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EU money sent for Maria Radna monastery’s rehabilitation blocked after The Telegraph critique

The financing for Maria Radna Monastery (Arad county) restoration has been blocked for three months and subsequently the allotted budget has been cut following an article by The Telegraph that was slamming that the rehabilitation works destroyed the original architecture, the Franciscan basilica being compared to a Disney Castle.

“Maria Radna is one of dozens of ancient Transylvanian churches, castles and fortresses that have been brutally revamped in this fashion over the past five years, all funded by the European Union’s Regional Development programme at a cost of well over €100 million to the European taxpayer,” reads the Telegraph report.

“The imposing Franciscan monastery of Maria Radna in Romania is nearing the end of a costly makeover that should have restored it to full Baroque splendour, but instead it looks like a Disney castle built on a bomb site.

Old stones and roof tiles lie shattered in piles around the base of the building, while any materials in good enough condition to be of value are said to have been removed from the site and sold in Germany.

Concrete blocks have replaced the stone, while bright red industrial tiles glow from the roof, each inscribed with the name of a German multinational.

Almost everywhere, the pattern is the same: old materials are ripped out and replaced with industrially made materials churned out from local factories. The workers are invariably young, low paid and inexperienced: in the case of a 13th century fortress in the city of Deva, workers were taken from a local prison and forced to do restoration work.

Meanwhile, the money circulates between the beneficiaries and companies run by their friends”, the British newspaper was reporting.

Following the article, the Roman-Catholic Episcopacy in Timisoara rejected the accusations, saying that the building materials have not been sold, but stored up in order to be reused and that the shades of color used to paint the facades are respecting the original colors. Moreover, the bishopric mentions that the restoration project was carried out based on well-grounded studies and that it has been approved by the National Committee of the Historical Monuments.

According to the head of chancellery within the Timisoara Episcopacy, father Nicolea Lauș, “the article has caused damages to the basilica’s prestige and caused a financial deadlock on the restoration works.”

“The comparison with a Disney castle was tendentious, and the information was not real. The payments for our reimbursement requests have been blocked for 90 days, and the answer received after the investigation was partially favorable. Although funds have been unblocked, a financial correction of 5 percent was applied, which means a loss of over RON 1 million plus the VAT. We’ve challenged this budget cut,” Lauș told Mediafax.

He mentioned the Episcopacy financed the works during the gridlock so that the project should not be delayed and it’s waiting now for the money reimbursement.

Lauș added that works are to be concluded at the end of November, while the inauguration of the restored basilica is due in January next year.

Franciscan monastery Sfanta Maria Radna from Lipova, Arad (western Romania) was first built in 1520. The monastery was damaged repeatedly throughout the years and it was rebuilt as we see it today in 1782.

The monastery was partially inaugurated on August 2 (with 80 pc of the project concluded) following a rehabilitation campaign kicked off three years ago. The inauguration event was attended by thousands of believers and hundreds of European officials, including an envoy of Pope Francisc, cardinal Joachim Meisner from Koln.

A library hosting 10,000 old volumes has been set up in the basilica complex, as well as a museum, a permanent exhibition but also conference rooms.

The entire complex will go into the touristic circuit starting next year, with estimation that the current number of visitors, 80,000 per year, will double.

About Alina Grigoras Butu