Restoring the Merklin-Schütz Organ in Havana

The historic Merklin-Schütze organ in Havana was built in 1856 for the Iglesia de la Caridad in Old Havana, the city centre which is now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage. The instrument is not only among the country’s most valuable organs in terms of craftsmanship and artistry, but is also one of the oldest surviving organs in the entire Caribbean. The restoration project will make it playable again, opening up new possibilities for Cuba’s sacred music culture.

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Reconstruction of the Archive Material of the Instituto Judío de Investigaciones, IWO (Argentinia)

On 18 July 1994, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, the centre of the Jewish community in Argentina, was destroyed in a bombing. The building, which housed numerous Jewish organisations and associations, was completely destroyed. 85 people were killed and 300 injured, and over 400 nearby homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged. To this day, it remains unclear who was responsible for the attack.

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Preserving the cultural heritage of the Aché (Paraquay)

With the help of funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office, the endangered indigenous cultural heritage of the Aché in Paraguay has been preserved for the future.


With the help of funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office, the endangered indigenous cultural heritage of the Aché in Paraguay has been preserved for the future. Preserving the Aché culture is important for future generations, as it is part of Paraguay’s culture. The Aché were persecuted and sold as slaves until the 1970.  Only a few older members of the Aché have survived and are able to hand on the old traditions orally.

Their memories will be documented and preserved in the cultural heritage project. Alongside documentary films, a virtual museum with its own exhibits will be set up, with the aim of preserving the indigenous group’s history, which is handed on orally from generation to generation, and traditions. The persecution of the Aché was revealed in Paraguay in 1972 through a text by German ethnologist Mark Münzel, who drew international attention to the tragedy of the Aché. Around 1880 Aché currently live in seven groups. They are a minority among the country’s indigenous population.


Cultural heritage of the Aché is being recorded
The oral cultural heritage of the Aché is being recorded.© Asociación Madre Tierra

Three documentary films of around 45 to 60 minutes record and translate stories by the oldest Aché and document the group’s rituals, handicrafts and music. The virtual museum will also present the history and culture of the Aché. During the project, the Aché made traditional objects for the museum. The virtual museum will be made available to pupils from indigenous groups and the general public. The aim is also to provide online teaching material on the culture of the Aché.

The project is being carried out with the NGO Asociación Madre Tierra, which was founded in 1993 and has focused on work with indigenous groups since 2003. It facilitates direct contact with the community’s chief and head teacher, who in turn inform the members of the community about the films and museum. The aim of the project is to preserve a culture that is at risk of dying out by using modern technology to record the group’s oral history and traditions and making them available to the public.


Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office 

Excavation in Peru.

The Nasca Elite Burials of La Muña (Peru)

Nasca Elite Burials from La Muña: Restauration and Development for Tourism of an Archaeological Site of the Middle Nasca Culture (AD 200 – 400).

Pottery from the Nasca era.
Vessel from grave 4 in La Muña, Peru. (©DAI, CC-BY-NC-ND)

La Muña is one of the most impressive archaeological sites of the Middle Nasca Culture in the province of Palpa on the Southern coast of Peru. The site shows a plurality of archaeological features as elite burials, terrace structures, platforms and geoglyphs. In the years 1998 and 2001 several areas of the site were excavated by the DAI but were filled up again for reasons of conservation. During the years 2012 and 2013 two elite burials were reexcavated, restored and prepared for tourism. An information center was erected to provide information on the archaeological work done and to show its results.




Source: German Archaeological Institute

Restoring and relocating the Merklin-Schütze organ in Havana (Cuba)

The Federal Foreign Office has supported the restoration of the historic Merklin-Schütze organ in the Iglesia San Francisco de Asis in Havana as part of its Cultural Preservation Programme since October 2017.

Built in 1858 for the Iglesia de Caridad in Havana, this almost fully preserved organ, which has been unplayable for decades, is one of the most valuable cultural assets of the historic part of the old town in Cuba’s capital, protected by UNESCO. The Iglesia de la Caridad del Cobre is one of the most important churches in Havana. The instrument is not only among the best organs in the country in terms of craftsmanship and artistry, but is also one of the oldest preserved organs in the entire Caribbean.


Baltisches Orgel Centrum Stralsund e.V. (Baltic organ association, BOC) is completing the restoration of the organ built by the two renowned German masters Joseph Merklin and Friedrich Schütze in cooperation with the local restoration workshop Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana and veteran Swiss organ builder Ferdinand Stemmer. Cuban craftsmen are being trained to maintain the instrument in the future. After undertaking scientific research on comparative instruments, stock-taking and purchasing necessary materials and tools, the complete organ mechanism was entirely dismantled and transported from the Iglesia de Caridad to the Iglesia San Francisco de Asis for restoration in November 2017, where the pipes were also repaired and cleaned. During the further course of the project, the casings will be restored and the ongoing work will continue to be documented.


Historic organ Cuba
The keyboard of the historic organ (© Martin Rost)


Music as a bridge between cultures

A playable, fully restored historic church organ in line with good conservation practice is the objective of this comprehensive restoration project. Musical events with soloists from Cuba and abroad can be held that will help to foster both international exchanges of musicians and the tourist industry. Moreover, the historic organ is urgently needed for training church musicians and for supporting church music in general. Thanks to a cooperation agreement between the Instituto de Estudios Eclesiásticos P. Félix Varela and the College of Catholic Church Music and Musical Education in Regensburg, young organists have had the opportunity to receive training in Havana since 2016. This is the first time that Catholic Church Music has been offered as a university subject in Cuba. Students will be able to use the organ during their studies after the restoration work has been completed.
The Iglesia San Francisco de Asis, a restored church in the heart of Havana’s old town protected by UNESCO, is one of the most important tourist attractions and a major venue for classical concerts such as the annual Semana de Música Sacra.
Thanks to the restoration of the Merklin-Schütze organ with funds from the Cultural Preservation Programme, an important testimony to Cuba’s cultural past is being preserved for future generations.
The project partners are the German World Heritage Foundation and the Baltisches Orgel Centrum e.V., as well as the Archbishop’s Office of the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba. The project is being completed in connection with the church music training programme recently launched by the Catholic Church in Cuba.


Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Ed. Federal Foreign Office 



Church of Curahuara de Carangas.

Pictures of Paradise High in the Andes (Bolivia)

The church of Curahuara de Carangas represents a unique combination of South America’s ancient heritage and Spanish influences. In the pre-Hispanic period, at the spot where today people kneel in prayer, the Inca chief Túpac Inca Yupanqui plunged his golden spear into the ground following a battle. In Quechua, the language of the Incas, “golden spear” is “kori wara”, which was rendered into Spanish as “Curahuara”. So the church bears witness to its heritage in its very name. The exterior of the church of Curahuara de Carangas is modest, built low of clay bricks and topped by a roof thatched with straw. The surprise to be found in the interior is one of the earliest and most complete cycles of frescoes in Bolivia, which has earned the church the epithet “the Sistine chapel of the Altiplano”. The pulpit dates from the time of construction, as do two stone altars, the ceiling frescoes and most of the paintings in the chancel. The sacristy, perhaps one of the most beautiful rooms in Bolivia, is intended to depict paradise, with flowers, birds and angels.

Like other churches in Bolivia, Curahuara de Carangas was built by local craftsmen and artists. These churches are interesting not only because they give an insight into indigenous craftsmanship and art, but also because they show how the people’s theology took up ideas from the old indigenous religions. For example, gardens of paradise are painted on the walls, because the indigenous population believed that paradise was to be found in the green, flowerfilled lowlands with their fruit trees and twittering birds, not somewhere up in the clouds. Whole series of angels are depicted; angels were used to symbolize ancient gods or to represent the functions and powers attributed to them. For instance, Saint James, known in Spanish as Santiago, also fulfils the function of Illapa, god of thunder. For when the Spanish attacked with Saint James’s protection at the decisive battle against the Incas at Cuzco, there was such a violent storm of thunder and lightning that the Incans believed that Illapa had crept into Saint James’s body – to fight on the side of the Spaniards.

The restoration of the roof and the exterior walls financed by the Federal Foreign Office was necessary because they were badly dilapidated and unsound, thus endangering the unique frescoes. A modern lighting system which will not damage the valuable frescoes was installed in the interior, invisible to visitors, and exterior lighting was installed. Work on the main altar revealed a hidden fresco which will be accessible to visitors once it has been restored.

Project: Dr. Philipp Schauer, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in La Paz

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

Part of the studio.

Hansen Bahia – Footprints of a German Artist (Brazil)

The German-born artist Hansen Bahia created a unique breadth of expressionist art. His works provide a good example of the influence by German immigrants on, and contribution to, the cultural richness of the South American country.

Nearly four per cent of Brazil’s 190 million inhabitants are of German descent. Most of them live in the south of the country, where their influence on culture and society is most perceptible. However, German immigrants have also left their mark on the northeast of the country. An outstanding example is the German-born artist Karl-Heinz Hansen, known in Brazil as Hansen Bahia, who created numerous impressive works of art in Salvador.

In future Hansen Bahia’s entire oeuvre will be on display here in Cachoeira-São Felix.
In future Hansen Bahia’s entire oeuvre will be on display here in Cachoeira-São Felix.

Hansen Bahia’s works are strongly influenced by his chequered biography. Karl-Heinz Hansen, born in Hamburg in 1915, was a sailor, sculptor, painter and film-maker. However, he devoted most of his artistic career to woodcuts. He produced his first woodcut in 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War. He took a simple piece of wood and, using the sharpened spokes of an umbrella, scratched into it motifs of Germany in the process of reconstruction. In 1949 he left Germany and, after a short stay in Sweden, emigrated to Brazil. He settled in São Paulo and worked for a big publishing company. During this period he created numerous woodcuts, which were displayed in larger exhibitions and at Biennales.

His move to Salvador de Bahia in 1955 was a turning point in Hansen Bahia’s life. Even though he visited Germany from time to time, Salvador de Bahia became his second home. Here he created numerous works reflecting a symbiotic relationship between traditional German artistic craftsmanship and Brazil’s rich imaginative culture and exuberance. Hansen Bahia owes his name to the famous Brazilian poet Jorge Amado, who bestowed on him the epithet Bahia in honour of his work. Later Hansen Bahia donated his most important works to the town of Cachoeira. He also founded the Hansen Bahia Foundation, which has managed and taken care of his artistic legacy since his death in 1978.

Part of the studio with a restored wooden printing plate on the wall.
Part of the studio with a restored wooden printing plate on the wall.

Over the years Brazil’s tropical climate has damaged the very delicate work of the woodcuts and threatened to destroy them completely. Hansen Bahia’s work was in grave danger of being lost forever. In response, the Federal Foreign Office provided funds under its Cultural Preservation Programme for the restoration of 78 woodcuts, which were then put on display to the public at the Goethe-Institut in Salvador.

Although Hansen Bahia’s art is only one example of the diverse cultural exchange between Germany and Brazil, it is an impressive testament to the imprint left by German immigrants on the South-American country’s heritage.

Project: Martin Mahn, German Consulate-General in Recife

Promoted by: Cultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

Source: Worlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office

The Beth El synagogue in São Paulo

Restoration of a Synagogue (São Paulo, Brazil)

Funding from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office made it possible to restore the Beth‑El synagogue, built in 1929 and inaugurated in 1932 in the centre of São Paulo, to its former glory.

The biggest city in the southern hemisphere with the longest traffic jams, the greatest number of helicopters, the best restaurants, the biggest German centre of industry in the world – São Paulo is a megalopolis, a city of superlatives. And right at the heart of its once run‑down centre there is yet another superlative, namely the most important Jewish sacred building in Brazil, the former Beth‑El synagogue.

Revival of the centre of São Paulo

Beth‑El was restored with funds from the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office and is now an integral part of the first Jewish museum in Brazil currently under construction. The museum complex will, moreover, be part of the work already begun to restore and revive the city centre. 

Amongst other things, the original plaque of architect Samuel Roder has been uncovered, along with a stone model of the building and above all, the original materials and colours, all so that the Synagogue can shine not only with a renewed freshness, but also in its original glory. Along with the façade, the magnificent dome in Byzantine style and the stained glass windows, the wooden altar with its Torah shrine and the original benches dating back to 1932 were restored.

A German-Brazilian symbiosis

“The German restoration of the synagogue is a quantum leap,” commented the museum’s Director, Roberta Sundfeld, and “it has already attracted sponsors to the museum.” In this case, the Cultural Preservation Programme is not just living up to its name, it has provided the impetus for new projects and is thus a beautiful German-Brazilian symbiosis, symbolising the vibrant history of the centre of São Paulo.

Project: Eva Dombo, German Consulate-General in São Paulo

Promoted byCultural Preservation Programme of The Federal Foreign Office

SourceWorlds of Culture, Ed. Federal Foreign Office