Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.b.3

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Andorra, Spain and France have nominated Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees (No. 01073) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The summer solstice fire festivals take place in the Pyrenees each year on the same night when the sun is at its zenith. Once night falls, people from different towns and villages carry flaming torches down the mountains to light a variety of traditionally constructed beacons. The descent is a special moment for young people, signifying the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The festival is considered a time for regenerating social ties and strengthening feelings of belonging, identity and continuity with celebrations including popular folklore and communal dining. Roles are assigned to specific people. In some municipalities, the mayor is involved with lighting the first beacon. In others, a priest blesses or lights the fire. Elsewhere, the most recently married man lights the fire and leads the descent to the village. Often, young unmarried girls await the arrival of the torchbearers in the village with wine and sweet pastries. In the morning, people collect embers or ashes to protect their homes or gardens. The element has deep roots among local communities and is perpetuated thanks to a network of associations and local institutions. The most important locus of transmission is the family, where people keep the memory of this heritage alive.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The summer solstice fire festivals reflect cyclical regeneration of family and social ties, promote a culture of volunteering, solidarity and hospitality, and strengthen the feeling of belonging, identity and continuity of the Pyrenean communities in the three submitting States; family serves as the hub of the element’s transmission to younger generations, complemented by the web of torchbearers and other associations;

R.2:   In addition to greater visibility of intangible cultural heritage at large and awareness of its significance by virtue of the element’s multinational character, its inscription on the Representative List could shed light on the cultural varieties and creative solutions responsive to a specific environmental context, thus confirming the importance of the intangible cultural heritage as a mainspring of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development;

R.3:   Resulting from a lengthy nomination process including an in-depth analysis of the current state of safeguarding, the proposed safeguarding measures are characterized by their holistic and cross-cutting approach, pertaining to all intangible components, as well as tangible ones such as cultural spaces and routes; they have been elaborated in a thoroughly collaborative manner, with communities playing a decisive role in their conception and elaboration while States Parties secured budgets, technical support and human resources;

R.4:   The nomination file clearly demonstrates a very wide participation of communities, groups and individuals concerned throughout a long, distinctly collaborative, gradually expanding, coordinated and demanding process of nomination; numerous representatives of the general population, relevant associations and local institutions provided a broad spectrum of attestations to their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination;

R.5:   The inclusion of the element in inventories of the three submitting States was conducted in line with distinct procedures in each, but always in conformity with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention.

  1. Inscribes Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the submitting States for elaborating a multinational file exemplary in both its substance and form;
  3. Further commends the submitting States in particular for securing and demonstrating the widest possible participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned in preparing and elaborating the nomination at all stages, and for providing a broad range of demonstrations and attestations of their free, prior and informed consent.