Conservation of the Wit Stwosz Altarpiece awarded the European Heritage | Europa Nostra Award 2023

HomepageConservation of the Wit Stwosz Altarpiece awarded the European Heritage | Europa Nostra Award 2023

The European Commission and Europa Nostra have announced today the winners of the European Heritage Awards | Europa Nostra Awards 2023. This year, 30 outstanding heritage achievements from 21 countries have been awarded Europe’s top honour in the field (see the full list below). Among this year’s winners in the Conservation category was the Wit Stwosz Altarpiece in St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow. The altar carved in the years 1477–1489 by an artist who came from Nuremberg is widely recognized as a masterpiece of the Gothic style. Its meticulous conservation, based on in-depth research, was carried out in situ for over 1,000 days and involved a team of the best specialists from all over Europe.

The Award winners were selected by the Jury, composed of heritage experts from across Europe, upon evaluation by the Selection Committees that are responsible for examining award applications, which this year were submitted by organisations and individuals from 35 European countries.

Reacting to the announcement of the 2023 winners, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, who is currently in charge of Culture, stated: Each winning achievement of this year’s European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards is the result of extraordinary skills and commitment, collective and individual, spanning heritage places and traditions across Europe. By honouring these achievements, we also reiterate our firm commitment to protecting our shared cultural heritage, because it is vital for our sense of togetherness as citizens and communities of Europe.

Cecilia Bartoli, the world-renowned mezzo-soprano and President of Europa Nostra, stated: I warmly congratulate this year’s winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards on their well-deserved recognition. They are inspiring examples which truly contribute to building a more beautiful, sustainable and inclusive Europe. Their success stories demonstrate how adversity can be overcome through pooling expertise, dedication, creativity and innovation. I look forward to meeting them in person and celebrating all the winners at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony in our beloved World Heritage City of Venice.

The winners will be celebrated atthe European Heritage Awards Ceremony on 28 September in the Palazzo del Cinema in Venice. This prestigious event will be honoured with the participation of Cecilia Bartoli, President of Europa Nostra. Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission, is also expected to attend this high-level event. During the ceremony, the Grand Prix laureates and the Public Choice Award winner, chosen from among this year’s winners and entitled to receive €10,000 each, will be announced. The ceremony will be a highlight of the European Cultural Heritage Summit 2023, organised by Europa Nostra with the support of the European Commission, on 27-30 September in the World Heritage City of Venice.

Heritage supporters and enthusiasts are now encouraged to discover the winners and vote online to decide who will win the Public Choice Award 2023, entitled to receive a monetary award of €10,000.

We encourage you to vote!

Wit Stwosz Altarpiece in St. Mary’s Basilica, Kraków, Poland

The Historic Centre of Kraków with St. Mary’s Basilica was recognised as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1978 for its outstanding heritage value. St. Mary’s Basilica is particularly famous for its Gothic altar of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, carved by Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss) between 1477 and 1489. A remarkable project to restore the altarpiece, undertaken in situ, has returned it to its former beauty.

The project was co-financed by the Civic Committee for the Restoration of Kraków Heritage (SKOZK), the Polish Ministry of Culture and Cultural Heritage in Poland, the Municipality of Kraków and St Mary’s Parish.

The altarpiece originally stood at 18m high and 11m wide and its figures are based on residents of medieval Kraków, who sat as models for the artist. It is therefore an interesting source of knowledge on the culture, customs, and history of the city at the time.

In 2012, concerns were raised about the condition of the altarpiece and a commission was established to assess its stability. It concluded that the altarpiece was “stable, yet threatened”. To preserve this priceless piece of heritage, a programme of research, conservation and preventive measures was required.

In 2015, in order to keep the altarpiece in place in the Basilica, a workshop was established behind the altar where conservators would continue their work for over 1000 days. Special scaffolding was built in front of the altar, allowing visitors to watch the conservators at work. The team worked on over 200 figures, with the largest weighing in at 250kg and exceeding 3m in height, as well as thousands of individual sculpted elements.

The conservation performed by the experts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków involved a full spectrum of scientific possibilities. The structural wood was consolidated, cracks were filled and the original fillers were respected. Remnants of repainting from a later period were removed, and the arrangements of figures and microarchitecture on the corpus and predella were amended. These works uncovered the original Gothic complexion of the figures and the framing, revealing the original intentions of the Nuremberg master. Research and analysis also served in developing guidelines for fire prevention and emergency evacuation.

Extensive international consultations were an essential part of the project, involving experts in Gothic sculpture conservation from Poland and Europe, who exchanged knowledge and ideas, in turn yielding many new discoveries.

The restoration of this magnificent altarpiece is a unique and exceptional achievement. The meticulous conservation of the Wit Stwosz Altarpiece in St. Mary’s Basilica, based on thorough research, was carried out by professionals who demonstrated great respect and sensitivity towards the original work. The project brought together people from different countries, reflecting the international importance of the site and the need for cooperation in preserving European heritage, the Awards’ Jury commended. At the same time, it is an achievement on an impressive scale, being one of the largest Gothic altars in the world, the Jury added.

Wit Stwosz Altarpiece in St Mary’s Basilica, Kraków, POLAND

From Norway to Portugal, from France to Ukraine: these are the winners of the European Heritage Awards | Europa Nostra Awards 2023[1]

Conservation & Adaptive Reuse

Steam Engine Brewery, Lobeč, CZECHIA

Friluftsskolen Open-Air School, Copenhagen, DENMARK

Hôtel de la Marine, Paris, FRANCE

Royal Gardens of Venice, ITALY

Museum of Urban Wooden Architecture, Vilnius, LITHUANIA

Wit Stwosz Altarpiece in St. Mary’s Basilica, Kraków, POLAND

Mudéjar Ceilings of the Cathedral of Funchal, Madeira, PORTUGAL

Deba Bridge, Gipuzkoa, SPAIN

Ruins of the Monastery of San Pedro de Eslonza, Gradefes, SPAIN


Scientific-Archaeological Studies for the Preservation of Ererouyk, ARMENIA/FRANCE

Proto-Industrial Architecture of the Veneto in the Age of Palladio, ITALY

Safeguarding of the Artisanal Fishing Technique “Arte-Xávega”, PORTUGAL

Education, Training & Skills



Carpenters without Borders, Paris, FRANCE

National Centres for Restoration of Historic Vessels, NORWAY

Pathfinders of the Waters, Danube Delta, ROMANIA

Citizens’ Engagement & Awareness-raising

Village Square Meer, Antwerp, BELGIUM

Budapest100, HUNGARY

Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI), Dublin, IRELAND

Open for You, ITALY

ALMADA Project, Lisbon, PORTUGAL

Via Transilvanica, ROMANIA

Un-archiving Post-industry, UKRAINE

Heritage Champions

Hambis Tsangaris, CYPRUS

Sergio Ragni, ITALY

Cláudio Torres, PORTUGAL

Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO), UKRAINE/INTERNATIONAL PROJECT

Europa Nostra Awards 2023 for outstanding projects from the UK

This year, Europa Nostra Awards go to two remarkable heritage projects from a European country not taking part in the EU Creative Europe programme.

Cleveland Pools, Bath, UNITED KINGDOM (Conservation & Adaptive Reuse)

MINIARE: The Art & Science of Manuscript Heritage, Cambridge, UNITED KINGDOM (Research)

Two decades of showcasing heritage-related excellence in Europe

The European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards were launched by the European Commission in 2002 and have been run by Europa Nostra ever since. For 21 years, the Awards have been a key tool to recognise and promote the multiple values of cultural and natural heritage for Europe’s society, economy and environment. 

The Awards have highlighted and disseminated heritage excellence and best practices in Europe, encouraged the cross-border exchange of knowledge and connected heritage stakeholders in wider networks. The Awards have brought major benefits to the winners, such as greater (inter)national exposure, additional funding and increased visitor numbers. In addition, the Awards have championed a greater care for our shared heritage amongst Europe’s citizens. For additional facts and figures about the Awards, please visit the Awards website.

The Call for Entries for the 2024 edition of the Awards is now open. Applications can be submitted online through Submit your application and share your know-how!

[1] The winners are listed alphabetically by country.