ICOMOS 13th General Assembly Meetings of the International Scientific Committees. December, 2002 . Madrid, Spain

Scientific meeting of the International Committee on Cultural Routes (CIIC) on “THE CONCEPTUAL AND SUBSTANTIVE INDEPENDENCE OF CULTURAL ROUTES IN RELATION TO CULTURAL LANDSCAPES” (Madrid,  4 de diciembre, 2002)

CONSIDERATIONS AND RECOMMENDATION Submitted to the ICOMOS 13th General Assembly at its plenary session held on 5 December 2002, morning.


Presentation: The ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Cultural Routes was officially created in 1998 and its Statues were adopted according to the Eger Principles. Its 65 members are from the different regions of the world (53 voting members and 12 associate members). For the last 6 years the CIIC has organised and held 8 international seminars and conferences and their conclusions and other working documents have been put on the ICOMOS website (see pages devoted to ISCs at At the same time, the CIIC has achieved the publication of several books[i]. A part of the doctrinal principles, conceptual aspects, studies and projects carried out until now by the CIIC are described in its last publication, entitled “The Intangible Heritage and other aspects of Cultural Routes”. This book has been freely distributed to participants at the ICOMOS 13th General Assembly in Madrid (copies were available at the stand of Navarra in the exhibit on cultural heritage held on the first floor). On December 4th, elections for the CIIC new Board of Directors were held (see attached document), as well as a scientific meeting, with presentations followed by discussion, on “The conceptual and substantive independence of Cultural Routes in relation to Cultural Landscapes”.


Actual context and position: As it has been made evident in numerous scientific meetings of the CIIC, a conceptual and operative vacuum exists regarding the essence, significance and scope of cultural routes, which tend to be erroneously confused with something so different, comparatively static and small in scale as cultural landscapes. The magnitude of this misconception is evidenced by the fact that even now cultural routes are referred to as “linear cultural landscapes” in official nomenclature, a term which is both an “immobilist” or tradition-bound negation of their true nature and a fundamental conceptual mistake.

Thus, taking into account that cultural routes encompasses diverse significant interventions in time,  in space, and in the landscapes that are valued as cultural landscapes, the following conclusion was adopted at the international congress of the ICOMOS CIIC on “The Intangible Heritage and other aspects of Cultural Routes”(Pamplona, Navarra, Spain. June, 2001): “1.3. Cultural routes and cultural landscapes are different scientific concepts. Cultural routes are characterised by their mobility and involve intangible and spatial dynamics not possessed by a cultural landscape, which is more static and restricted in nature, although it also possesses characteristics that develop over time. A cultural route usually encompasses many different cultural landscapes. A cultural landscape is not dynamic in a geographical context as vast as that which may potentially be covered by a cultural route. A cultural route may have generated  and continue to generate cultural landscapes, but the opposite does not occur.”


Considerations: With the aim of implementing the ICOMOS scientific work and also to inform the General Assembly on the progress made by the CIIC in the development of conceptual aspects and doctrinal principles,  the following considerations were taken into account and a  final recommendation adopted at the CIIC scientific meeting held in Madrid on 4 December 2002, and presented to the Assembly on the next day: 

1. Cultural routes reveal a new conceptual approach to cultural heritage and entail an immaterial and dynamic dimension, which largely exceeds their material contents.

2. Cultural routes can not be generated nor defined through the cultural elements included in their way –such as monuments, historic towns, cultural landscapes, etc.-  but instead, they are the dynamic motor whose movement or historic thread has generated – or continues to generate- those cultural elements.

3. Thus, from a logical and scientifically rigorous point of view, it can not be admitted that cultural routes are “linear” or “not linear” cultural landscapes, which even when are located within the path of a cultural route, may be completely different or geographically isolated and very distant from each other.


References: See below[ii]



It is therefore recommended that the ICOMOS 13th General Assembly recognises that a cultural route is not just a sum of its many elements, i.e., historic towns, cultural landscapes, sites, etc., but really incorporates the intangible historic spirit that ties these elements into a single whole.


María Rosa Suárez-Inclán

President of the ICOMOS CIIC

Madrid, 5 December 2002

[i] The Government of La Rioja published the complete proceedings of the seminar on C.R of Vine and Wine held in Santo Domingo de La Calzada (1999): “Actas de las I Jornadas Internacionales de Expertos en Protección y Promoción de Bienes Culturales sobre el Itinerario Cultural de la Vid y del Vino en los Pueblos del Mediterráneo ». The Xunta de Galicia also published a book on historic public works in the Camino de Santiago, which includes an introduction with the CIIC history and philosophy (2000): “Obras Públicas en Galicia al servicio del Camino”. Another book including the complete scientific proceedings of the seminar held in Pamplona in 2001 was published by the Government of Navarra and distributed to participants at the 13th GA (2002): “The Intangible Heritage and other aspects of Cultural Routes”.


[ii]   References: Extracts from the CIIC “corpus doctrinae” elaborated in previous scientific meetings:


“In addition to a material reality, cultural routes act as a channel through which the communicating vessels of the civilizing process have flowed. Multiple back and forth flows issuing from different points along its path have taken place over the course of history, which have provided enriching contributions for the whole. This vital fluid of culture is manifested in the spirit and traditions making up the intangible heritage of cultural routes. Hence, together with material or tangible heritage items, these routes make up a melting pot of immaterial items that explain the soul of peoples. If through the study and promotion of a cultural route we can make that deep essence serve as a space for reencounters, we will have made a fundamental contribution to overcoming some of the great scourges that continue to plague humanity: racism, segregation, discrimination, isolationism, lack of solidarity, barriers to information and knowledge, etc. Through cultural routes understood as dynamizing elements of society, historic heritage may be considered in its living dimension, as a pillar of comprehensive and sustainable development.”


“The new concept encompassed by cultural routes may provide conservation policy with a territorial breadth, cultural integrity and harmonization of actions and contents that has seldom been accomplished up to now.

The first consequence of this greater scale is a cultural linking between peoples, cities, regions and continents. This breadth of scale is important from the point of view of the territory and comprehensive management of the diverse heritage items included in it, but also constitutes an alternative to a process of cultural homogenization. From this perspective, cultural routes become a potential means for reencountering a history and geography whose content has been weakened, a way to recover the time and spaces characteristic to each culture. They also provide the opportunity of sharing a common cultural space and linking the territory with an intangible heritage dear to the traditional life of the communities along its route.

Each and every people has contributed knowledge and culture which, owing to the multiplying effect of exchanges, have gradually been introduced to the rest of humankind, adopting its own forms and characteristics in each case. Analysis and interpretation of these cross-fertilizations allows our particular traits and characteristics to be affirmed, while simultaneously providing us with a more comprehensive image of ourselves.”


“The status of the cultural heritage of many cultural routes today is worrying. Their cultural integrity has been destroyed, their common heritage has been fragmented into closed national systems, and most are little known in the world. No coordinated policies for protection and promotion of heritage exist. Economic crises, obsolete legislation in countries in transition, military and ethnic conflicts, and natural catastrophes do not only affect negatively but also pose a serious hazard for cultural heritage, which is highly vulnerable. Identification, study and promotion of cultural routes should help to put an end to this state of affairs by disseminating this new role for cultural heritage and defining for the first time ever the macrostructure of heritage within regional and international cultural routes. Heritage should be identified as a system, a united community having its own infrastructures, networks of cells, zones and centers, and not only as a mere sum of isolated national systems.”