From palaces to railways: 12 of the most endangered heritage sites in Europe revealed

The sites comprise the shortlist for Europa Nostra's 7 Most Endangered Programme 2021

Churches, palaces, a fortress and theatre – these are on the list of Europe’s heritage sites that are facing ruin.

Europa Nostra, a heritage organisation in Europe, has announced the shortlist for its 7 Most Endangered Programme 2021. A total of 12 sites have been included, of which seven will be selected for next year's programme.

There's the Palazzo Ca'Zenobio in Venice, Italy, a 17th-century example of late Baroque architecture, its interiors filled with frescoes and stuccoes by notable artists. Once a college run by Armenian monks for 146 years, it closed in 1997 and has since deteriorated.

Scroll through our gallery above to see some of the sites on the endangered heritage list. 

In Greece, a cluster of five islands in the southern part of the Aegean Sea is being transformed into an industrial zone by the Greek government, which hopes to install wind turbines that will supply energy to various parts of the country. Such machines will not only affect the landscape, according to Europa Nostra, but will also "have effects on the morphological and climatic elements of the islands, endangering both flora and fauna".

Meanwhile, the steam operated Achensee Cog Railway in Tyrol, Austria, has been in use for more than 130 years. It still uses equipment from 1889, including steam locomotives, passenger carriages and its engine house. Earlier this year, the railway went bankrupt, though the subsidies owed by the provincial government have not yet been doled out. Certain groups have now called for the preservation of the railway.

Also on the list is a fortress along the Silk Road in Georgia; a hermitage built into Spain’s Cantabrian limestone mountains; and a 1974 Brutalist building in Macedonia. These sites are in form of disrepair following neglect or lack of funding to preserve them.

In a statement, Europa Nostra said that the list is created “on the basis of the outstanding heritage significance and cultural value of each of the sites, as well as on the basis of the serious danger that they are facing". The sites were chosen by an advisory panel of experts in archaeology, architecture, conversation and history, among others.

Since 2013, the organisation has biannually released the 7 Most Endangered List in an attempt to draw attention to threatened heritage sites, with damages caused by neglect or poor planning. Though Europa Nostra does not provide funding to conserve the sites, it does help ring alarm bells for structures that might be forgotten or overlooked.

By gaining attention from authorities and the public through the list, Europa Nostra hopes to government agencies, as well as heritage experts come together to instigate “rescue missions to the selected sites and help formulate a feasible action plan for them.”

The 12 shortlisted sites are:

  • Achensee Steam Cog Railway, Tyrol, Austria
  • Modern Theatre, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Cemetery Complex of Mirogoj, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Church Of Saint-Denis, Hauts-de-France, France
  • Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Green Space System, Cologne, Germany
  • Five Southern Aegean Islands, Greece
  • The Giusti Garden, Verona, Italy
  • The Ca' Zenobio Palace, Venice, Italy
  • Decani Monastery, Kosovo
  • Central Post Office, Skopje, North Macedonia
  • San Juan De Socueva Chapel and Hermitage, Cantabria, Spain

The final 7 Most Endangered List for 2021 will be announced in March.