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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knowledge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

Féile na gCloch - The Festival of Stones on Inis Oírr (Ireland)

From September 14-17, the annual festival of stones, Féile na gCloch, took place on the Irish island of Inis Oírr. The motto this year: Hands Across Europe, Lámha trasna na hEorpa. Representatives of the element "dry stone walling" from Ireland, Germany, France, Greece, Croatia, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovenia, Spain, Cyprus and many more met to exchange ideas about the common passion of dry stone walling and to network with each other.

Exciting inputs from representatives of various countries on dry stone walling, ongoing projects and initiatives around this millennia-old practice were on the program, framed by workshops on dry stone walling, relief carving, stonemasonry or sketching reflect the versatility of this millennia-old tradition.

From Austria, Helmut Schieder and Rainer Vogler presented the annual Stone & Wine Festival in Langenlois, Lower Austria, as well as ongoing workshops and projects with students and children.

Intangible Cultural Heritage unites 13 states in Europe.
Since 2018, the element has been on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity under the current title "The Art of Dry Stone Walling: knoweldge and techniques". On March 29, 2023, a request for the extension of the element, changing the title to "The Art of Dry Stone Constructions: knoweldge and techniques", was submitted together with Andorra, Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg of the element already inscribed for eight European countries on the UNESCO International List. With the effort of the five additional countries Andorra, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and Austria, the element will soon unite communities from 13 European countries under a modified title that will better reflect the diversity of stone building design. A result on evaluation and inclusion of the application for extension is expected to be available in December 2024.

Dry stone walling in Austria
In 2021, dry stone walling was inscribed on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Throughout Austria there are dry stone walls that have a lasting impact on the landscape and where the millennia-old practice is still of great importance. Furthermore, there are a large number of initiatives, workshops and (international) networks that maintain and safeguard the knowledge and techniques surrounding the construction of dry stone walls - at the end of 2022, a dedicated school, the Dry Stone Wall School Austria, was also founded, which is dedicated to the teaching and dissemination of the practice. In addition to the positive ecological effects already mentioned, the constructions continue to shape agriculture and the landscape in Austria. For example, they are an integral part of the Wachau Cultural Landscape and its many dry stone wall terraces that enable agricultural (wine) cultivation.


Group photo in front of the dry stone wall built during the workshop.
© Galway County Heritage Office
Cover page of this years' festival
Dry stone walling
© Bauer/ÖUK
Rainer Vogler presents initiatives and ongoing projects in Austria, especially the work with schools and students.
© Julie Flanagan
Workshop: Sketching
© Julie Flanagan