Interview with Alfredo Grande

Curator of SACRUM 2024

Alfredo Grande

Curator of SACRUM 2024

For further than thirty years, Alfredo Grande's professional activity has been focused on the multidisciplinary research of Heritage in the 21st century, at all current levels of Heritage Protection; research/documentation; conservation/preservation; dissemination/interpretation and sustainability/social development.

His tireless research capacity has led him to important goals in new fields of Heritage. Being a pioneer in the creation of Virtual Archaeology as a scientific discipline in the 90's and achieving with his team, the ratification of the “Seville Principles. Seville Principles of International Virtual Archaeology” by the CIPA Committee of ICOMOS at the request of UNESCO.

A humanist by training and in love with history, he holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Seville and specializes in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage and Museology. His unusual professional profile focuses on three very different and complementary pillars: Humanism, Technology and Postgraduate Education. Since 2020 he combines his professional, teaching and research activities with an initiative whose objective is to define, standardize and disseminate the Sacred Heritage of Spain at an international level, through an important program of actions based on research, development, innovation, dissemination and training.

Since 2021 he is founder and president of SACRUM, Professional Platform of Religious Heritage and Related Industries of Spain, a national non-profit professional association, which aims to constitute a professional platform that integrates all groups related to religious heritage. The main activity of the association is the annual celebration of SACRUM, 1st International Exhibition of Sacred Heritage, Products, Services and Tourism of the religious world in Spain, a major international event that gives visibility to the religious community.

What is the vision and main objectives of SACRUM 2024?

The vision of SACRUM 2024, is to become the premier annual international, leading gathering of the community that creates, produces, services and markets the world's religious heritage. The Art, the Industry and the Business that is at the forefront of the field of religion.

We would like to understand what differentiates this event from other similar events at the international level. How did the idea of creating SACRUM come about and what has been the biggest challenge in its organization?

SACRUM 2024 is an innovative design of a global meeting of the universe of the sacred for the society of the 21st century. It is a cultural, patrimonial, commercial and touristic initiative, sister of consolidated commercial events such as Devotio and Koinè in Italy, Gloria in Germany, Sacroexpo in Poland and Expocatólica in Brazil. In our case, adapted to the special devotional manner and idiosyncrasy of Spain, markedly external, vibrant, heartfelt, shared and experienced by all collectively.

This meeting arises from the evident need to enjoy an annual professional appointment, of all the groups involved in the sector, sharing interests, experiences, knowledge and delight., etc., far away from the guild and sectarian spirit of the artisan disciplines in the past and turning the SACRUM experience into a real feast for the senses.

It is never easy to innovate, a high cost of the effort to create something new is spent in convincing “the one who does not want to see”, who, hiding in tradition, defends his status at all costs, limiting and castrating the entry of a new generation in the heritage panorama and when not, delaying the normal evolution of the society he has had to live in. 

What inspired the organizers to launch this event and what obstacles have they had to overcome?

It is very curious to note that in the course of time and in the dynamics of the styles of the history of Art, the artistic trends and schools have been detected, studied and standardized with a great perspective of time. The 17th century imaginer did not have the slightest perception that he was developing an important and transcendent artistic style, such as the Baroque... drinking exclusively from Dürer's engravings, which would reach his hands and seeing in the churches the creations of his competition. In the XXI century with technology, the power of image and communication, trends and styles are more easily evidenced, which leads us to the following question: are we on the verge of a new artistic school, after three centuries of formal neo-Baroque? SACRUM will provide answers to many questions?

What role does the SACRUM National Association play in the organization and development of the event?

The Professional Platform of Religious Heritage and Related Industries of Spain, SACRUM, is a non-profit professional association whose foundational axis is Sacred Heritage. In other words, it would seem to be limited only to artists and artisans, but its objective is to include the entire professional field of industrialists, traders, service companies, as well as consumers who participate in the religious universe.

Therefore, SACRUM is the association that allows us to have an effective professional presence, as well as to establish links with the entire religious sector, to meet, collaborate and share concerns. Its creation has been fundamental to bring the protagonists “to a house of all”, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges we have had, to unify the Spanish territory, totally divided historically.

Can you tell us more about the mission of this association and its impact on religious heritage in Spain?

The mission of the SACRUM association is to provide its members with the best tools, knowledge, skills and an enabling environment to preserve their religious cultural heritage in all its forms, for the benefit of all people.

SACRUM's vision is of a world in which religious cultural heritage (its preservation, protection and celebration) is inextricably linked to notions of progress, inclusion, well-being and stability.

SACRUM 2024 will include a variety of activities and exhibitions. What would you highlight as the most relevant points of the program?

Without a doubt, the most relevant points are: the National Exhibition of Sacred Art SPES NOSTRA. 2000 m2 of masterpieces of Spanish Sacred Heritage from the 16th to the 21st century. Secondly, the live delivery of six Masterclass Workshops, conducted by leading figures in the various artistic disciplines of the exhibition. The celebration of the 1st International Fair of Religious Tourism, PEREGRINA 2024, with the attendance of more than fifteen participating countries from all over the world. To end with a great celebration of the religious and cofrade world, which will satisfy the artist and artisan, the industrialist and trader, the professional or private buyer, the world of the clergy and the church and the general public, with chapel music, saetas, concerts of cofrade music, visits, presentations and religious gastronomy.

Between the exhibition of sacred art, the symposium, and the awards, which do you think will have the greatest impact?

At the moment, May 2024, are the National Prizes of Sacred Art. National awards to the most important artists and artisans of the moment and honorary awards for a lifetime. Each year, SACRUM will award 15 personalities with the Gold Medal in each artistic discipline: sculpture, painting, gold and silver work, embroidery, carving and gilding, etc. The Scientific Jury: formed by the 20 members of the Scientific Committee of the Symposium who have proposed the initial list of personalities deserving of the award, the Professional Jury: all the members of the SACRUM Network have voted, determining three finalists per discipline and finally the Popular Jury, which with its more than 4000 votes have chosen the winners of the awards in a democratic way.

The National Symposium on Sacred Heritage and Tourism seems to be a key component. Can you describe the focus and main topics to be addressed?

The National Symposium on Sacred Heritage and Tourism is a multidisciplinary scientific meeting for the exchange of ideas and promotion of knowledge. Designed by SACRUM's Scientific Committee, made up of 20 artistic personalities of recognized prestige in the sector, it has scheduled 6 top-level conferences and 16 round tables with four speakers.

The topics to be discussed and debated are in line with the latest news and present and future problems of the sector, examples of which are: the problematic interaction of traditional art with AI, the desacralization of today's society, the hobby rather than devotion, economic prospects of religious tourism of the future, the “spectacularization” of the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter, religious processional marches in contemporary music, sustainability over time of mass religious events, and so on.

What results do you expect to obtain from this symposium in terms of advances and collaborations in the sector?

Debate always leads to progress, the realization of current problems defended by disparate opinions, never fall on deaf ears and the simple fact of sitting around a table is already the beginning of the problem's solution. 

Regarding the International Religious Tourism Fair, PEREGRINA 2024, what kind of participation and attendance do you expect?

One of the fundamental pillars that support this macro event is the celebration of PEREGRINA, International Fair of Religious Tourism, an annual economic, social and cultural event. Aimed at a professional and general public, its main purpose is the exhibition, display and dissemination of the supply of goods and services of the religious tourism sector, in order to contribute to its knowledge and commercialization. This type of specialized Tourism Fair represents a great opportunity for professionals and companies to establish contacts and commercial relations, an appointment to show their excellence, promote their business activities and share mutual interests.

PEREGRINA 2024 has a 3000 m2 pavilion for exhibition spaces, an auditorium for commercial presentations, conferences and specialized round tables, a business club with a bar and craft workshops with live masterclasses. The Fair is aimed at the Tourism Industry: travel agencies, tour operators, tour agents and tourist offices; Religious Tourism: religious destinations, pilgrimage destinations, tourism routes, spiritual paths, churches, cathedrals and basilicas and sacred museums; Religious Events: Holy Week and Easter celebrations, Christmas, fairs, pilgrimages and ancestral cults; finally, to Institutional Tourism: international institutions, ministries, tourism committees, tourism organizations, autonomous communities, county councils, city councils, foundations and associations and companies. 

What role does technology play in SACRUM 2024, especially in the presentation and preservation of sacred heritage?

Art and technology might seem like totally disparate disciplines; however, today they are more closely related than ever, especially because technological advances have become a fundamental element in the development, creation and preservation of new artistic expressions, which has led to unease in the more conservative stages of society.

More and more professionals are using technology in different moments of their artistic process. Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, drones, 360º videos, scanners and 3D printing are elements that help professionals in their daily work.

SACRUM 2024 is inspired by consolidated European events such as DEVOTIO, KOINÈ and SACROEXPO. What lessons or collaborations have emerged from these international relationships?

It is important to note that in our country no experience of a trade fair of Sacred Heritage, understood as such, has lasted (Santiago, Madrid, Valencia, Granada) and that fairs such as Koinè in Vicenza (Italy), will celebrate its XXII edition in 2025. Our conclusion, after a long analysis, is that Spain has neither the industrial and commercial fabric to support a large supermarket of sacred products, nor the dynamics of sales at trade fairs. The Spanish phenomenon and that of its areas of influence, such as Latin America or southern Italy, with which we share faith, tradition and devotion, is artistic and not industrial, the survival of the sacred artist, anchored in the Baroque, has endured in the commercial fabric of local art. SACRUM's response, to our regret, can only be given by trying a design adapted to our special way of understanding religion, where the rich devotional idiosyncrasy of our country is captured. 

Which sectors within religious tourism do you think will benefit most from this event?

Tourism industry in general: travel agencies, tour operators, tour agents, tourist offices, religious destinations, pilgrimage destinations, tourism routes, spiritual paths, churches, cathedrals and basilicas and sacred museums, etc.

The SPES NOSTRA exhibition includes works by great masters and contemporary artists. How were these works selected and what criteria were used?

The heart of the project is the celebration of the National Exhibition of Sacred Art, the first edition of a series of annual exhibitions called LUX DEI (Light of God), in this edition dedicated to Hope and called SPES NOSTRA (Our Hope). The exhibition features the best signatures of authors, works of imagery, painting, goldsmithing and embroidery. Masterpieces of the Spanish Sacred Heritage from the 16th to the 20th century, together with the most important artists of the Sacred Art of the present time. All complemented with the rich heritage of twenty-five Brotherhoods and Confraternities dedicated to Hope and fifty artists and craftsmen of the Religious Heritage of Spain. The contents of the same, have been carefully studied and selected to give a real and concrete image of the state of the Art of the Sacred Patrimony. A unique exhibition in a sacred space, etc.

What message or feeling do you hope visitors will take away from this exhibition?

Our general objective has been that the visit to SACRUM 2024 becomes an experience: a set of emotions and sensations in the encounter with the contents, which are interpreted by visitors individually and enjoyed in different ways. Through the rigorous control of light, spotlights, careful perspectives, surprise pieces, restricted color palette, live sacred music, the smell of incense and an atmosphere of recollection, the experience will provide an experience that will remain in the memory, making the visitor develop an emotional connection with the SACRUM encounter.

What is the importance of including both historical heritage and contemporary creations in the exhibition?

This is neither the first time nor the last time that an exhibition is organized in which works from the Spanish Renaissance and Baroque periods are confronted with contemporary art of our days. But the purpose of LUX DEI: SPES NOSTRA is to go a step further and establish a dialogue between works from the sixteenth to the twentieth century and contemporary creations to dissociate the concept of baroque from its traditional aesthetic perception and distance itself from clichés.

The exhibition intends that through the works of contemporary artists of the 21st century a re-reading of the masterpieces of the past is made. Dialogues may arise from common interpretations, similarities, subliminal analogies or that may push the public towards a creative reading of the contents. We want the works to dialogue with each other and the public to be able to navigate freely through the exhibition, exercising a critical analysis and participating in the proposals for dialogue that we suggest. It is not, in any case, to confront traditional and contemporary art, nor to compete between different disciplines, the objective is to present contents that share the common thread: hope.

How do you think this influences the perception and appreciation of sacred art in today's society?

Sacred art faces several challenges in the contemporary world. One of the main challenges is to find ways to maintain its relevance and connection with the new generations, who are increasingly distanced from religion and traditional practices. Sacred art must adapt to cultural and technological changes, find new ways to convey its message and interest today's viewers.

In terms of perspectives, it should be noted that sacred art continues to be appreciated and valued by many people today. Despite changes in forms of religiosity, this type of art has a powerful aesthetic and spiritual impact on those who contemplate it. In addition, new technologies offer opportunities for the dissemination and promotion of sacred art on a global level, reaching a wider and more diverse audience. 

What impact do you expect SACRUM 2024 to have on the promotion of religious tourism in Spain and Latin America?

The geographical scope of the SACRUM association is initially Spain, given the special characteristics of our country, with a large religious majority and a multitude of popular manifestations, many of them unique in the world. We are also open to institutions, professionals, companies and interested parties from other countries, especially Latin America, for whom we are a religious and artistic reference, due to our history and tradition, and with whom we share the same language.

Given that SACRUM is an itinerant event, can you tell us something about future plans and possible destinations for the next editions?

The SACRUM meeting and especially the International Fair of Religious Tourism PEREGRINA, is born with the intention of itinerancy, celebrating its next editions in important destinations of spiritual tourism and pilgrimage. We are open to receive proposals of candidacy to host the event, both in Spain and in the rest of the world.

What factors do you consider when choosing future venues for the event?

The importance of the venue in the history of the international religious world, Santiago, Lourdes or Fatima, to give some examples, will be equally considered with the enthusiasm, desire and local support for proposals of emerging destinations with potential for the future. 

For visitors and professionals who will be attending for the first time, what recommendations would you give them to make the most of their participation in SACRUM 2024, and any specific advice on what not to miss or how to prepare?

The recommendation is simple for everyone: celebrate with us the great feast of Religious Art that is SACRUM 2024, live the experience and let your senses enjoy a suggestive and unique experience, let yourself be carried away by the sensations that sacred art, especially imagery and music provoke. Get to know the project at, where you can consult at all times the progress and preparations of an event that we are organizing with the greatest of illusions so that all the religious field, has an unmissable event, year after year.

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The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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