By Giora Solar
Baron Raymond Lemaire died on August 13, 1997. Professor Lemaire, born in Belgium in 1921, was deeply involved in conservation for half a century and had a huge impact on the philosophy and ethics of the field, as well as on many conservation projects around the world.
At the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, Raymond Lemaire created and headed one of the world's best conservation training programs. He was one of the initiators, coauthors, and signers of the Venice Charter. He served as president and later honorary president of the International Council for Monuments and Sites. He was also an honorary professor in Rome at the International Center for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments. A special and personal adviser to the director general of UNESCO, Professor Lemaire was in charge of and a member of the planning and expert teams in numerous historic towns in Belgium and the world. He was a member of special committees and missions to famous sites like Borobudur, the Athens Acropolis, Mohendjodaro, the Tower of Pisa, the Old City of Jerusalem, Jerash and Petra, Agra, Fez, Mount Athos, and others.
Above all, in the conservation field, Professor Lemaire was a thinker, a leader, and a teacher.
I had many, many meetings with him in his capacity as UNESCO's director general's personal adviser for the Old City of Jerusalem. It was an extremely complicated mission, one that Raymond conducted from 1971 until almost his death. He was proud of this difficult role, although not always happynor were the involved parties in this very complex city. He tried to walk between the rain of conflicting interests, conducting the conservation missions both professionally and diplomatically. He could not stay dry, of course, but for more than a quarter of a century, among Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Moslems, Christians, national and religious authorities, politicians, archaeologists, and architects, he did a remarkable job—one that I doubt anyone else in the world could do.
For the GCI, Raymond Lemaire was glad to help by being a member of our committee reviewing ethical issues in regard to the regilding of the mosaic on the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. He was extremely active and helpful—very much aware not only of ethical considerations but also of practical needs.
I will miss him personally and professionally, as will the entire conservation community. But his legacy will live on, through his friends, students, projects, and writings.
Giora Solar is director of Special Projects of the GCI.