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The Vatican hosted a Latvian Presidency seminar about the unique facsimile of the Terra Mariana album

BC, Riga, 12.03.2015.Print version
On 10 March 2015, a seminar took place at the Vatican Apostolic Library the historical album entitled "Terra Mariana. 1186-1888". Occurring at the time of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the seminar focussed on the cooperation between Latvia and the Vatican preparation of the unique "Terra Mariana" album and the academic commentaries that accompany it, reports BC the Latvian MFA.

The album provides information on the history of Christianity in Latvia and Estonia – the former territory of Livonia – and this was a chance for the wider public to see and hear about the contents of the album.


The seminar was opened by the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, and the Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, Cesare Pasini.


The Director of the Latvian National Library, Dr Andris Vilks, in his report "Rebirth of the Terra Mariana album" told the participants about the gestation of the idea on preparation and publication of the facsimile and its accompanying commentaries. The Latvian Ambassador to the Czech Republic, former Latvian Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr Alberts Sarkanis, spoke of the album’s contents and meaning in an international context. Art historian Ruta Kaminska described the role of "Terra Mariana" in Latvia’s art history enriching her presentation with an array of visual material. The Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Latvia, Zbigņevs Stankevičs, addressed the topic of challenges and opportunities in the modern world, with Christian values as the starting point. A speech was also delivered by the Estonian Ambassador to the Holy See, Jüri Seilenthal.


The seminar was moderated by the Vice Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, Dr Ambrogio Piazzoni, who had been directly involved in preparation of the facsimile edition over a period of ten years. The Latvian Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr Einars Semanis, noted in his closing remarks of this event which was part of the overall efforts at public diplomacy being made during Latvia’s EU Presidency, that the publication "Terra Mariana. 1186-1888" is a testimony to what can be done through joint efforts of the European Union and the Vatican in conserving Europe’s historical and intellectual heritage.


The seminar was attended by the co-financer of the „Terra Mariana” commentary – an entrepreneur and philanthropist Valerijs Belokoņs, the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, the State Secretary of the Vatican and the representatives of the Vatican Radio, academics and members of the Latvian community in Rome, and the Latvian Ambassador to Italy, Artis Bērtulis.


The album "Terra Mariana" was produced in a single copy, and was presented by Baltic Polish noblemen as a gift to Pope Leo XIII in 1888. The original copy is kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library. In terms of the idea, content and the quality and character of the album itself, nothing else in the Baltics is comparable. The album contains a wealth of visual and textual material on Livonian castles, castle ruins, churches, tombstones, coats of arms and seals of the old families of nobility, historical figures, and prints of ancient silver and gold coins.


In 2007, the National Library of Latvia and the Vatican Apostolic Library signed an agreement to jointly publish the album "Terra Mariana. 1186-1888" in 12 identical full-size copies and 1,000 smaller copies. In 2008–2009, the facsimile copies were printed at Franco Cosimo Panini Editore publishing house, which has many years of experience with the production of facsimile editions. In 2011, the facsimiles were delivered to Riga, the preparation and publishing of explanatory notes were finally completed in March 2014.


In view of the historical, artistic and cultural value of the album in general, as well as the niche it occupies in Latvia's national cultural heritage, the President of Latvia Andris Bērziņš, during his visit to the Vatican in September 2014, presented the volume of the academic commentary to Pope Francis. The album was also jointly viewed by a former President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, and Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican in 2010.

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