The restoration project

In 2018, the Saint Barbara church in Vevey celebrated its 140th anniversary. During the same year, a first round of restoration works was completed for the exterior of the church (e.g. cleaning of facades, renovation of roofs and water drainage systems, restoration and re-gilding of the dome).

Urgent need for interior restoration

It is now imperative to move on to interior renovation works. Since its construction in 1878, the church has only gone through some makeshift repairs and its rich interior is today in a serious state of dilapidation.

Restoring the severely degraded murals is essential to ensure their conservation. The stained glass windows, marble and carved wood also require intervention, as well as the precious icons and the many liturgical objects that are part of the identity of the church.

To discover the church from inside, take a virtual tour (produced and offered by the Captiva360 service of Archéotech SA) by clicking on the link below.

Obsolete technical installations

Obsolete technical installations, namely the heating, electricity, lighting and security systems, also require urgent refurbishment work to meet current standards and ensure safety of church guests, as well as the preservation of murals and canvases.

Urgent work

Restoration of interior decor and historical liturgical objects

Rich interior that requires urgent conservation and restoration work, e.g. mural painting, gilding, figurative painting, carved marble, carved wood of the iconostasis, icons and liturgical objects.
© Relevé Archéotech, photography Rémy Gindroz

The mural needs urgent conservation-restoration intervention: its support is degraded, missing in the lower part and contributes to the erosion of pictorial substance.
© Relevé Archéotech, photography Rémy Gindroz

The canvases with figurative painting are an integral part of the church and must also be restored to regain their former splendour.
© Relevé Archéotech, photography Rémy Gindroz

Mural painting that requires urgent conservation-restoration measures to regain its original beauty.
© Relevé Archéotech, photography Rémy Gindroz

The pictorial layers degrade and tend to disappear. It is urgent to undertake conservation-restoration works, and adapt indoor climate by renovating the heating system.
© Atelier Muttner

The faux wood of the entrance drum is one of the elements that have suffered damage over time and need conservation-restoration.
© Atelier Muttner

Water ingress has damaged the decorative paint in the drum. The works completed in 2018 have ensured protection from outside. It is now time to start the works on the interior part.
© Atelier Muttner

Cleaning tests and analyses in specialized laboratories made it possible to discover the original ultramarine blue background under layers of soot (see at the bottom of the photo). Total rehabilitation of heating and air filtration systems needs to be implemented in conjunction with the restoration of monumental paintings.
© Atelier Muttner

The Gospel, as well as many other liturgical objects that the church received on its inauguration, are damaged and must be restored. The paper has marks, while the cover with enamel medallions and the binding of this precious book have become fragile.
© Photography Michel Vernaz

In 2019, the restorers carried out conservation tests on murals. After cleaning the central part, the clearness and brightness of forgotten colours appeared under the patina. These tests made it possible to prepare the restoration plan of the church mural paintings.
© Photography Rémy Gindroz

The cleaned surface reveals the original vivid colours under the soot that remains on the right side of the picture.
© Photography Rémy Gindroz

Rehabilitation of obsolete technical installations

There is a need to urgently renovate the heating, electricity, lighting and security systems that are no longer meeting current standards. This will ensure safety of premises and quality of conservation conditions for the painted decoration of the church.

In order to restore the wall paintings, the heating system must be restored first. As obsolete installations tend to accelerate the deterioration process of the interior decoration of the church. Therefore, it is essential to link technical modernization and restoration of the painted decoration.

Other necessary works: garden, bell tower and parish hall

Transformation of the garden and access for people with reduced mobility

We also need to transform the garden around the church with a view to facilitating access for people with reduced mobility. In particular, installing a stair lift is necessary to avoid people being lifted manually to the top of the stair. What is at stake here is the dignity and security of these people who should be given full access to a place of worship like this.

Construction of a bell tower

Building a bell tower was not possible in 1878 when the church was constructed. Yet it is a major architectural and spiritual symbol, which is an integral part of the Orthodox tradition as well as other Christian denominations. Therefore, it is now important to fill that gap. In any case, the intention is to build a bell tower of modest size next to the church and in a way that preserves the harmonious character of the place.

Development of a Parish hall

© Photography Michel Vernaz

The church does not currently have any space specifically designed for parishioners. One option would be to transform the basement into a hall for the community – a place for interaction and discussions among parishioners. This would certainly allow strengthening social ties within the Orthodox community in French-speaking Switzerland and beyond, and contribute to a better integration of parishioners.

Cost of works

Restoring painted decoration, 500 historical liturgical objects, and rehabilitating obsolete technical installations are among the most urgent tasks to be undertaken. Their estimation cost amounts to 3.67 million francs according to feasibility studies carried out in 2019-2020 by DOM associated architects.

The other urgent tasks, namely transforming the garden to provide better access to people with reduced mobility, constructing a bell tower, and developing a parish room in the basement should amount to 1.96 million francs. This work is essential to accommodate adequately parishioners and will be implemented as soon as the fundraising campaign allows it. Overall, the total cost of restoration works would thus amount to 5.63 million francs.

General cost estimate

Urgent work
Costs incl.
Paintings, stained glass and icons
Artistic careers
Liturgical objects
Technical installations
Other work needed
Costs incl.
Construction of a bell tower
Parish hall
Chandeliers and lighting
Grand total

Support from the authorities

Architectural studies and works related the restoration of the St. Barbara church are placed under the high patronage of the Monuments and Sites Division of the General Directorate of Buildings and Heritage (DGIP), as well as the Cultural Affairs Department of the State of Vaud. The Canton of Vaud has already officially granted cantonal and federal subsidies (through the financial support of the Confederation to objects allocated to cantons) up to 20% of the 2019-2020 project studies and surveys for the restoration and rehabilitation of the interior of the church. This is encouraging, especially in view of a similar subsidy for the restoration works (20% equally shared between the State of Vaud and the Confederation). Indeed, such early support from the Swiss authorities is not only appreciated in financial terms, but also demonstrates the relevance and importance of this restoration project in terms of preservation of the regional heritage.

As pointed out by the DGIP itself, “Like its landscapes, the monuments and sites of Canton of Vaud reflect the rich heritage of the canton. They must be protected to allow future generations to admire and study them as we do today, they must be preserved to ensure access to authentic testimonies of the past, and they must be documented to allow everyone to access such valuable data”. The project presented is fully in line with this perspective and today we appeal to your generosity to be able to carry it out as soon as possible.

Urgent need for additional resources

The income of the parish of St. Barbara comes exclusively from parishioners’ contributions, donations, collections and sales of candles, which are just sufficient to ensure the parish life as well as the day-to-day maintenance of the buildings, garden and objects necessary for the liturgical services.

This represents a heavy financial burden for the community. Indeed, the parish has already entirely financed the exterior restoration on its cash reserves (around 1 million francs) between 2000 and 2018 as well as 80% of the cost of the feasibility study for the restoration and rehabilitation of the rest of the church.

Dans ces circonstances, des sources de financement complémentaires doivent impérativement être trouvées afin de mener à bien ces indispensables travaux.In this context, additional funding sources are absolutely required to carry out this indispensable work. To that end, various fundraising operations are underway (individual donations from individuals, requests for subsidies from foundations and institutions, etc.), with a view to launching the works by 2021-2022 with the necessary guarantees.