The collaborative research project was established on 1 September 2010 under the EuroCORECODE programme of the European Science Foundation. The project is funded by 4 National Research Councils of the Humanities, from Denmark, Austria, Estonia, and Norway, with a Hungarian team supported by the Hungarian Research Council as an associated partner: The project thus involves the teams from the universities and institutes of Copenhagen (Denmark), Krems (Austria), Tallinn (Estonia), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Trondheim, Norway), and the Central European University in Budapest (Hungary).

The project asserts that a key to understanding the development of regional identities lies in the tension between specifically formulated regional traditions and trans-regional impulses as also influenced by general concerns of different levels of authority. On the whole, the project applies a reception historical point of view since the relevant cultural changes, revisions or transformations can primarily be studied as local appropriations of materials or structures transmitted over centuries. In the project, questions concerning regional identity are approached through the prism of saints’ cults, which affected all aspects of medieval and early modern life. The collaborative project will be the first to investigate the significance of saints in the interactive context of regional and trans-regional identities.

The project consists of five self-contained, interrelated subprojects focusing on different European regions and overlapping but different periods altogether spanning the Middle Ages, the Early Modern and Modern periods.

Project Leader of the Collaborative Research Project: Centre Leader, Associate Professor Dr. Nils Holger Petersen, Copenhagen,

As already mentioned, basic strategies of the collaborative research project are in the end connected to the idea of cultural memory. This notion has been introduced (or rather re-introduced by Jan and Aleida Assmann in publications, especially since the 1980s). The cultural memory is not a memory in the usual sense of the word. The notion concerns various physical as well as mental repositories which are usually institutionalized in modern societies for what this society – or group, locality, region, or overarching universal network – has accepted as indispensable historical, cultural, political and/or religious objects and features. This could and would, for instance, also be the saints venerated in a particular area. In terms of saints’ cults, the Virgin Mary even in a Protestant culture belongs to the remembered saints, as seen, for instance, in the preservation of names of churches and names, also for feast days in calendars. Such a cultural memory is not a matter of individual choice, but rather the result of a complex interaction between broadly received individual opinions and institutionally − politically − determined agendas.

In the CULTSYMBOLS project, then, such discourses are being studied, pointing to important ways in which various forms of identity are being negotiated in different groups of societies, in local, regional or larger National, trans-regional contexts, and how saintly figures were able to or were subjected to manipulations/appropriations/domestications or transformations that made them easier to identify with and sometimes simply constructed them in ways to make them function as markers of different kinds of identity. In broad ways, it is not difficult to see how this could happen. The project will discuss and demonstrate the concrete ways in which this happened to substantiate and nuance the broader ideas which constituted the basis for the construction of the project.