2.4 Medieval Europe: Christendom (the cross) opposed to Islam (the crescent)

Constructions of European integration and collective society make extensive use of the medieval period, drawing upon both archaeology and architecture but also grounded in Christendom and opposition to a perceived Islamic threat from the east. Remains of the medieval cultural landscape persist in contemporary landscapes in the form of historic monuments such as cathedrals and castles. These monumental features of the landscape reflect the two most powerful influences in medieval society. The church and the ruling elite in medieval society had a symbiotic relationship through which both wielded power. This power was not simply expressed in the landscape by cathedrals, monasteries or castles; it was also reflected in the settlement pattern of towns and villages. Many of the meanings symbolised in the medieval landscape reflected the profound influence of religion on medieval culture and have since been lost or diluted. The contemporary opposition between Orientalism and Globalism (Said 1978; Turner 1994) still remains and has its roots in the medieval conflict between Christendom and Islam.

A number of projects financed under the Culture 2000 programme have used the medieval period to evoke a common European culture, for eaxample: Foreigners in the early Medieval Migration - Integration - Acculturation and Hidden Heritage in Mediaeval European Cathedrals.

Many Culture 2000 projects make trans-national and integration issues part of their design. Research projects emanating from the Council of Europe are even more rooted in the concept of collective European memory, particularly the projects funded by the European Institute for Cultural Routes. Among these projects we find a number built around medieval pilgrim routes such as that to the Santiago di Compostela The medieval pilgrim route is clearly a rich source of potential symbolism, taking medieval pan-European routes to foster integration in the present European Community.

The Viking Age has also been seen as a period in which Europe was united within a common maritime culture which linked it closely with Scandinavia, justifying the incorporation of the modern Scandinavian nations within an enlarged European Union. Post-Glasnost, the European Institute for Cultural Routes, funded by the Council of Europe, also assessed the claim of some eastern European nations, such as Russia, Latvia and Poland, to Viking identity, perhaps as a precursor to further European enlargement. Examples of the European Cultural Routes programme relating to the Vikings can be seen online in the "The Baltic Area" and in published form through the Follow the Vikings guide (Carlsson and Owen 1996). Vikings provide convenient European ancestors, with a vibrant artistic and oral tradition, and a natural talent for navigation and exploration. They can also be credited with the development of European trade, and the establishment of a Baltic and North Sea free trade zone. Since they were rapidly converted to Christianity in most of the countries where they settled, their earlier paganism can also be forgiven.


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