Europe’s sacred lands – a secret in need

04 April 2012 | News story

‘The Diversity of Sacred Lands in Europe’, provides a unique insight into Europe’s often forgotten sacred natural sites. It looks into their history, importance and the threats they currently face. The book is a must-read for managers of European protected areas and landscapes and those interested in the religious and cultural aspects of European natural sites. Published by IUCN and Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services of Finland, the book is part of a series issued by The Delos Initiative of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.

Authors of the book place special attention to the sacred places of the Sámi indigenous people living in northern Finland, Sweden, Norway and North-West Russia. They also describe sacred natural sites in Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, North-West Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.


“Sacred natural sites hold traditional and spiritual values that are often hidden from the modern world and that are deeply linked to ecosystem and landscape management”, says Gonzalo Oviedo, IUCN's senior adviser for social policy. “These values are extremely important for Europe’s cultural, spiritual and natural heritage. They include some unique knowledge of traditional medicine, livestock breeding, wildlife and agricultural cycles. Greater recognition of this knowledge and better management of these areas can help us sustainably conserve our natural heritage, especially in the time of increasing climate change.”


“The importance of sacred natural sites is rarely recognized these days and their values are often ignored in the face of expanding urbanisation and insensitive development initiatives”, says Josep Maria Mallarach, one of the editors of the book and coordinator of The Delos Initiative. “Tourism also puts pressure on these unique places, causing physical and spiritual degradation.”


“Integrated management of the sites and improved public awareness can help address these challenges”, says Thymio Papayannis, co-editor of the book and joint coordinator of The Delos Initiative. “Closer collaboration between the custodians of sacred natural sites and conservationists is crucial if we want to safeguard Europe’s unique natural, cultural and spiritual values of such sites.”

For more information, review copies or to set up interviews, please contact:
Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations.