Final report of the CULTSYMBOLS project

The CULTSYMBOLS project finished in August 2013, although some of the teams have continued in their subprojects and end later. Some joint and individual activites took place after this date and still will take place or will be realized in the upcoming months.

The main task of the collaborative research project (CRP) has been to analyse local, regional and national identity formations through saints’ cults and their various receptions in later European cultures. The project has contributed a polyphonic web of qualitative narratives concerning such identity formations in European regions. Our research has shown, in many different areas of European culture, how certain images, narratives, and to some extent practices became markers for various groups, but also how such identities themselves are dynamic, changing with time although often retaining some marker of the earlier constructed identity. Identity, of course, is a fluid notion, and the narratives, images and metaphors, characterising and differentiating one group from another, one region or Nation from another, form complex units that cannot be easily represented. What has been studied – and what is possible to study within a project like ours – are specific narratives, specific connections between groups and images, specific reception histories which each contribute to the complex of identity formation, identity preservation and, sometimes, the dissolution of such identities. In a number of case studies, important links between regional cohesion and social grouping have been emphasised, offering the basis for further comparative approaches.

The Associated Partner Budapest of the CRP initiated and took a key part in the organisation of the large international open‐call conference Cuius Patrocinio tota gaudet regio. Saints’ Cults and the Dynamics of Regional Cohesion, 18‐20 October 2012, in Dubrovnik, where all the IPs took part. Altogether 58 American and European researchers presented their papers at a dense and scientifically challenging event which gave new insights into the dynamics of the regional connectivity of saints through in‐depth explorations of the multi‐faceted nature of saints’ cults in building regional identity.

At the Leeds IMC 2013, the CRP presented 4 sessions with the overall title Symbolic Identity and the Cultural memory of Saints, I: Saints Switching Regions, II: Saints and Regions, III: Saints and Local Communities, IV: Saints in Liturgy and Preaching. This represented a final internal project conference summarising the findings of the CRP, presenting them to a large international audience and creating the basis for the main joint publication.

From the beginning, each team focused on the particular questions and tasks indicated in the work plan, of course with minor adjustments. The different materials and disciplinary approaches of the interdisciplinary CRP means that there are limits to how closely it is possible to collaborate. Centripetal collaborative methodological work and the insistence on common overall questions have been important to ensure the cohesion of the project. Also, comparative aspects and questions have occurred leading to collaborative efforts. Although each team publishes in its own way within the particular subproject in articles and individual book chapters, work on joint publications within the full CRP have been planned; these are forthcoming. This has been possible among other things through planning meetings and not through the organisation of joint sessions in Leeds, Kalamazoo (and other places).

The results always consist in specific analyses and specific historical narratives connected to specific saints, specific regions, specific conditions and historical contexts.

The results from Krems to a high extent concern visual representations of local saints expressing community consciousness, (self‐)identification, and group division; also visual representations appropriating other, e.g. universal, saints to one’s region by representing them in familiar, region‐bound or local settings, also adapting the respective messages to specific visual media and the space of the beholders.

The Trondheim team has demonstrated the relevance of chant research and methodology for the field of identity studies, establishing a new dialogue between chant studies and interdisciplinary historical research. The relevance of medieval chant in this respect had so far been completely ignored. The innovative perspective has led to a special issue of the distinguished journal Plainsong and Medieval Music (Spring 2014) where selected papers from the Music of War–conference (Trondheim, August 2012) are published.

The Tallinn team has mapped out the roles of saints (including the Virgin Mary) in Livonia, connected to the Hanseatic influence and other important historical local, regional and supra‐regional factors.

The associated Budapest team has made a systematic comparative analysis of the historical manifestations related to the cult of saints as expressions and as a formative factor in regional identities, throughout East‐Central and Northern Europe, in an all‐European context. The team has published a substantial number of sources in Latin and in English translation.

The Copenhagen team has worked on various reception histories connected to saints’ cults in the regions around Øresund and the Baltic Sea, connected to religious practices (not least pilgrimages) and specific figures and their impact in medieval wall paintings, traditional ballads, as well as other literature and music concerning specific figures (up to modern times) included impact on street names and regional folklore. A main result is the joint forthcoming (interdisciplinary) volume Saints Across the Reformation written jointly by the Copenhagen team, with current negotiations to have it published by Boydell & Brewer.


Integration into the EuroCORECODE programme:

Our CRP was very well integrated into the programme; completely fitting in to the basic idea it also supplements the generally social historical outlook of the Cuius Regio project and the sociological, geographical and anthropological outlook of the Unfamiliarity project with literary, iconographical, architectural and musical analyses supplemented by historical anthropology and comparative humanistic methods. There has been increasing interaction with the two other projects during the three years.

First, the cross‐CRP workshop “Distant Regions – Equal Patterns?” in November 2011 (organised by the Krems and Budapest teams of our CRP). An international conference in Helsinki (Oct 2011), as mentioned, also had a cross‐CRP perspective, involving CURE as well as CULTSYMBOLS, just as Carmen meetings (Tallinn Sept 10, Madrid Sept 11, Budapest Sept. 12) involved both CURE and CULTSYMBOLS. In April 2012 a cross‐CRP session and a cross‐CRP planning meeting took place at the ESSHC conference in Glasgow. In October a cross‐CRP workshop in Sønderborg was arranged by the Unfamiliarity project (although the PL of CULTSYMBOLS was the only from our CRP able to participate), still aspects of the discussions were communicated to the other members of the CRP. In March 2013, CURE arranged a cross‐CRP workshop in Alba Iulia (Romania) and increasingly, actual collaborations have come out of these workshops. A joint book is now in the process of being produced, based on the plans for the final conference of the EuroCORECODE final conference in Arnhem 29–31 August which is itself a cross‐CRP arrangement. Also Carmen Sept 2013 (Portugal) provided a possible cross‐CRP venue where probably all three CRPs will be represented.

The cross‐CRP cooperation obviously has the potential to broaden the focus of the CRP, offering alternative perspectives and visions. In our case it provides opportunities for comparisons covering many historical periods and geographical areas. It has provided interesting theoretical perspectives, not least on the notion of region, from disciplines clearly relevant but unknown to most of us within our CRP. It has, of course, offered cross‐disciplinary collaborative opportunities and given inspiring new accents on our own work (sociological and community‐oriented aspects, political and geographical features) as well as alternatives to purely historical perspectives. It also makes one conscious of internal pre‐assumptions and terminology that closes off from other academic communities than one’s own.


Most significant joint publications of the CULTSYMBOLS project:

1. Symbolic Identity and the Cultural Memory of Saints, ed. by Nils Holger Petersen, Tracey R. Sands, and Sebastian Salvado. This volume will feature 12 articles from all 5 parts of the project as well as an introduction. The book is under preparation and there are currently negotiations about publication with The Cambridge Scholars, Cambridge.

2. Cuius patrocinio tota gaudet regio: Saints’ Cults and the Dynamics of Regional Cohesion, ed. by Stanislava Kuzmová and Ana Marinković, Zagreb, Hagiotheca (forthcoming 2014).

3. Images and Objects in Ritual Practices in Medieval and Early Modern Northern and Central Europe, ed. by Krista Kodres and Anu Mänd (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013), involves articles by Anu Mänd (Tallinn IP), Gerhard Jaritz (Krems IP), and Aivar Põldvee (CURE, Tallinn IP).

4. Saints and Sainthood around the Baltic Sea: Orality, Literacy and Communication in the Middle Ages, ed. by Carsten Selch Jensen et al. (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, forthcoming). This volume resulting from an international conference in Helsinki, 2011, contains articles by 4 participants from two PIs (the full Copenhagen team and Anu Mänd from Tallinn as well as a member from the CURE project (Kurt Villads Jensen) and external scholars.

5. Music of War, special issue of Plainsong and Medieval Music, ed. by Roman Hankeln (published by Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014). This volume will feature articles by the Trondheim team and Nils Holger Petersen (Copenhagen IP) as well as external scholars.


Selected joint meetings and academic conferences of the CRP:

1. Tallinn 17–19 Sept 2010.

2. In connection with the ESF launch meeting of the EuroCORECODE programme in Copenhagen 14 Nov. 2010, also a CULTSYMBOLS opening workshop, 12–14 November 2010.

3. In the summer of 2011, the CRP organised 4 sessions in IMC Leeds 2011 (Saints’ Cults and Symbolic Identities I–IV), involving speakers and chairs from all 5 groups of the project. A business/planning meeting was also conducted during the Leeds conference.

4. At an international conference on saints in the area around the Baltic sea in Helsinki 12−14 October, organised by The Finnish Literature Society and the Dept. of Church History, Copenhagen, the CRP participated with representatives from Tallinn and the full Copenhagen team.

5. A meeting between (most of) the team members of the CRP took place in connection with a cross‐CRP workshop Distant Regions – Equal Patterns? in late November 2011, to which the Krems team had taken the initiative.

6. Project meeting in connection with the annual CARMEN‐meeting in Budapest, 6‐9 September 2012

7. The CRP organised 2 sessions at IMC Leeds (9–12 July, 2012) in which participants from the 4 IPs were represented.

8. The Krems and AP Hungary teams initiated and took key parts in the organisation of the large international open‐call conference Cuius Patrocinio tota gaudet regio. Saints’ Cults and the Dynamics of Regional Cohesion, 18‐20 October 2012 in Dubrovnik, where all the CULT SYMBOLS partners took part. The volume from the conference with over 50 contributions was awarded a Cross‐CRP Dissemination grant in 2013 and represents a major contribution to the question of the relation between saints and regions and thus ranks among the main outputs of the CRP.

9. At the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo 2013, 9‐12 May, the CRP organized a session and in addition had presentations at a number of other sessions. Copenhagen, Krems and Budapest were represented.

10. At the IMC Leeds 2013, the CRP organized 4 sessions involving all partners of the CRP. Also a business and planning meeting was carried out with respect to a planned joint book for the CRP (already discussed at previous meetings, now in preparation) as well as the project participation at the final EuroCORECODE conference and other plans for dissemination and further activities to end the project.

11. The final EuroCORECODE conference 29‐31 August in Arnhem with participation from all parts of the CRP.

12. The CRP participated at the annual Carmen meeting in O’Porto, Portugal.

13. In the fall 2013, the Budapest team organised lectures (supported by the EuroCORECODE dissemination means) from various parts of the CRP. In this case, the Budapest AP functioned as an umbrella for disseminating the results of the CRP.

14. Similarly, in November 2013, a dissemination workshop (supported by the EuroCORECODE dissemination means) took place in Copenhagen with participation of two representatives from the two other EuroCORECODE projects. The CULTSYMBOLS project participated with representatives from all its parts.

In addition to these specific events, the Budapest team has established and continuously updated the website of the CRP ( to which all project members have supplied information about the project.

List of publications to be attached.