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Unsatisfactory maintenance and protection of church buildings

In the past five years, the State and the municipalities have increased their efforts to repair and protect church buildings in Norway. - This increased effort has produced results, but many churches are still inadequately maintained and protected, says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.

Published 9/15/2011 12:00 PM

Document 3:10 (2010-2011) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation into the maintenance and protection of church buildings was submitted to the Storting on 15 September 2011.

The investigation shows that the percentage of churches with significant maintenance shortcomings has been reduced from 48 per cent to 37 per cent during the past five years, but that many churches are still characterised by inadequate maintenance. The condition of 586 churches has been deemed to be unsatisfactory. Sixty per cent of these churches, a total of 354 buildings, are listed buildings or deemed to be of special historic value. - It is unfortunate that many churches still suffer from poor maintenance. It is particularly regrettable that so many of our oldest churches are so poorly looked after, says Mr Kosmo.

The investigation shows that, while the protection of church buildings in Norway against theft and fire has improved overall, 17 per cent of churches are still poorly protected. This inadequate protection could result in irreplaceable cultural treasures not being preserved for posterity.

Carrying out regular maintenance over time is challenging for the municipalities. While more church buildings have been repaired during the past five years, the investigation also shows that the condition of many other churches has deteriorated during the same period. - It is unfortunate that maintenance is not carried out on a regular basis. The result of this lack of regular maintenance is often that repairs and extraordinary maintenance become increasingly expensive, says Mr Kosmo.

The State has initiated a special stave church programme to ensure that all Norwegian stave churches are in a good state of repair by 2015. - It is a goal that all listed church buildings should have a normal level of maintenance by 2020, and targeted measures should therefore also be considered for the other churches that are protected pursuant to the Cultural Heritage Act, Mr Kosmo concludes.

The Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs finds the investigation relevant and useful in relation to future work in this field. According to the Ministry, things are developing in the right direction, and much has been done in a short period of time. The Ministry nonetheless admits that, in recent years, information has come to light that shows that the maintenance of many churches has been inadequate over time.

The deferral of public access to documents prepared by or for the Office of the Auditor General in connection with Doc. no 3:10 (2010-2011), cf. the Act relating to the Office of the Auditor General section 18 second paragraph, is hereby set aside.

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