The Santa María Cathedral Foundation, sponsored by the Provincial Council of Álava, the City Council of Vitoria-Gasteiz and the Bishopric of Vitoria was set up in 1999 as the basic management tool to restore the architecture and sociocultural elements of the Gothic church according to the guidelines of the Master Plan for Comprehensive Restoration. The thorough research work undertaken in relation to the church, including the subsoil and surroundings, revealed abundant and brand-new information about the origins and development of the church and indeed the city as a whole, proving and promoting its remarkable virtues and explaining and giving us an insight into its history. The whole process, including the research and the restoration work, is approached as an educational and cultural activity and encourages participation, under the motto “Open for Works”. It is a very useful tool to promote criteria and techniques with a view to preserving the local Heritage.
The restoration of the Santa María Cathedral (and the surrounding buildings, which include the hostel) does therefore not just involve the architectural recovery of a Gothic church: It is a comprehensive project that, apart from restoring the religious purpose of the building, intends to furnish it with new purposes and uses (culture, museum collections, tourism, social events, etc.) to ensure its preservation and maintenance in the future. This ambitious approach, which involves great perseverance and methodological rigour, has already had positive impacts in a wide variety of fields, including culture, dissemination of scientific knowledge, local economy, tourism and urban renewal of the surrounding environment, creating new spaces to encourage citizen participation.