prompted inquiries into questions of identity, historical authenticity, and rightful ownership.

This research delves into the intricate landscape of cultural heritage subjected to significant cultural and geographic dislocations, with a particular focus on the case of the apse of San Martín de Fuentidueña. Transferred under a "Long-Term Loan" agreement in 1959 from Fuentidueña, Spain, to The Cloisters in New York, the apse's relocation raised profound concerns about cultural identity and heritage preservation. Although he Church of San Martín being designated a National Monument, prohibiting its export, the apse was moved to the United States after decades of negotiations. This historical event left Fuentidueña bereft of an important part of its cultural legacy.

Despite remaining under Spain's ownership, relations between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Spanish Ministry of Culture have deteriorated, posing challenges for effective decision-making regarding the apse's preservation.

The primary objective of this research is to develop a renewed multilateral management framework aimed at addressing past injustices and enhancing transnational relations between the Met and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. This model encompasses legal, financial, technological, and community-oriented aspects, emphasizing local perspectives and stakeholder participation in decision-making processes.

The investigation contextualizes the historical circumstances surrounding the apse's transfer and critically examines the legal framework established by the transfer agreement. It evaluates the current state of the apse at the Met and its original site in Fuentidueña, illuminating successful conservation strategies and challenges arising from the existing legal framework.

An integral aspect of the proposed management framework entails investigating the feasibility of replicating the apse in its original setting in Fuentidueña. To deepen the understanding of the injustices perceived within the village and to enrich the development of the replica, interviews and questionnaires were conducted among the inhabitants. This endeavor not only seeks to address historical grievances but also acts as a conduit for bolstering international relations between the two nations, emphasizing cultural diplomacy and fostering a positive image.

To develop the proposal, extensive research was conducted on past negotiations, utilizing correspondence between the two countries found in archival materials, both in New York and Spain. The complex dismantling and reconstruction process, overseen by architect Alejandro Ferrant, is also documented using photographs, videos, and original plans.

By examining the case of the apse of San Martín de Fuentidueña, this thesis contributes to the field of preservation by shedding light on the implications of transferring cultural heritage fragments, and offering recommendations for the future management of transnational cultural heritage, stressing the importance of international collaboration in safeguarding shared historical legacies.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Otero-Pailos, Jorge
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 29, 2024