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Conferences
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The Atlas of the European Sacred Mounts, Calvaries and Devotional Complexes -
Lines of Integration and Development

Varallo, 17-19 April, 1996.

The International SeminarAtlante dei Sacri Monti, Calvari e Complessi devozionali europei. Linee di integrazione e sviluppo”, held in Varallo in April 1996, was an event of extreme importance in the history of the Sacred Mounts. That meeting, in fact, for the first time, provided the opportunity  for the numerous experts and scholars in the field, coming from many European countries, to  meet and discuss the European devotional complexes. On that occasion, moreover, the participants decided to collaborate on a study and research project to conduct a census and classify and catalogue this precious heritage, which unites religious art, devotion, history and the natural environment.

There is no question that the Sacred Mounts have cultural roots that are common to many European Countries, and the publication in 2001 of theAtlas of the Sacred Mounts, Calvaries and Devotional Complexes  (Atlante dei Sacri Monti, Calvari e Complessi devozionali europei), by the Documentation Centre - that identifies and describes 1,812 devotional complexes scattered in twenty nations, marks a decisive path in the

Ecce Homo

evolution towards the cultural valorisation of these monumental sites.
The Atlas was started in 1994 as a coordinated project between the Sacred Mounts and the Councils for Culture and Parks of the Piemonte Region. The purpose of the study was to verify, through a detailed search in a great part of Europe, which structures were similar to the Sacred Mounts of Piemonte and Lombardia.

The inquiry began in 1995 with a questionnaire sent out to over 2,000 institutional referents in foreign countries; it was divided into four areas of interest: historical (chronological, devotional), artistic (materials, techniques), environmental (vegetation, landscape) and managerial (safeguards, funding and fruition). Particular attention was dedicated to the topographical and urban characteristics of the locations.

The meeting held in Varallo in 1996 was the occasion for discussions among organisations and scholars of the various European Countries. Out of twenty-four speeches, only four were of Italian speakers; the others were foreign exponents coming from Germany, Holland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Luxemburg, Ireland, Spain, France, Switzerland and the Slovak Republic.

For many of the participants, the Varallo appointment was the chance to integrate their knowledge and establish friendly relationships that have continued through the years. The speakers included young researchers and also well-known experts. Among the first group already working in research: Darina Arce, Maria Bastowska, Elżbieta Bilska-Wodecka, Martin Čičo, Maria Gonzales Lopez, Wim Meulenkamp, Paulina de Nijs, Silvia Paulusová, Francisco Singul, Gerry Walsh. The second group, experts who have published specific studies, included Walter Brunner, Heinz Horat, Alex Langini, Peter Margry, Anna Mitkowska, István Szilágyi. Finally, there was also the active participation of many officials and administrators who were responsible for running and caring for the devotional complexes of their cities.

Some of the participants in this meeting collaborated then in preparing the Atlas of devotional sites: “Atlante dei Sacri Monti, Calvari e Complessi devozionali europei”, published in 2001 by the Istituto Geografico DeAgostini of Novara, Italy, and later worked also on the magazine ATLAS,  published by the Documentation Centre.


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