Since its creation in 1959 and continuing after the merger of IBI with Europa Nostra in 1991, the Europa Nostra Scientific Council has constantly had as its aim "to promote and co-ordinate the scientific study of ancient structures and fortified buildings, castles and dwellings with a historic character or of their ruins, and of their associated gardens and parks".
Military constructions erected by man for defence purposes, are of major historical importance. Also, their impact on agricultural and urban landscapes is so evident that their disappearance would represent an irreversible loss of the values of our civilisation to future generations. Indeed, from the 16th century right up to the Second World War, no king or head of State, no architect or engineer could have left his mark on history without having been involved with military architecture.
The European military architecture of past ages was highly regarded in the second half of the 19th and at the beginning of 20th centuries: restorations, studies and publications by Viollet-le-Duc in France, Bodo Ebhardt in Germany, Alfredo D'Andrade and Luca Beltrami in Italy, and John Ruskin in England focused on the preservation of the original value of the constructions. However, this focus on military architecture since the last World War has disappeared, or even worse, has been seen as a symbol of tyranny and aggression, and as such to be condemned.
In this cultural climate, the first act of IBI on the day it was founded was to inaugurate a new field in the History of Art: Castellology. To this end, the Scientific Council was created in 1959 , with the aim of nourishing the new-born discipline with the necessary information and research. Our knowledge of this heritage has allowed us to highlight the cultural and technological aspects, which are part of Europe's identity.
Castellology was thus a new science and sought to eliminate romantic elements and preconceived ideas which would have distorted the real values of the military architecture: it needed to be scientifically organised. Methodology, terminology and classification were necessarily the preliminarily fields of study at European level. Afterwards, work could be undertaken to comprehend, organise and hierarchise the main elements of this heritage, with the aims of comparing and transmitting information in a form which could be used for future restoration and enhancement, both of buildings and of historic landscape.
This work has anticipated, and possibly influenced, the creation of other associations and international organisations, including ICOMOS, whose founders, and promoters were Piero Gazzola, Raymond Lemaire (both presidents of IBI Scientific Council and ICOMOS) and many other members of the Scientific Council of IBI.
At time of the merger with Europa Nostra, IBI brought it with its Restoration Fund, its public Fora and as a further major asset its Scientific Council, which, according to Sir Christopher Audland, had never been stronger. After the merger, the Scientific Council devoted its efforts to the implementation of its extensive knowledge to the conservation and enhancement of historical and cultural heritage. An important instrument for the dissemination of the results of the work carried out by the Scientific Council has been its Scientific Bulletin. From its foundation until now, around two hundred and eighty people have contributed over seven hundred articles and papers to the Bulletin, disseminating the work carried out by the Scientific Council on castellological subjects. This is a remarkable achievement considering that this new field in the History of Art was set up only half a century ago.
The Scientific Council has thus become a unique working group covering the whole of Europe and has gained an international recognition as a group specialised in the field of historical military architecture.
Nowadays, military architecture is no longer considered a matter merely for discussion amongst academics. It is taught at University level, and in Cadiz (Spain) there is the first Professorship of European Castellology. Within the Faculty of Architecture, or of Humanities, at both Bachelor and Doctorate levels theses in castellology are written. The press has covered the topic at length. In Italy, a few years ago, a series of some thirty postage stamps, depicting Medieval and Renaissance Castles, was issued.
However as far as military architecture is concerned, rapid change on the European political scene, together with the technological progress in armaments, has meant that defensive structures of the past may be seen as both numerous and obsolete. The community at large is not always prepared to preserve them, and use them for other purposes.
It is not just a matter of individual castles and fortresses, but of entire areas of cities and sections of countryside, of works and cultural landscape, which represents our common heritage. Now that this responsibility has largely been delegated to local authorities, there is a clear risk that once the original function of such large complexes of buildings and areas end, they will not be adequately maintained.
The EN Scientific Council consists of a group of experts (architects, archaeologists, art historians, historians, etc.) who are professionally involved in different conservation projects related to various fields of heritage. However, the special value of the studies, research work and advice elaborated by the Scientific Council resides in the fact that the Council has until now concentrated its efforts on the field of historical military architecture. This architecture contributed to the development of the fabric of some major parts of European towns, ranging from the medieval walls to the bastioned city walls of 19th century. The work of the Scientific Council has thus made an important contribution to the raising of awareness that this important aspect of Europe's material and immaterial heritage should be duly taken into consideration during the elaboration and implementation of town planning and conservation strategies and programmes.
As President of Scientific Council I realise that there is still a lot of work to be carried out, and that the means we have are very limited. However, I am very proud of the magnificent efforts of my colleagues, at both European and local levels, within the Institutes to which they belong and which have often been established by their own initiatives.
Although the composition of the Scientific Council has regularly changed, it remains a homogeneous group even after all these years. It is still animated by the spirit of fraternity and enthusiasm displayed by its founder mebers, all working on a voluntary basis. The Scientific Council can become the promoter of cultural and educational initiatives, offering its advise to the community concerned in order to preserve this legacy without altering structural values, or destroying their message.
The Scientific Council of Europa Nostra represents an important European working group highly specialised in historical military architecture, even though this is only a small piece in the great mosaic of the History of Art on our continent. At a time when so many decisions are mainly guided by economic considerations, the Scientific Council can help to guarantee that the creativity and the culture expressed by past generations receive the same attention and appreciation as those expressed by our own and future ones. The Scientific Council will thus continue to be a key promoter of cultural and educational initiatives throughout Europe related to the safeguard of historic military architecture. It will also encourage its members to collaborate more closely with European universities and research centres concerned, and will continue to offer its expert advice to the communities concerned. I am confident that, in this way, the Scientific Council will contribute to the survival of this important legacy that transgresses national boundaries and stretches from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic or the Baltic Sea, without altering their structural values, or destroying their message.
Prof. Arch. Gianni Perbellini
President, Scientific Council
Overview of the Scientific Council's Colloquia:
2006, Marksburg/Braubach am Rhein, Germany
- Reconstruction or new construction of medieval castles in the 19th century
2005, Sibiu, Romania
- Fortified churches and monasteries
2004, Figueres and Rosas, Catalonia, Spain
- The re-use of redundant large European military complexes
2003, Istanbul, Turkey
- Restoration and Evaluation of the Walled City of Istanbul
2002, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
- The City Walls of Chandia
2001, Kotor, Serbia and Montenegro
- The City Walls of Kotor
- Fortifications and Archaeology
1999, Troina, Sicily, (Italy)
- The Comparison Between the Mediaeval Castles of Sicily, the Mediterranean and the Rest of Europe
1998, Santarém (Portugal)
- Military Architecture: Restoration, Re-utilisation or Revitalisation?
1997, Bassano del Grappa (Italy)
- The Town Halls in the Middle Ages
1996, Copenhagen (Denmark)
- The Military Defence at Waterways
1995, Trujillo (Spain)
- Fortified Urban Houses
1994, Thessaloniki (Greece)
- The Defense of Rural Production Sites
1993, Sarospatak (Hungary)
- The Transformation of the Château Fort in Château de Plaisance
1992, Paphos (Cyprus)
- Western Defense Strategies in the Mediterranean from the Crusades to the Siege of Vienna
1991, Chirk Castle, Wales (United Kingdom)
- The Use of Castle Networks in Mediaeval Defense Strategies