Scholarly article on topic 'Cultural Routes between East and West: A Network for Cooperation between Mediterranean Cities'

Cultural Routes between East and West: A Network for Cooperation between Mediterranean Cities Academic research paper on "Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries"

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{"Mediterranean Basin" / "Cultural Routes" / "Territorial cohesion" / "Cultural Heritage" / "Integrated Conservation" / "Cultural Tourism"}

Abstract of research paper on Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, author of scientific article — Rosa Anna Genovese

Abstract Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea form an area where more than geographical proximity strong cultural links are found, an area that, despite the specificities of individual countries, has important features of community life, which enable a convenient strategic opportunity for a large-scale policy. In this context, cultural heritage may play a role of social and territorial cohesion, thus representing a key factor for the sustainable development of communities and regions. The paper examines the meaning and the essence of Cultural Routes, focusing on the strategy for their conservation and enhancement in relation to their specific characteristics and peculiarities. Criteria for their fruition and management are also evaluated. The challenge is to enrich and develop knowledge of Cultural Routes between East and West and to create a cooperation network among Mediterranean cities for the integrated conservation of the cultural and environmental heritage they share.

Academic research paper on topic "Cultural Routes between East and West: A Network for Cooperation between Mediterranean Cities"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 223 (2016) 619 - 625

2nd International Symposium "NEW METROPOLITAN PERSPECTIVES" - Strategic planning, spatial planning, economic programs and decision support tools, through the implementation of Horizon/Europe2020. ISTH2020, Reggio Calabria (Italy), 18-20 May 2016

Cultural Routes between East and West: a network for cooperation

between Mediterranean cities

Rosa Anna Genovesea'*

aDepartment of Architecture, University of Studies 'Federico II' of Naples, Italy


Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea form an area where more than geographical proximity strong cultural links are found, an area that, despite the specificities of individual countries, has important features of community life, which enable a convenient strategic opportunity for a large-scale policy. In this context, cultural heritage may play a role of social and territorial cohesion, thus representing a key factor for the sustainable development of communities and regions. The paper examines the meaning and the essence of Cultural Routes, focusing on the strategy for their conservation and enhancement in relation to their specific characteristics and peculiarities. Criteria for their fruition and management are also evaluated.

The challenge is to enrich and develop knowledge of Cultural Routes between East and West and to create a cooperation network among Mediterranean cities for the integrated conservation of the cultural and environmental heritage they share.

©2016 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of ISTH2020

Keywords: Mediterranean Basin; Cultural Routes; Territorial cohesion; Cultural Heritage; Integrated Conservation; Cultural Tourism.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +0-081-253-8900. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of ISTH2020


1. Mediterranean: sea, earth, civilizations, cultures

The Mediterranean basin is studded with places that have produced, ever since the first human settlements, the most surprising historic and cultural events, the fruit of a millennial and great past in which geography often made history.

The recent essay on the Mediterranean, a masterpiece of archaeological historical and geographic research, by Cyprian Broodbank (2015), is the best contribution to the history of 'Mare nostrum' in the last sixty years, since the impressive work in two volumes by Fernand Braudel was published (1953). The results of the extensive research on the 'Civilizations of the Empires of the Mediterranean' can be appreciated in the latter work, which the author described and depicted in a later study (1987), with the collaboration of other academics of various disciplines, creating a great fresco of spaces, history, men and traditions. The work of Braudel has deeply innovated our vision of life in Europe and the Mediterranean in the Fifteen hundreds, having opposed to the traditional model of the crisis, occurred as a result of the new Atlantic navigation courses, the vision of a world still very much crossed by trade and contrasts, tension and exchanges, in which not only the countries of the coast, but also distant States were directly or indirectly involved. Throughout the entire 16th century the vitality of the Mediterranean area still appeared to be extraordinarily dynamic and essential to the civilizations of the Old World. The author carried out the study of this historical period as a connection between three distinct moments: history gradually unfolding with slow transformations, taking place over centuries or even millennia, history at the rhythm of shorter cycles, in decades, and finally history showing, through such investigation, its effectiveness and value as an instrument, calibrated to the dimension of the individual, for the analysis of the great ages of the past.

But it is Alessandro Vanoli, historian of the Middle Ages, who recounts the story of four 'voyages' along the coasts of this ancient sea, a real emotional journey, in and out of history, moving from antique episodes up to the contemporary age. The author reminds us that this sea touches three continents, and an incredible number of peoples, languages and civilizations, and he has us experience, with great richness of references, fascinating itineraries, from the Middle East in perpetual unrest, to the Iberian coasts, from the south of Gaul to the shores of Africa, through a sweeping view over the history of the Mediterranean and another vision of its troubled current times and "A world made of exchanges and commerce, wars and conflicts, a babel of languages and great civilizations, religions and fanaticisms". (Vanoli, 2015, p.7)

The Mediterranean has therefore represented a common matrix, an idea and hope to draw strength from, for the peoples and races that have continued to mix in it for centuries, merging or clashing, driven to action by its climate and even by its geology.

"The Mediterranean has now become a frightening word for us, controversial and cause for indignation. Its millenial history is of little consequence: what does matter are the desperate people who drown every day, the economic crisis that has been blowing through it like a storm, the madmen and murderers wetting its coast with blood". (Vanoli, 2015, p.8)

But we still need that very Mediterranean together with the myths and hopes it holds.

2. Cultural Routes: meaning, conservation and enhancement

Cultural Routes often reveal the encounter of The East and West, enhancing the contributions of peoples and passing on to younger generations such values as solidarity, freedom, sharing, peace multicultural integration and tolerance. They also represent the irreplaceable narrative keys to establish a relation between man and cultural and natural heritage, both tangible and intangible.

The International universe of organisations for the conservation of cultural heritage (UNESCO, ICOMOS and Council of Europe) has not yet reached a unanimous agreement over the meaning and essence of Cultural Routes, disorienting at times the process of perfecting appropriate legislative strategies and the coordination between the institutions responsible for their popularisation, enhancement and implementation.

The Council of Europe maintains that they should unfold around a theme (Resolution CM/Res, 2007) and that they are representative of the memory, history and heritage of Europe. This approach implies they are not meaningful because of their intrinsic value but because they constitute the connection of cultural and touristic

interest between elements of heritage, the tool that stimulates multilateral cooperation for intercultural dialogue and European Identity.

It should, at this point, be recalled that a Cultural Route is based on material elements, but it should also be the testimony of historical dynamics and processes, and have favored relations. It is therefore distinct from a Contemporary Route created to bind together components of heritage for touristic, pedagogical or cultural purposes.

Furthermore, a Cultural Route is distinct from a Historic Road even though the two components do present spaces for convergence. Yet the distinction is still a matter of debate, as a road is both a physical construction and a route through a given territory.

The notion of Cultural Route came about in 1993, in occasion of the evaluation of the nomination for inscription onto the World Heritage List of the 'Routes of Saint James', that due to specific peculiarities, did not correspond to any of the categories existing at the time (monuments, architectural ensembles or thematic groupings). The ICOMOS therefore called for a meeting of its own experts and those of UNESCO. A first work-group, that met in Madrid by initiative and under the direction of the President of the Spanish ICOMOS Committee Maria Rosa Suarez-Inclán Ducassi, created the International Scientific Committee for Cultural Routes (CIIC) which, through numerous meetings at regular intervals and the relative publications, defined the notion establishing a methodology for this important heritage category.

In 2005 the work developed by CIIC lead to a recognition by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Indeed 'Heritage Routes' was included, in Annexe 3 of the 'Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention', among the four existing categories. Yet UNESCO, even though it has included such category, that is defined as "composed of tangible elements of which the cultural significance comes from exchanges and a multi-dimensional dialogue across countries or regions, and that illustrate the interaction of movement, along the route, in space and time", does not give an exact definition of the concept of such Routes. Rather, it states that "A heritage route may be considered as a specific, dynamic type of cultural landscape" (Annexe 3, §24, iii).

When describing the characteristics for inscription of a Cultural Landscape on the WH List, paragraph 11 of the Annexe 3 says: "The possibility of designating long linear areas which represent culturally significant transport and communication networks should not be excluded". In the opinion of CIIC, this clearly opens the door for the inscription of other systems and specific ways of communication like 'cultural corridors', 'historic roads' and other kind of thematically related elements along a path, that are not Cultural Routes as previously referred to.

The Scientific Committee of CIIC, that brings together representatives of ICOMOS from various parts of the world, formulated the 'ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes' in 2008 (ratified by the General Assembly in Québec on 4th October 2008) and has continued to broaden, during its Annual Meetings and Symposia, the scope of knowledge and enhancement of a considerable number of properties of the category in different sectors, historical and geographic. Definitions of typologies of Cultural Routes in relation to their specific features and peculiarities have been developed, together with a methodology for their identification, the bases for an inventory of the activities they are made up of and a strategy for their conservation. Specific juridical tools have been incentivized, and criteria for their fruition and management have been defined.

The 'ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes' possesses, as Todor Krestev remarked, "a cohesiveness of notions and rigour in the definition of Cultural Routes, in their defining elements, the specific indicators the classification and identification", furthermore he considers them a specific expression of cultural heritage.

In the light of the considerations so far carried out, Cultural Routes are therefore the fruit of the cultural dynamics generated through the historic ways of communication deliberately created or used by mankind for the accomplishment of a specific and well defined purpose.

As has been constantly stated by CIIC ICOMOS "A Cultural Route is not a simple association of ideas or elements, nor is it a military expedition, nor a voyage of exploration, adventure or discovery without any resultant cultural exchange and continuity, however great the historical importance any of these may turn out to have had.

In the same way, we cannot include within this category literary episodes that have never happened in reality or associations of intangible elements that cannot be related with the historic existence of a real Cultural Route on scientific grounds.

It is, however, absolutely legitimate to employ all of the above-mentioned methods of associating cultural elements. It can even be a positive development from the viewpoint of cultural tourism, promotion of various cultural icons, enhancement of area or regional development, or all of the above."

Yet Cultural Routes, understood in the scientific sense, are historical/cultural realities based on profound and evident heritage assets which have arisen in response to their own, substantive, internal dynamic.

A Cultural Route can be a road that was expressly created to serve a specific and well-determined purpose or a route that takes advantage either totally or partially of pre-existing roads used for different purposes.

But its existence and significance as a Cultural Route can only be explained by its use for a specific purpose and by its being provided with functional elements expressly created and serving the route.

As Maria Rosa Suarez Inclan has stressed in many occasions "The notion of Cultural Routes - besides representing a historic reality which is evident in their vestiges - shows the evolution of ideas with respect to the vision of cultural heritage, as well as the growing importance of values related to its setting and territorial scale, and reveal the macrostructure ofheritage on different levels.

It also helps to illustrate the contemporary social conception of cultural heritage values as a resource for sustainable social and economic development.

This concept introduces a model for a new ethics of conservation that considers these values as a common heritage that goes beyond national borders, and which requires joint efforts."

3. A cooperation network for the integrated conservation of Mediterranean Cultural Heritage

Cultural Routes help to confirm to us that universal civilization is a heritage that belongs to us all, resulting as it does from a historical process to which all of the world's peoples have contributed through their reciprocal cultural influences.

By recognising and respecting cultural diversity, Cultural Routes contribute to the enhancement of intercultural dialogue and sustainable development. They may also provide conservation policy with a territorial breadth, cultural integrity and harmonization of actions and contents that has not been accomplished before.

Fig. 1. The 'Golden' Silk Route includes numerous maritime and overland paths and represents the historic and commercial exchange between East and West.

Examples of Cultural Routes are the 'Routes of Saint James', its ultimate purpose and the driving force of its existence being the pilgrimage towards the tomb of the apostle in the town that bears his name, Saint James of Compostella (Campus stellae), which can be reached following the direction of the Milky Way in the firmament.

Some examples, among many others are those denominated: the 'Golden' Silk Route (Fig.l), that includes numerous overland and maritime paths and represents the commercial and historic exchange between the East and the West, the 'Silk' and 'Spice Routes', the 'African' and 'Asian Trade Routes', the 'Incan Route', the 'Camino Real', the section of the 'Roman Empire Routes' in the Iberian peninsula, the array of the ancient 'Roman Roads' of Europe: Via Appia, Via Emilia, Via Flaminia, Via Domitia, the so called Vie d'Agrippa, Via Francigena, Via Annia / Popilia - Fig.2 (Genovese, 2015, pp.21-37) and the Mediterranean Basin which deserves to be thoroughly investigated and explored as it is a significant testimony of the category of Cultural Routes.

Fig. 2. Satellite plan of the Historic Roman Roads: Via Appia (in white) and Via Annia/ Popilia (in red).

In a historical moment of great conflict between East and West, the study of a historic and cultural path that may highlight the common roots of the cultures of these areas, with a focus on positive values, could be a key component of intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean panorama.

In particular, the reference is to the 'historic path' traced by Monasticism (around V-XI century) across the Mediterranean Sea: the movements of byzantine monks from East to West and from West to East. Eastern monks can be connoted as 'carriers of culture', keepers of Byzantine knowledge and the only custodians of classical culture, as with their activities in the 'Scriptoria', they contributed substantially to build the specific cultural premises for the birth and subsequent development of Humanism.

At a first analysis, it would seem hazardous to assert that the phenomenon of Monasticism may have contributed to initiate the cultural processes at the origin of Humanism. The monks, probably not initially, although well aware of the importance of knowledge and culture, thereafter contributed substantially to the demolition of the theocentric idea that characterized the Middle Ages and to the consolidation of the centrality of man, through one of their main activities, the transcription and translation of Greek texts in the 'Scriptoria', thus spreading knowledge of classical culture related to science, geometry, mathematics, philosophy, etc., that would have otherwise been lost. The monks can thus be considered 'carriers of culture', as they were the main proponents of the 'transmission of knowledge' to future generations, and in particular to the protagonists of Humanism who, without the transmission of these values and of this knowledge, would not have been able to develop the theories and studies, that gave rise to the profound cultural changes still visible in the tangible and intangible heritage of today. In this scenario, Calabria and Southern Italy, because of their geographical position, centrality in the Mediterranean Sea, because of the peculiarities of the territory and the richness of natural resources, would have occupied a central place and constituted a crossways for the transmission of this culture. The main reason is that Calabria, not only welcomed in its lands monks fleeing from the East, but, with the departure of the Calabrian monks towards the East, also helped intensify cultural exchanges, giving life to a real process of cultural religious and linguistic renewal, and drove the native population to evolve, while still retaining the basic origin of a classical Greek culture that has its roots in the past ofMagna Graecia.

The research, promoted by the PAU Department, of the University of Studies 'Mediterranea' of Reggio Calabria, starts from the study of migration flows that involved the Eastern hermit Monasticism in the extreme Southern Italy from the seventh century A.D.

It therefore consists of movements of Greek-Calabrian monks whom, from Southern Italy, started out on their way toward the East, thus allowing the consolidation "of interactive movements of people as well as multidimensional, continuous, and reciprocal exchanges of goods, ideas, knowledge and values between peoples, countries, regions or continents over significant periods of time" and therefore creating a 'cultural bridge' between East and West.

The research intends to connect the cultural heritage, material and immaterial, of Countries that apparently, because of political, religious and cultural aspects, seem to have very little in common, but instead grow out of universal cultural roots, thus allowing the States involved to work on a common project on the theme of the centrality of man and his quest for knowledge beyond religious, political and cultural beliefs.

Starting from the assumption that each of the elements of the Mediterranean constitutes a melting pot of values, the proposed combination of tangible and intangible testimonies present on the territories analysed, besides strengthening the message of the past, reaffirms the contemporary conception of cultural heritage as resource for an endurable social and economic development for the communities involved favouring a possible positive development of cultural tourism.

The study also makes use of the sheets (elaborated by the research group LaborEst) on the Byzantine presence in ten Mediterranean Cities: Mersin (Turkey), Farmagosta (Cyprus), Latakia (Syria), Tripoli (Lebanon), Haifa (Israel), Port Said (Egypt), Bengasi (Libya), Thessaloniki (Greece), Larissa (Greece), Reggio Calabria (Italy), La Valletta (Malta). They include the location of the Countries of reference, their historical and cultural aspects, geographic description, information on administration, sites of historical and artistic interest, places to visit.

Intercultural dialogue represents one of the challenges of the contemporary world and at the same time one of the fundamental human values to build a world of peace and prosperity. In our current historical times the Mediterranean is witnessing the re-emergence of its role as the pulsating heart of the encounter and clash of cultures, and the creation of a 'cultural path' capable of highlighting the common cultural roots of these regions, exalting

their positive values, can come to constitute an essential element for dialogue in the horizon of 'Mare nostrum' and offer further possibilities for the aggregation of local communities, bind by shared historical roots, and once also linked by prolific commercial exchanges.


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