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Turkish translations of the Venice Charter


An illustrative antique booklet of the Venice Charter. Author’s own photograph, 2020.

‘The Venice Charter should be preserved as an historic monument.’ [1]

Contemporary conservation theory follows guiding principles set out in the so-called Venice Charter, [2] the final declaration of the Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments held between the 25th and 31st of May 1964 in Venice. The influence of the Venice Charter, translated into at least 28 different languages, can be traced in great numbers to national and international institutions’ regulations, guidelines and charters.[3]

It is widely accepted that the Venice Charter has played a significant role in establishing an international consensus on conservation principles and their dissemination throughout the world, essential to the protection of a large number of monuments. The fact that the Charter was originally written in 4 languages; English, French, Italian and Russian, points to its ambition to serve as a universal declaration. However, although the Charter was the product of an international congress, it is generally considered to be Eurocentric due to the nationality of its committee members, 17 of the 20 of whom were European.

In addition, there have been considerable difficulties in its application to other geographies and cultures, each with their own climatic conditions, materialities and living habits. In addition to these substantial problems, the translation of the Charter into other languages has led to semantic differences in interpretation, meaning deviation and deficiencies overall. This has even been the case between its original languages such as between French and Russian.[4]

Though there have been many attempts to reconceptualise international conservation principles through the production and dissemination of additional charters, such as the Nara Charter (1994) and the Burra Charter (1999), none have attempted to revise or edit the Venice Charter’s actual text. Meanwhile, there have been several unsuccessful attempts over the years to revise the Venice Charter's content through rectification, editing or renovating. Despite the many criticisms of the Charter – such as the contradictions among its articles and its failure to meet contemporary requirements in the field of conservation, the Charter remains a major subject for researchers.[5] One particular aspect of interest is the dissemination of the Charter to other countries who might have been considered peripheral in relation to the founding countries. Turkey, where the original translation of the Charter was undertaken by Prof. Cevat Erder, offers a good example of this. In his essay, Venice Charter Under Review, Erder comments on the Charter article by article in an attempt to clarify and express its essential concepts, as well as to present the Charter’s Turkish translation.[6] Additionally, the essay, published in English in 1994 within the context of the 30th anniversary event by ICOMOS, includes his provocative proposal to "preserve" the Venice Charter ‘as an historic monument.’[7]

Concerning this quite visionary statement, two fundamental questions arise: can a text be considered as a monument? and if so, how can it be preserved?

By virtue of its innate international mission, the Venice Charter was intentionally generated as a multilingual text. In other words, the Charter cannot be considered separate from its translations. In addition to this original intertwinement, inasmuch as restoration is the fundamental instrument for the preservation of historic monuments, this study suggests that the examination of the relationship between translation and restoration is essential to the preservation of the Charter itself. In the same critical vein, considering preservation does not necessarily infer that objects must be 'frozen' in time. A discussion of translation might offer fertile ground on which to explore the conundrum of the preservation of literary texts: the act of translating inevitably leads to derivative reproductions rather than identical copies. Additionally, by contemplating the preservation of the Charter as a monument, one is confronted with the question of what defines a monument? For this purpose, monument(atily) is researched within a historical context so as to understand its conceptual and thematic limits. Furthermore, this dissertation explores the relationship between translation and restoration, in search of potentially enlightening intersections. The first part of this dissertation examines the afterlife of the monument whereby notions of translation can offer an alternative understanding of the creative agency held in its constant transformation.


The second part of this dissertation analyses the Turkish journey of the Venice Charter in particular. Here, Prof. Erder’s respective translations are compared in a number of aspects in order to reveal significant differences over time. Apart from exemplifying how translation(s) of the Charter have been reproduced time and again, the anonymous alterations of the translations by non-authorial agents, such as Prof. Ahunbay and ICOMOS, are highlighted. After this, the historic evolution of the translations are discussed in detail in relation to the theoretical frame set up in the first part of the dissertation.

[1] Cevat Erder, “Venedik Tüzüğü Bir Anıt Gibi Korunmalıdır” METU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture 3, no. 2 (1977), 167.

[2]  Frank Matero, “Foreword: The Venice Charter at Fifty” Change Over Time 4, no. 2 (2014), 195.

[3] Jukka Jokilehto, “The context of the Venice Charter (1964)’”Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 2, no. 4 (1998), 230

[4] Cevat Erder, “The Venice Charter under review” ICOMOS Scientific Journal, The Venice Charter - La Charte de Venise 1964-1994 4. (1994), 25

[5] ICOMOS’ publications frequently give a place to the Venice Charter focused studies such as Hungarian National office of Cultural heritage The Venice Charter 1964-2004-2044? (Budapest, ETK, 2004). Among recent studies see Matthew Hardy, ‘The Venice Charter Revisited: Modernism, Conservatism and Tradition in the 21st Century’. (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2011).

[6] Cevat Erder, ‘Venedik Tüzüğü Bir Anıt Gibi Korunmalıdır” 167-90.

[7] Cevat Erder, “The Venice Charter under review” 24-31.

Copyright of image: © Hakan Yildiz

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