Dry walls and the Dolomites, a few words of clarification

The good news of the inclusion of the art of building dry stone walls in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage may appear slightly at odds with the Heritage of the Dolomites, since some areas of the provinces of the Dolomites are home to both ancient and recent examples of this fine art. However, it is worth pointing out that the two differ in substance, but also in form.

Tangible and Intangible

The Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage convened between November 26th and December 1st, 2018 in the Mauritius Islands and recognised the “Art of dry stone walling, knowledge and techniques”, in a positive response to an application submitted by eight European countries: Cyprus, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland. In this case, it was the “intangible” asset represented by the art of building dry stone walls that was included on the list. “The Dolomites, on the other hand, were registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009 as a natural asset consisting of 9 systems that, from Brenta to the Friulian Dolomites and Oltre Piave, embrace a territory shared by Trentino, Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia”, said Marcella Morandini, the director of the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation. “The asset of dry stone walls is another story. The actual art of building dry stone walls (and not the walls in the physical sense) has been added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. These two processes are based on two completely different conventions as well as two completely different philosophies.”

Now that has been cleared up…

In light of the above, we can draw attention to a common feature. Among the reasons for recognising the art of dry stone walls: “This practical knowledge is preserved and handed down by building professionals in rural communities, where it is deeply rooted […] These constructions demonstrate the harmonious relationship between humans and nature and, at the same time, play a vital role in preventing landslides, floods and avalanches, as well as help to combat soil erosion and desertification.” The harmonious relationship between man and nature, and the care of the territory and the landscape, of which the art of building dry stone walls is an expression, represent the “beacon” values for the management of the entire and complex Heritage of the Dolomites.

Ph. Intangible Cultural Heritage