EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS26. Architectural Heritage and National Discourse. Appropriating the Historic Monuments into the National Narratives in the 'Long' 19th Century (ca. 1789-1914)

Coordinators: Dragan Damjanovic (, Aleksander Lupienko (

The 'long' 19th century saw a change in the way architectural objects from distant past were viewed by the contemporaries. Such edifices as churches, castles, or chapels, were not only admired for their aesthetic values, but also for the role they had played in the past, or their role as reminders of glorious national histories. Medieval catholic cathedrals, Orthodox churches, former royal seats etc. were researched, promoted in art history books, cared for, restored, rebuilt or completed, sometimes after centuries of neglect. It was, on the one hand, the romantic movement, which shifted human attention towards the past and made the minds more historically conscious. On the other hand, it was national revival, which created a specific intellectual atmosphere, in which all the material elements constituting a territory ceased to be emotionally neutral. Historic edifices started also to be regarded as another type of written source, supporting the national narratives.
In this age of historization, also some cities became particularly important for nationalism-marked discourse. These new or old cultural hubs were presented as the state cradles, the evidence of a nation’s cultural hegemony, or sometimes as a source for future national revival. Such roles could be played by e.g. Cologne for Germans, Florence for Italians, Pozsony (Bratislava) for Slovaks and Hungarians, Dalmatian cities for Croats, Prague for Czechs, Cracow for Poles and Vilnius for Lithuanians and Poles .
This topic is in line with the contemporary fields of new research over the history of science, and national entanglements of the scientists, in this case, the architectural and art historians. It also draws inspiration from the scholarly research over deconstructing the 19-century national process and the so-called 'spatial turn'.
We would like to address issues such as the process of building national myths around certain architectural objects; the history of their examination, evaluation and propagation; the debates accompanying their preservation and restructuring, as well as the issue of holding national ceremonies within their walls. Of particular interest are the objects, and cities that were deemed crucial for more than one ethnicity or state, and the struggles waged over their national ‘identity’. The questions which we would like to address include the issue of to what extent these debates were based on scientific arguments and evidence, and how much they were entangled into the national discourses? What tools were used to define nationally these edifices, or cities, and to mark them unambiguously? Can we describe the historic-artistic classification of architectural objects in Europe as a sort of appropriation, or splitting them between rising nations (a kind of ‘inner colonization’ of architectural objects)? And, what role was played by architectural heritage in the process of national revivals, and ethnic conflicts in the empires of the Central and Eastern Europe?
Keywords: architecture; historic monuments; national narrative; national discourse