St. James Cathedral Added to World Monuments Fund Watch List

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JERUSALEM (Christian Post) — The New York-based World Monuments Fund (WMF) has placed the Cathedral of St. James in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on its 2010 watch list of 93 cultural heritage sites at risk in 47 countries.

The list, which is the WMF’s flagship advocacy program, is intended to call international attention to threatened landmarks. The 2010 Watch ranges from famous sites like Machu Picchu, Peru to the unexpected like the Merritt Parkway, Connecticut. The Old City of Lod is the second Israeli site on the newly-released list.

“The 2010 Watch makes it clear that cultural heritage efforts in the 21st century must recognize the critical importance of sustainable stewardship, and that we must work closely with local partners to create viable and appropriate opportunities to advance this,” said WMF president Bonnie Burnham in a press release. “The sites on the 2010 Watch list make a dramatic case for the need to bring together a variety of sectors — economic, environmental, heritage preservation and social — when we are making plans that will affect us all. Greater cooperation among these sectors would benefit humanity today, while ensuring our place as stewards of the Earth for the next generation.”

“The World Monuments Watch has evolved since its inception 14 years ago,” added Erica Avrami, the WMF’s research and education director. “With a greater number of urban centers and cultural and scapes, this year’s watch reflects a growing understanding that heritage cannot be preserved in isolation, but rather must be addressed as part of a broad physical and social context.

Not all sites on the watch list are in imminent danger. Many face challenges on the horizon, providing the opportunity to engage in dialogue and decision making now, so as to avoid problems in the future. Heritage conservation can be an effective tool for community development, economic growth and sustainable land use.”

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St. James, also known in French as St. Jacques and as Saint Jacob Armenian Cathedral, is the seat of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The landmark incorporates the traditional site of the tombs of Jesus’ brother James, known as St. James the Minor, who was the first bishop of Jerusalem.

According to Catholic tradition, St. James the Greater (one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles) — who was executed in the first century by King Herod Agrippa I — is buried at the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Armenians however believe the Apostle’s head is entombed at the Jerusalem cathedral that bears his name.

Built on the remains of a fifth-century Georgian church, St. James’ present structure is one of the few remaining Crusader cathedrals to have survived almost intact. Most of the current interior decoration dates from the renovation carried out by Patriarch Gregory the Chainbearer (1715-1749). St. James is the focus of the Armenian community’s annual Easter panoply, including a festive parade through the street of the Old City.