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DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNESCO

Director-General visits Elche, home of Spain’s first Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

Director-General visits Elche, home of Spain’s first Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
  • © UNESCO/A. Vohra

From 12 to 14 August 2007, the Director-General, Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, paid his first visit to the city of Elche in the Alicante province in the Valencian Community in Spain.

At the invitation of the Mayor of Elche, Mr. Alejandro Soler Mur, the Director-General attended the festivities of the “Mystery Play of Elche” proclaimed in 2001 as Spain’s first of two Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity*.

On 13 August, Mr. Matsuura, who was accompanied by the Mayor of Elche as well as several Spanish personalities including the State Secretary for International Cooperation, Ms Leire Pajin, attended the mystery play of Elche, a religious musical drama about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Since the mid-fifteenth century it has been performed in the Basilica of Santa Maria and in the streets of the old city of Elche. This theatrical performance is entirely sung and depicts the death and crowning of the Virgin in a series of scenes and related paintings. More than 300 volunteers take part in the performance each year as actors, singers, stage directors, stagehands, tailors and stewards. This tradition, which attracts the entire population of the town, is closely linked to the cultural and linguistic identity of the inhabitants of the region.

During his visit, the Director-General visited the Palmeral (palm groves) of Elche inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2000 among 40 other Spanish World Heritage sites. The Palmeral of Elche is a unique cultural landscape of outstanding universal value and significance and represents a remarkable example of the transference of a characteristic landscape from one culture and continent to another. The Director-General witnessed the technique of acquiring blanched palm leaves that are central to two of Elche’s most important cultural events: the Palm Sunday Procession and the Elche Mystery Play.

Mr Matsuura also visited the Museum “Arqueológico y de Historia” as well as the archaeological site “Yacimiento Arqueológico” in Alcudia.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 106-2007
  • 17-08-2007
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