Cradles of European Culture – Francia Media

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The idea of Europe as a cultural space has not yet materialized into the field of cultural heritage. Travelling through member states one is not explicitly reminded of our common past when visiting museums or heritage sites. However, cultural heritage lends itself well to give symbolic expression to the shared cultural past of these countries. It might present the much needed impetus to drive the process of forging greater unity. Also, it will stimulate crossfertilisation of ideas and practices and create new interest in commonalities by the general public and politicians.

The Cradles of European Culture (CEC) project will attempt to start a process to change this situation. Conceptualized as a pilot project, this initiative will involve existing European heritage institutions as vehicles for promoting an awareness of our common heritage. Ten institutions in eight countries will launch an European network that will focus on a historical period that is emblematic of the formative decades of Europe: the Early Middle Ages, when the idea of ‘Europe’ was founded. With the aim of creating a brand for the activities and products of the CEC project the central part of Europe, known around 8501050 AD as Francia Media, will serve as the underlying carrier of meaning and field of study. Francia Media will be the ‘trademark’ of the CEC project.


Francia Media once belonged to the impressive realm of Charlemagne, which after the death of his son Louis the Pious was divided into three parts by the treaty of Verdun in 843: East Francia (later Germany), West Francia (later France) and Middle Francia or Francia Media in between (present countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia). The historical core of Francia Media contained early Mediaeval Europe’s most important north-south route that linked the Mediterranean with the North Sea as far as culture, communication, technology and economy were concerned. Here the Romanesque, Germanic and Slavonic worlds met: a confrontation resulting in a great cultural diversity (e.g. the rich variety of languages). The Renaissance and Humanism found fertile soil here. Sadly enough the area saw many nationalistic conflicts culminating dramatically in the 20th century. But it was also along this corridor and in that very same 20th century that the idea ‘Europe’ was launched. The countries that signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and thus founded the EEC are all part of the historical territory of Francia Media.

This Carolingian transit zone between north and south therefore offers ideal opportunities for European citizens to join in shaping a concrete European identity in all of its unity and diversity. The different fields of action (archaeology, history, art history, architecture, cultural landscapes, heritage interpretation and tourism) will cooperate within a research agenda, structurally stimulated by the participating heritage institutions.


This approach reflects the spirit of the European Heritage Label and complements the Council of Europe’s European Cultural Routes Scheme, which promotes the idea of greater unity and the sharing of common European values.

Croatia is represented in the project by Crkvina near the town of Knin, archaeological historical site of exceptional national importance: it was the centre of Croatian kings in the early Middle Ages. Archaeological investigation taken by Museum of Croatian Archeological Monuments from Split exposed occupation phases e.g. early Mediaeval burial site with graves of Frankish origin and a basilica which can be compared to architecture in Francia Media. Church was mausoleum of one of the Croatian dynasties in the 9th century. Liturgical furnishing found on the site present the most valuable collection of preromanesque sculpture and inscriptions in Croatia.


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