“Holy Places of Undivided Christianity“ Route Concept
We call upon Christians of Western and Eastern Europe
to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel,
so that Europe may preserve its soul,
shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill,
Havana (Cuba), 12 February 2018
When we talk about the world’s united cultural space
it is not that important where the book is located physically
but it is very important that it is located where it should be.
director of the Library for Foreign Literature (1993-2015)
Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe
In 1987 the Council of Europe launched the program “Cultural Routes of Europe”. Cultural Routes are “cultural, educational heritage and tourism cooperation projects, aiming at the development and promotion of an itinerary or a series of itineraries based on a historic route, a cultural concept, figure of phenomenon with a transnational importance and significance for the understanding and respect of common European values”. The goal of the program is to demonstrate the contribution of different European countries in the united cultural heritage of the continent through informative trips.
Only a cultural route that fully meets all special criteria may be considered for the Council of Europe certification. The main requirements for the theme are such that it should be relevant to European values, common for several European countries and it should offer opportunities for youth exchange programs. “Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes” was the first certified route. 40 routes covering all European states are now available in the program.
Cultural Routes program of the Council of Europe is supervised by the European Institute of Cultural Routes with the headquarters in Luxembourg. The Russian Federation joined the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe in 2012. So far, the RF participates in several Pan-European cultural-touristic projects.
“Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” history
In July 2017 the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation initiated the creation of an international cultural route, dedicated to an important topic for European states, for its following certification by the European Institute of Cultural Routes. On the proposal of the All-Russian State Library for Foreign Literature named after Margarita Rudomino, it was decided to dedicate the route to cultural and spiritual Christian sites, underlining the unity of cultural-spiritual space of Europe.
The idea was born as a result of the first meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, which took place in Havana (Cuba) on the 12th of February 2016 and became not only a turning point in the relationships between two major Christian churches of the world – Roman-Catholic and Russian Orthodox, but also a bright spot in the world history.
The Ministry of Culture of Russia provides full support to the project. Moreover, “Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” won a grant from the President of the Russian Federation to assist creative projects of national importance in culture and the arts in 2018.
The coordinating centre for work on pan-European cultural route became the Library for Foreign Literature – one of the most respected and well-known Russian cultural institutions, which mainly visited by young readers, has functioning cultural centres of many countries, carries out an educational and public awareness activities, pays much attention to the study of religious culture, enhancement of inter-Christian and interreligious relations.
Under the requirements of the European Institute of Cultural Routes for creation of network organisation, which is responsible for the route and located in several member states of the Council of Europe, in July 2018 the Library for Foreign Literature and the Interregional Union of Tour Operators established the Association of Specialists in the Field of Cultural Routes “Holy Places of Undivided Christianity”.
Preparation and presentation of the world’s first cultural route through the main cultural and religious sites of Europe, comprising the united Christian heritage.
To demonstrate accessibly and visibly that one of the main uniting factors for European countries is still Christian cultural heritage. It is a particularly topical issue in the context of present-day debates about national identity and multiculturalism.
Cultural route “Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” includes the most valuable objects, from the historical, cultural and spiritual perspectives:
- ancient books and manuscript collections (before 1700), connected with the Saints of undivided Church (those who lived before the split of Christianity into western and eastern branches in 1054), reflecting cultural, historical and philosophical aspects of shared Christian history and inter-Christian dialogue;
- museum collections, concerning the history of the Church before the schism in the middle of 11th century, life and veneration of common Christian saints;
- places of life and activity of historical and cultural figures, who played an important role in the rapprochement between Christian branches;
- cathedrals, chapels and monasteries, which were named after the saints of undivided Church and where the relics and icons of these saints are kept.
In the framework of the project, certain travel offers (mini-routes) are developed – logically arranged plans for visiting sites linked by a specific theme: one geographical point, region, country, several states, historical figure, event or period.
- an interesting and well-founded topic (agreed with the project manager);
- list of objects (considered and approved by the Scientific council of the project);
- brief descriptions of objects (highly comprehensible, with interesting facts and stories);
- recommendations for nearby hotels.
Examples of routes: “Lavra – Zvenigorod Rus – New Jerusalem”, “The Third Rome of St. Nicholas” (holy places of Moscow and the Moscow region, connected with Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker), “Heritage of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Slovakia and the Czech Republic”, “Valaam” (see: http://travelholyplaces.org/en/routes/).
Selection criteria for project objects
- Direct relevance to the saints of undivided Christian Church, various (not theological) aspects of the Christian history of Europe before 1054 or the dialogue between Christian faiths.
- A saint (or saints), connected with the object, should not be negatively associated by any Christian confession (for example: a saint of the Western Church who criticised the Eastern Church).
- Saints, historical and cultural figures, well-known across Europe, are more preferable.
- The object should demonstrate nor only religious, but also cultural and historical value, and should be considered of interest by churched and unchurched people, followers of other religions and atheists.
- The object should be located in a place with convenient infrastructure (in case of specific importance of the object, it may be located in a hard-to-reach place).
- At least 2-3 hotels should be available in its relative proximity.
Pertinence of the theme
It is an undeniable fact that Christianity for Europe is a spiritual foundation, shaping national mentality, nurturing culture and forming concepts of social and civil structures.
The split of the Christian church into Western and Eastern branches in 1054 affected the entire history of humanity. The issue of rapprochement of the Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants has been discussed for centuries. The meeting of Pope Francis with Patriarch Kirill in 2016 has propelled the discussion of inter-Christian cooperation to the new level. In the context of the complicated international environment, the interaction of Christians of different faiths is of utmost importance.
Section 16 of the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill reads: “The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood-soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as an earnest of peace and security. Nevertheless, we caution against such integration which is devoid of respect for religious identities. Being open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Western and Eastern Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition”.
These days, one of the most efficient and popular tools for presentation and popularization of the united spiritual and cultural space of the Old World – a strong basis of pan-European consciousness – is an informative journey.
The route “Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” is a strictly public project, it does not touch upon theological debates. However, we find it necessary to enhance better mutual knowledge of different Christian confessions through the means of culture and enlightenment. Nevertheless, since Christian heritage is the property of all mankind, our project is addressed as well to the followers of other religions, and to people, who do not identify themselves with any religious tradition.
Among the 40 certified cultural routes of the Council of Europe, nine are dedicated to the topics from Christian history and culture (including the first in terms of creation time and popularity –“Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes”). The Christian theme is also traced in a series of other routes. However, the “Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” project has the widest informative and geographical coverage.
There are over 1,3 billion of Catholics, 800 million of Protestants and approximately 300 million of Orthodox people in the world. The majority of them are living in Europe. In our days, pilgrimage remains one of the main touristic directions. It is easily proved if we recall the excitement in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg caused in May-July 2017 by the arrival of Nicholas the Wonderworker’s relics – the most famous and celebrated Christian saint. For the first time in 930 years, the relics of St. Nicholas left of Bari (Italy). Over two million people came to worship them in Russia.
In our case, it is about, first of all, an informative and enlightening route, not a pilgrimage. The project focuses on a wide audience, though mostly on the youth, as it concerns introduction to traditions and values (particularly through communication and research in a mixed-age group).
Project work areas
1. Preservation of cultural heritage.
Book collections in fields of history and culture of Christianity are in the centre of our attention. It is explained not only by the fact that the Library for Foreign Literature supervises the work on routes and that there are many libraries among the project participants but as well by the fact that the Word is a key notion for Christianity.
Preservation and popularization of humanity’s book treasury, as well as of holy places with a special historical and cultural significance, – is an important task of the project, which is accomplished through various events, aimed at the formation of the civic responsibility for cultural heritage for the next generations.
2. Education and enlightenment.
The educational prospect of the project is multifaceted – it covers history, literature, fine arts, architecture, geography, archaeology, music, libraries and museums, theology, modern and ancient languages.
Cultural tourism accounts for almost half of the world’s tourism. Nowadays, when young people are losing the habit and even the skill of reading, it is extremely useful to explain to them in a comprehensive and entertaining form an everlasting significance of a book. It is important to introduce the youth to the spiritual heritage and universal concepts, embodied in Christianity. In this context trips to the places of educational and esthetic interest present many opportunities.
3. Research involvement.
“Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” project demonstrates the prospects for interaction between science and religion to explore and understand the role that objects of the united Christian cultural heritage played for our civilization. These objects require careful attention in the terms of historical data, their origins, typology, descriptions, which could be used later as theoretical and methodological materials for educational literature.
The use of research tools and mechanisms will allow the project to develop in a variety of areas and to become, as a result, popular with a wide audience. The participation of the scientific society representatives in the development, realization and promotion of the route will help to enhance its intellectual resource, to fix fundamental definitions and concepts, which will be the basis of the detailed catalog-guidebook.
4. Introduction of innovative tools for the presentation of the united Christian heritage.
A significant part of the project is a presentation of its content in the digital environment, which is the source of information for the modern mass audience, including representatives of student, scientific and educational communities.
“Holy Places of Undivided Christianity” project accomplishes its tasks relying on traditional forms, but at the same time, it applies modern standards of information presentation and constant improvement of the resources for a third-party user. Thus, the project uses various media platforms (website travelholyplaces.org, social media, online-resources on a related topic), digital and audio-visual tools to enhance knowledge about shared Christian cultural heritage in a modernized form, accessible for any device.
Stages of project execution
- Research on finding cultural heritage sites following the criteria of “Holy places of Undivided Christianity” project.
- Scientific council assessment of the cognitive value and touristic potential of the proposed sites.
- Preparation and approval of thematic routes.
- Placement of the routes on the official website of the “Holy places of Undivided Christianity” project http://travelholyplaces.org/ru/home.
- Transfer of the digital catalog-guidebook, composed from thematic routes, into travel partner companies.
- Integration of the route into thematic Internet portals (Booking.com, Airbnb.com, etc).
- Application submission for the European Institute of Cultural Routes certification.
- Obtaining the status of the first Russian project, included into the European Council program “Cultural Routes”.
- Further development of the project content and its presence in catalogues of travel agencies.