Journées européenes du patrimoine 2012: 15-16 September

le weekend

This weekend, several of the city’s often inaccessible markers of French and European heritage will be open to the public.

On the 15th and 16th, France’s Ministry of Culture runs an initiative to grant access to sites of European Heritage in keeping with a wider European Commission and Council of Europe ‘joint action’.

While the event is European wide, the ‘Journées européenes du patrimoine’ (European Heritage Days) were actually conceptualised in France in the mid 80s with the rest of Europe gradually taking on the concept and localising it.

In Paris, a whole range of sites (over 300 options) including the Élysée and the Assembly Nationale will be open to the public. (A site in French offers information on what is on offer through the ‘programme’ tab on the top right corner that leads to an advanced search engine – click here)

Waxing Philosophical: European heritage beyond the weekend

The concept of reflecting on a shared European heritage is an important one. In doing so, one most certainly bumps into Christianity at the very core of what has been (arguably) the single most important force in shaping the politics, culture and social mores of European societies. (This is not mentioned here to advocate for one religion over the other – but merely as an observation).

The birth and survival of France – and indeed of modern Paris owes a lot to pre-revolution Catholic figures who gave the city its architecture, reputation and vibrancy over centuries. Incidentally, France used to hold the title of being the ‘first daughter of the (Catholic) church’.

In an age of pluralism, one could wonder how to appreciate European heritage and in particular its embedded-ness in Christianity from the times of Constantine onward. The task becomes more complex in trying to reconcile Europe’s heritage with the present day.

Among my circle of Parisian friends, I have observed two dominant trends: one that seems to simply erase France’s religious roots on one hand. Under this denialist school, Clothilde, Clovis, Genevieve are virtually non existent and maybe even mythical figures. On the other hand, I often pick up discomfort and borderline embarrassment with the past that often translates into a complete demonisation of all that preceded revolution. But, this could only mean that perhaps I need to widen my circle and meet other people – my research sample is too small to arrive at any conclusions!

In any case, perhaps this weekend needs to be enjoyed for the beauty of what will be on offer – it would be a pity to go through the weekend with a cloud of pensive musings on where European heritage stands today. Perhaps such torturous patterns of thinking are best harboured in a depressing little café in the Left bank – ah, now that’s a thought.