URBS – Project funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union, MSCA IF, Grant Agreement number: 883280

Call for Paper presentations at the International Conference/Workshop

Historic Urban Landscape of European Cathedral Cities


Public perceptions and understanding of the medieval city

University of Girona (Spain)

Department of History and Art History

21-22  May 2021

The workshop will be virtual on Zoom

Deadline for submission:

1 May 2021

We welcome paper presentations from doctoral students, early-career and established scholars archaeologists, art historians, historians, curators, geographers and anthropologists of heritage and tourism. Discussants will be members of TEMPLA and guest speakers. Please, download the call below:

The term cathedral city indicates an urban settlement that became an Episcopal see in Antiquity or early in the medieval period, and was developed during the 11th to the 15th century. These were formative centuries for European cities, during which a concentration of religious and secular powers and of social and economic forces shaped the form of the urban built environment and redefined its cultural meanings through social practices of space. Sacred and secular space were intertwined in the medieval city: cathedrals were not only religious institutions, but also powerful jurisdictions and landlords; on the other hand, the activities of civic communalities and of political powers were embedded in the religious sphere. Therefore, this definition of a cathedral city puts no particular emphasis on the cathedral building itself nor on an exclusively religious landscape, but rather considers a medieval idea of urban space. This was one of the central themes of the recently concluded project Landscape and Identitarian Heritage of Europe: Cathedral Cities as Living Memories [2015ACUP 00059 IP G. Boto. UdG; URV; HUJI; UNINA], which allows to set some of the research questions of this workshop.

The concept of Historic Urban Landscape (UNESCO 2011) considers the multy-layered nature of the urban environment, both in chronology and in themes, and promotes the informed conservation of the tangible and intangible heritage of cities. This is equally relevant for heritage managers, who make decisions about managing change in the urban environment, and scholars studying the city’s past, providing the understanding of historical and cultural values, which is the bedrock of any conservation decisions.

Past presencing is an idea developed in the last decades by social anthropologists interested in cultural heritage (Macdonald 2013). In particular, Hetherington (2013) explores  how heritage gets made, remade and unmade within the city.

Considering the ideas above, the aims of this workshop are to discuss how the public, inhabitants and visitors, perceive and unserstand the medieval heritage (tangible and intangible) of the cathedral city. Contributions exploring this topic from different approaches, disciplines and sources are welcome. Some of the themes to be explored, but not excluding other suggestions, are:

What Middle Ages? What aspects of the tangible and intangible medieval past are valued and highlighted in the city and why? These could be buildings, street space, documents, secular and religious themes, events and people. Have particuar periods of the history of the city or areas within the city  been privileged? How the attention to the medieval layer compares with other historical layers? Have ideas of cultural value changed in time? What about forgotten, excluded and denied heritage? 

Dialogues with Antiquity. The critical study of the memory of Antiquity and of the symbolic and political reuse of building materials in medieval cities had a revival in Italy in the 1980s (Settis ed. 1984-1986) and had since been a fertile research ground. Here the focus is to understand if and how these ideas have reached the public.  How is the public aware of and perceives the permanence of vestiges of antiquity within the urban landscape? How is the medieval preservation, reuse and imitation of Roman material explained to the public? How is later clearance of medieval phases to privilege the phases of Antiquity explained to the pubblic? How is this dialogue with Antiquity expressed in cities not of antique origins?

European heritage? It could be argued thatcathedral cities are one of the defining carachter of European culture. They have similarities in their landscapes that originated from a common history. However, to what an extent individual cities are understood by the public as uniquely local, regional or national heritage, rather than part of a wider and shared European heritage?

Presentations will be 30 minutes long. You will be asked to pre-record your voice on each slide of the PowerPoint presentation.  The PowerPoints will be circulated ahead of the workshops and the time on Zoom will be used for debate.

Please send a paper proposal/abstract of 250 words and a short CV/resume’ (no more that 1 page) to the organisers by 01/05/2021 :

Contact organisers:

Dr Stefania Merlo Perring

Dr Gerardo Boto Varela

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