“CADA DIA ESTEM MÉS BÀLTICS!” (Converses)

– Cada dia estem més bàltics!
– Ui, sí, no veges quina Hansa…

Imatge:plaça de l’Ajuntament de Reval (Tallin- Estònia)

En exclusiva per a la catosfera, clica avall–>> Ports of Europe: The European Future of Hanseatic Heritage. Some prospects for the Civic Heritage of Europe. The North/South Connection, article del sociòleg valencià Eduard Mira.

 

PORTS
OF EUROPE: THE EUROPEAN FUTURE OF THE HANSEATIC HERITAGE:

 

Some
Prospects for the Civic Heritage of Europe:

The
North/South Connection

or

A
Tale of Two Cities.

 

Prof.
Eduard Mira,

University
of Alacant

 

 

1.-
A place to rethink Europe:

 

This
Conference very explicitely reflects the creative and well-grounded
inertia given by professor Fragnière, by professor Bekemans
and by professor Picht to the College of Europe, an institution one
of the basic scholarly endeavours of which surely is to think Europe;
to meditate and investigate about the European past, to undestand the
present and to construct sound prospective scenarios for the future.
These were the scholars with whom I had the privilege of being in
closer contact during my sporadic lecturing visits to the College
last academic year
i.
Sureley there are some others who also participate of the same
spirit, which, I must say, is very much in tune with the complex,
interdisciplinary, and synergic approaches required for understanding
an also complex and many-sided contemporary Europe and the Europes
which are already looming.

 

The
title chosen for these pages somewhat recalls those Baroque
frontispieces which often became far more explanatory than the actual
text for which they stood. However I dare say that perhaps an equaly
adequate title
ii
would have been “a past for a future”; a past to be deeply
understood in order to scrutinize the future through it, and also to
be rediscovered and reinterpreted in order to extract from it the
basic elements for the construction of present and future compounds.
One may argue that “a future for a past” would be just as
suitable a sentence or, at least, a very becoming complement to the
previous clause
iii,
since it means that futures have to be devised in harmonious
accordance with their pasts.

 

Two
possibilities are offered to the reader for naming this paper: “Some
prospects for the civic heritage of Europe: the North South
connection” and “A tale of two cities”. The latter one
relates, on the one side, to Bruges, the archetype, in many ways, of
the late medieval city and the main hanseatic depot in relation with
the South of Europe. On the other side, we have Valencia, one of the
best examples of merchant city in Mediterranean Europe during the
quattrocentoiv;
to the point that historians have sometimes called it “Hanseatic
city of the South”
v.
They had an active economic and cultural relationship in the XV and
XVI centuries. In spite of their absolutely peculiar character and of
the different intensity that their common traits acquire in each
case, Valencia and Bruges share historically-rooted cultural,
economic and political problems with regard to the state to which
they respectively belong: Belgium and Spain. Each one of them is
placed at either extreme of the continuum formed by the two
interconnected urban and flux axis which put in close relation the
North and the South of Europe: the “European Spine” and the
“Mediterranean Arch”
vi.
Both of them have experimented recent processes of economic and
cultural development and are attatched to important communication and
transport systems, including active harbours. The strenght and the
nature of those processes obliges one to think in terms of historical
recovery. I happen to have been born in Valencia and have a
relationship with the city of Bruges which goes far beyond the
professional realm to become an emotional affair. There are,
therefore, objective and subjective, rational and passional, past,
present and future reasons for the choice.

 

With
regard to the general title of the Conference, I dare recall that
explanatory subtitles often contain very rich clues, half-hidden
messages which not only add precission; they also relate to profound
and subtle secondary meanings. The expression “The European
future of the Hanseatic heritage” puts in contact two words
which may sound antithetic from the standpoint of Western modernity.
It relates “future” and “heritage”; “a past
for a future” -and also “a future for a past”-,
therefore. The past is referred to the Hansa
vii
and the future to Europe. The European future of the Hanseatic
heritage surely is an interesting issue and full of novelty. Not so
many years ago, it would have sounded very suspicious to put in
contact -in other than in purely historical terms- cities such as, on
the one hand, Bremen or Lübeck and, on the other, Stralsund,
Rostock or, even worse, Breslau, Stettin, Danzig or Königsberg,
not to mention Riga, Dorpat or Reval.

 

The
subtitle of the Conference contains the main hypothesis of the whole
meeting: “There is a future, a European future (in a more
integrated Europe), for the maritime, political, economic and
cultural urban heritage of the Hanseatic world”. However, let us
fiddle with the proposition and alter it mischiviously. We could
obtain “The Hanseatic heritage and future Europe” or,
better, “The Hanseatic heritage, a cornerstone for the building
of future Europe”. For me, the issue is not only to observe and
try to forsee how is the Hanseatic heritage to integrate itself in
the European compound; how is it going to contribute to a certain
Europe already in the making… and with very narrow margins of
manoeuvre regarding its premises for integration. It is also if
Europe should rethink itself in terms of what the Hansa meant as
compared to other socioeconomic, political and cultural formations.
It is if we should thoroughly question and revise those formations,
no matter how triumphant they may have reigned. I mean, notably, the
nation-state as it started to emerge in the XIV and, more clearly, in
the XV and the early XVI centuries, as it took full shape in the XVII
and XVIII centuries, as it acquired its contemporary profile in the
XIX century, as it became monstruously hypertrophic in the first half
of the XX century and as it struggles to perpetuate itself, in the
eve of the XXI century. Because such state -one of the main traits of
canonic modernity and one of the European worldwide exports- is
showing clear signs of obsolescence in the midst of a scene defined,
on the one side, by political transnationalization and by economic,
infrastructural, transport, communication and, in many aspects,
cultural globalization and, on the other, by growing demands in
favour of locality, of an identity not necessarily defined by state
alligeances
viii.
“Glocality” is the dreadful term afforded to name such a
dual movement. “Think global and act local” is often
repeated. “Feel local, in the first instance, too”, it
could be added. Self identity -locally felt and enacted- is certainly
a first-rate cultural variable about which economy, politics or
engineering should always think as a starting point for their
posings.

 

The
realitity of fluxes conforming systems based on communication and
transport structures -and attaining a European level made of
thoroughly interwoven subsystems- certainly draws patterns and maps
which often have little to do with the present-day political Europe
as defined by the existing states. From such a perspective, harbours
acquire a first-rate importance, not so much as income/output valves
but as artifacts which are not only undetatchable from the cities of
which they are naturally a part; each one of those objects is often
the very reason for the existence of the other, as it has happened
and as it is happening in so many coastal and riverside port cities
formerly related to the Hansa. Port-city relationships acquire an
even greater importance when we look at them from the point of view
of multimodal transport infrastructures and systems crossing seas and
oceans and running across continents, linking a wide range of circles
of proximity and thoroughly altering the concept of
hinterland.

 

One
of the more active recent discussions related to ports refers itself
to cultural heritage and also to the cultural equipments, services
and traits capable of individualizing one harbour from the other. It
also refers itself to the capabilities contained in the cultural
aspects of ports, harbour-cities and maritime life, for attracting a
wider and more diversified demand in close synergic relation with the
cities where those ports are. Culture becomes, therefore, a necessary
referent when discussing about economy, communications and transport,
should we, very healthily, want to think in other terms than in sheer
fordism
ix.
One finds very refreshing to see not only that one of the sponsors of
this acts is the Bruges Harbour Authority (Zeehaven Brugge v.z.w.)
but also that Mr. F. Traen, chairman of MBZ at Zeebrugge, is sitting
at the presidential table of a conference dealing with the Hansa;
that is to say dealing with culture and history, with heritage as the
necessary grounding where the future is to be built. However it is no
wonder that this happens in Bruges.

 

Zeebrugge
is an important harbour, well-connected to the main trans-European
corridors and to very active and productive, service and urban
centres with very solid Medieval pedigrees. It is part of a dense
multimodal communication and transport network and a piece of the Low
Rhine maritime mutilevel complex articulated about Rotterdam and
Anvers. But Zeebrugge is also the result of a dream, of a historical
longing ranging back to the golden days in with Bruges was, with
London’s Stalhof, the main Western
Kontor
and depot of the Hansa. It is the result of the will of the Brugians
to revive their past under a new clef; a will openly expressed by a
city the best characterization of which has been, until very
recently, Rodenbach’s popular novel:
Bruges-la-mort.
The silting of the Zwinn, the severed relationship with the sea
through Damme and Sluys, the tranferring of the economic axis to
Brabant, to Anvers… the doom of Anvers when, in 1648, the Scheldt
was practically closed to the Southern Low Countries traffic by the
peace of Münster… All of that might also have been very much
present in the stubborness of the Brugians to dig a harbour out of
the dunes of the North Sea. A few years ago the landing of Isabella
of Portugal from a Portuguese caravel was staged, a hanseatic
kogge
from Bremen was reconstructed and a very colouful civic procession
-gathering hundreds of people in XV century gear- marched into Bruges
to celebrate the centennial of the beginning of works in Zeebrugge.
It certainly was the expression of a eager will to link the future
with the best of pasts.

 

Maybe
the longing for the vitality of the Hanseatic times was also present
within the gutts of the architects and planners who, not so many
years ago, built fountains in so many corners of the ancient city.
Those fountains are, in many ways, a metaphor: a homage to the water
which once meant the life of Bruges, and, perhaps, they are also a
homage to the distant Italy from where the Arnolfini, the Adorno or
the Portinari came; a distant homage to a very creative North-South
intercourse which one can still appreaciate in the definite Tuscan
hue of the Cloth Market or the Hof van Bladelin. The peers of the
civic proudness expressed by the belfry are to be found again not
only in the town-halls and markets of Lübeck, Rostock, Danzig,
Breslau, Thorn or Reval but also in Siena or in Florence as well as
in Venice, in Genoa, in the Dalmatian Ragusa, in Barcelona, in Palma
de Mallorca and in Valencia. Culture, economy, cities and harbours
are, therefore, interlocked realities to be seen with a historical
perspective and also in the way of future prospective.

 

Should
we consider Europe in a dynamic and systemic way and mentally put in
contact -as history did- the Northern urban systems with those of the
Southern European seas (and should we also put mentally in contact
the rest of the European poles with the flux corridors linking them),
we would get a clearer idea about the historical, the present and
probably the future functioning of the Continent and its adjacent
isles. We might also acquire a clearer idea about which basic atoms
are to be taken into primary consideration when tinking in such a
dynamic, historically-rooted, more integrated Europe. The cities, I
advance. This is why the main title of this report ended up as “Some
prospects for the civic heritage of Europe: the North/South
connection”, putting in close relationship “prospects”
and “civic heritage” and stressing the connections
(economic, physical, functional and cultural) between the North and
the South of Europe.

 

The
fact that a member of the European Commission -Dr. N. Kinnock- is
giving one of the opening speeches of this conference, while the
mayor of Hamburg -Dr. H. Voscherau- will give the other one is very
symptomatic. The European Commission represents the present and, let
us say, the orthodox way of thinking about a more integrated future
for Europe. It represents the state or, rather, the agreements among
the states which are the reason of existance of the Comission. It is
so, in spite of the yielding of state sovereignity which is making
the UE possible. On the contrary, Dr. Voscherau is the mayor of one
of the three cities (Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen) which
maintained the Hansa nominally alive after its practical dissaperance
in the second half of the XVII century. The number plates of all cars
licensed in Hamburg still boast the double H, the former one of them
standing for
Hanseatische
Stadt
(Freie
und Hanse Stadt
,
rather). Such an oddity is one of the last remains of a world in
which the city was the basic atom, and commmerce the main reason for
an interurban intercourse which could have ended up
institutionalizing itself in the form of city leagues at a full
European scale. The presence at this conference of a member of the
European Comission next to the mayor of Hamburg will surely help us
to fully reconsider our political future with our political, economic
and cultural past in mind. Like in the times when the Hansa lived its
prime, Bruges is the perfect place for ideas to settle, ripen and be
expanded. Culture and trade seldom arrived to better levels of
undestanding then in XIV and XV century Bruges. I have the feeling
that this conference wants to receive the baton from those times.

 

Yes,
the roads followed by commerce were the same as the ones of cultural
exchange. The fact that one of the institutions in which the
organizers of this conference thought for sponsoring it were the
Algemeen Nederlands
Verbond
reminds us
again of the relationships between culture and commerce. I even dare
say that it reminds us of the cultural determinations of the
technical and political options which make trade possible. It reminds
us of an issue of future and present relevance and also of primary
historical relevance. In a way, the
Algemeen
Nederlands Verbond
is
reminding us of the cultural continuity which once existed along the
European coastal plain North of the line
Duinkirk-Aachen-Kassel-Magdeburg-Frankfurt/Oder-Thorn. Even nowadays,
it is still possible to hear, in the back streets of Düsseldorf
or Neuss, dabs of one of the
Niederduutsche
once spoken in most hanseatic cities. The land and sea boundries
created by the modern state, added to religious conflicts, meant the
doom of the Hansa. But evils, sometimes, have unexpectedly beneficial
consequences. Intolerance, so terrifyingly present in the states of
the Spanish Habsburgs, led the northern Netherlands to independence
and, as a consequence of this, to the settlement of standard modern
Dutch. It is a rare privilege to participate in a conference about
the Hanseatic heritage and to do it in a city the language of which
could have been understood, during the golden days of the Hansa, in
seaports from Oostende to the Gulf of Finland.


 

2.-
A walk about town
x:

Max
Weber recommended us to make good use of two devices (or, rather, two
attitudes), when facing a research object: to put oneself in the
place -in the very insideness- of the other and to relive events,
epochs and circumstances already past. Such devices surely seemed
disgusting to the true believer in the strict distinctiveness between
subject and object which would assure the necessary detatchment
demanded by those natural sciences coveted as a model for social
disciplines.

 

The
fact that this conference is taking place in Bruges offers us the
chance of discussing the issue from a privileged standpoint. Bringing
back to life, in a passional way, the Hanseatic period of the city is
a very sound first step for approaching matters. The unitive one is
the deepest of all forms of knowledge. Our imaginative and passional
potencies certainly are the best tools for penetrating the innermost
meanings of something or someone. It is through them that we obtain
that first spark which gives life to the conjectures which are always
at the origin of the most creative hypothesis. It is so in spite of
the fact that the so-called social scientist will always end up being
a traitor. He will eventually become estranged from the one with whom
he once was a single stuff. This will happen when he fulfills the
unavoidable tasks of transforming his passional experiences into duly
tested theories, of detecting recurrencies underneath the contingency
of events.

 

When
walking about Bruges, we may do it in a partly rational and mostly
emotional way. Of course we have many pieces of information about
Flanders, the states of Burgundy and the Hanseatic times, and also
about city patterns and architectural forms. That is fair enough, but
we could also keep in mind that those medieval Arab poets from whom
Western European literatures took so many of their recourses often
adressed themselves to cities as if they were their beloved. In the
same manner, Christians no less often compared the besieging and the
seizure of a city to amorous courting; the longing for the city in
alien hands, to the passional relationship between the knight and his
dame
xi.
It is not by chance that, in a time in which chivalry becomes an
enervating literary game, burgesses offered to Our Lady the main
temple of their cities newly-built in Holstein, in Mecklemburg, in
Pomerania, Prussia and Livonia, in the Bohemian wilderness, in the
Silesian and Transilvanian mountains, along the Welsh border, in the
princedom of Guiene, in the Provençal marshes, in the central
Italian wastelands, in Andalusia, in the crusader kingdoms of
Valencia and Majorca…
xii

 

When
wandering about Bruges, let us allow our mind wander freely and our
sentiments freely throb. To become the city, to swing with its
rythms, is what so sensitive urban observers as Marcel Poête or
Patrick Geddes practiced and advised us to do. It is rather amazing,
however, the very scarce use that most social sciences have done of
the actual and individual cities, of the clues contained in the built
forms
xiii.
Cities are not only written documents, statistical tables or street
maps. They are also living beings in which the past, the present and
the future gather.

 

One
can mentally reconstruct the times in which Bruges was a first-rate
Hanseatic depot; the times in which tradesmen and mariners, coming
from all the cities represented by the municipal flags which still
hang inside the Cloth Hall, hummed on the busy quays and in the
crowded taverns. One can easily do it through visiting, for instance,
the thoroughly transformed
Oesterlingenplein
or the neighbouring
Woendagmark,
the square opening in the midst of the district where “Esterlings”
and other foreign merchants worked and lived. A statue of Hans
Memling presides the latter since 1871. It portrays the artist as a
melancholic young man, as legend and romantic late-Victorian
yearnings have wanted us to picture him
xiv.
Quite a different image to the one of the apprentices in most
Hanseatic concerns; of those youngsters one could find learning their
trade -only teaming with their fellow apprentices, secluded like
worldly monks
xv
in the warehouses of Bergen, Tönsberg, Falsterbo or Polozk. A
fancy tends to lead us to another one. To think about those young men
from Cologne, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lübeck or Elbing may lead us
to reconstruct the medieval merchant universe as a whole. It may lead
us to imagine the youth from Bavaria or from Baden who got acquainted
with Oriental spices and silks by the quaint waterways of the very
restless republic of Venice; the tradesmen from Ravensburg stablished
in Barcelona and Valencia, the Genoese naval clashes with the Crown
of Aragon in their mutual efforts to gain control over the central
Mediterranean, the Catalan concerns in Northern Africa, the Castilian
exploits in the Gulf of Biscay and the Gibraltar straits, the
Portuguese adventures in the Atlantic ocean; the ships sailing back
and forth to Bruges from Genoa, Venice, Lisbon, Santander, Bilbao or
Bordeaux; the mule trains crossing the Alpian passes. Getting into
the skin of one of those lads, of a strolling comedian, an artisan, a
soldier of fortune, a mendicant friar, a princess or a whore -in the
manner a fiction-writer would do it- could be a good way for
undestanding the medieval relationships between the North and the
South of Europe.

 

The
already demolished (in 1965) House of Venice, which stood next to the
also disappeared House of Florence and in the immediate vecinity of
the recently refurbished House of Genoa spoke of medieval trade
linking Southern and Northern Europe. Placenames such as

Spaanjardstraat, Spaanse Loskaai

or
Biscajerplein
take us back to the times in which Castilian
merino
wools were shipped from the Cantabrian and Basque ports to the North
Sea and the mouths of the Scheldt to be weaved by the same Flemish
craftsmen who had also settled in East Anglia or in Chaucer’s and
Watt Tyler’s London. “
Wollestraat
recalls those envoys of wool while “
Kraanplatz
refers to the crane which was used to haul the bales. It is the crane
depicted by Memling in the altarpiece of St John the Baptist and St.
John the Evangelist; the same model of crane as the gigantic one
still standing at the Frauentor in Danzig, by the dark grey waters of
the Mottlau, as the one (also depicted by Memlinc, in the chest of
St. Ursula) which used to stick out over the unfinished cathedral of
Cologne.

 

Whenever
I walk along the Southeastern façade of the building known as
Huis de Zeven
Torens
“, an
immediate associative chain of forms and ideas arises within myself
and acquires a very vivid outward appearance. In spite of obvious
formal and functional differences, in spite of mouldering and decay
and regardless of the transformations which the house has
experimented, I can never avoid glimpsing the East wing of the City
Hall in Lübeck, where the main chapters of the Hansa used to
meet. Sometimes, the blurry image of the Krigstubenbau becomes that
of the old façade of Rostock’s Town Hall, of the city halls of
Stralsund, Thorn… The turreted profiles of those buildings tend to
superimpose themselves in front of my dreamy eyes. This is specially
true in the wintry hours of twilight, when the haze raising from the
waters of the canals make the profiles misty; in those hours of dusk
when places of old and magic are said to feel an eager longing for a
renewed earthly existance.

 

To
me (and I suppose to many other visitors), the Hanseatic character
is, therefore, the one which more immediately associates to Bruges,
even if Bruges was not
strictu
senso
a Hanseatic
city. Such an association tends to go beyond sheer rationality. It
affects our sensitivity rather than our sensibility. And, so, Bruges
becomes again, for our imagination, the city which, side by side with
London, guarded the westernmost gates of the merchant universe which
stretched itself as far as Novgorod, Pskov, Polozk and Kaunas, in its
Eastern end; as far as Bergen, Oslo and Stockholm, in the Northwest;
to Cologne, Erfurt and Crakow, in the South, where he Hansa went
deeply into the European Continent.

 

Even
the casual tourist can easily retrace the Hanseatic universe just by
taking notice of the presence of architectural traits which are
almost identical in Bruges, in Luneburg, in Lübeck, in
Stralsund, in Danzig, in Visby, in Riga or in Tallin, the ancient
Reval. In fact, the most common medieval buildings of the East-Elbian
cities took after Flemish prototypes and, during the Baroque period,
looked for their main source of inspiration in Dutch models. The same
stepped gables in almost identical red brick houses; the same ample
churches meant to christianize, in a short span of time, the marshes
and forests of Mecklemburg, of Pomerania, of Western and Eastern
Prussia, of the Teutonic domains in ancient Livonia; the same sturdy
church towers which could be used as strongholds, beacons and even
emergency lighhouses by seamen sailing from Sluys and Damme to the
further shores of the Baltic Sea; the same spirit in the soaring
spires piercing the mists and acting as landmarks for those seafarers
who fondled the cosiness of the well-known harbour the moment they
sighted Our Lady in Bruges or St Olaf in Reval; similarly overgrown
belfies, garrulous spokesman of the urban power of cities such as
Breslau, Thorn, Hamburg… The Hanseatic universe was the world of
the city, the domain of the busy burgess and also of burgess wives as
the one depicted by Quentin Metsys, very concerned with her husband’s
banking concerns and with spinning a web of dowries and relations in
all the corners of the Hansa.

 

The
brick architecture which so much characterizes the Hanseatic city was
a practical object: fire-resistant, if compared to half-timbered
houses, and adequate for sea-side countries where tall conifers were
often scarce; good to fit and fast to build, according to standard
patterns, in those narrow and deep “Gothic plots” which
were so practical for allotting equal shares of housing land to
settlers; capable of addapting its constructive solutions and its
decorative elements to a wide range of functions, from the domestic
to the religious, from the defensive to the sanitary, from the
economic to the political ones; cheaper than the sturdy Romanesque
constructions of the older cities in Westfallia. A curious and witty
traveller can easily retrace the commercial and urban roads of
northern Europe by following the expansion of those brick buildings
which had their natural environment in the Low Countries and in Lower
Saxony. He can find them as far South as Strasburg, next to the
autoctonous structures built with the timber from the Vogesen and the
Oberreheinische Tiefebene. One can find them in Lemberg, in Vilna or
in Crakow, once an active market for the Carpathian wood, the
Silesian and the Bohemian iron and the Hungarian copper. The visitor
to Crakow can still feel at the spacious market square, by the
magnificent church of St Mary and the lonely belfry, how the Baltic
trade sailed upstream Vistula to meet the precious goods which
arrived from the Mediterranean across the Tirol, Viena and the
Moravian passes. The coherence of the medieval merchant world can be
assessed through the painstaking revission of documents, like, for
instance, the expansion of charters, such as the one of Madgeburg
adopted by Crakow and many other cities. It can be deeply understood
if we manage to enter the world of thrills, aspirations and
yearnings, as the ones which led the German burgessess of the city to
commission the Nuremberg sculptor Veit Stoss a very expensive and
showy altarpiece for St. Mary
xvi.
It can be felt at once if one pays attention to how Hanseatic and
Italian architecture stand side by side and even mingle in the
streets and the monuments of Crakow. The same feeling of crossroad
can also be experimented in Augsburg, in Munich, in Salzbug and even
in the ancient Carniola -in the present-day Slovenia- where the
bulbous spires live next to the warm Mediterranean stuccoes.

 

 

3.-
Natural roads, roadways for culture and trade
xvii:

 

Braudel
called “Italianized Germania” the Northern pre-Alpian
regions and “Germanized Italy” the Southern ones. The
category of turntable for the exchanges taking place between Northern
and Southern Europe is diaphanous in both areas. A city so
strategically placed as Luzern expresses it very clearly through the
consciously Italian stone-work of some of its main buildings,
paradoxally topped by Germanic roofings. The traveller, the witty
man-about-town, can certainly get many clues from buildings which
have much outlived the people who built or lived them. By paying a
close attention to them, he can retrace the old roads of commerce and
realize not only the rol played by natural conditions in the
emergence of those roads but also the fact that they have very much
coincided with the channels of cultural intercourse. Medieval
pilgrimage roads, such as the ones to St James, to Rome, to
Canterbury or to Jerusalem, followed the easiest courses and became
as important from the point of view of economy as from the standpoint
of religion and culture. In the same manner, at the market square
-which defined the medieval city more than any other social space-,
merchandises were exchanged next to technical skills and ideas. The
Hansa constituted an economic system -in which the cities were the
basic nodules for interaction- and certainly a cultural and
civilizatory universe.

 

Geographical
determinism has been present among social analysts from Polibius to
recent geopolitical approaches. If natural conditions and even
distance have ceased to have the importance which they had in the
past for explaining social phenomena at a European scale, they still
are to be taken very much into consideration. Even if the
possibilities contained in telematic communications are far from
neglegible, the present possibilities of material and cultural
development contained in Randstadt Holland are not at all comparable
to the ones of the Peloponese, Sardinia or the Algarve.

 

Fernand
Braudel detected the basic structure of the continental European
passageways; the “istms”, as he called them. The main ones
(Marseilles-Rouan, Genoa-Bruges, Venice-Danzig, Riga-Black sea…)
link the Nortern and the Southern seas, although transversal axis
such as the ones roughly following the valley of the Danube and the
Northern European plain have played important historical roles. The
former one of the these two is basic for understanding the growth of
the Hanseatic universe, while both of them correspond to the
strongest vectors of the historical Germanic expansionism. Maritime
paths had traditionally assured communications in the Mediterranean
Sea, in the first place, and, then, in the Nordic seas and they had
also assured the North-South maritime connection as a complement to
the inland roads. The fact that those inland roads tend to follow
river valleys and, often, navigable rivers and canals adds importance
to the waterways as communication channels.

 

I
have mentioned that while the expression “The North-South
connection” is included in the title of this paper, I originally
called it “Ports and urban systems: the link between the
Northern Sea and Mediterranean Europe”. Many of the clues of
Europe lie on this link. However, this does not mean at all
diminishing the importance of the transversal channels and fluxes.
Both directions are complementary. The importance of late-Medieval
Bruges can be better undestoood if one pays attention to the fact
that it is placed at the meeting point of the main East-West and
North-South roadways. Just as he northern Apenine Peninsula received
the Mediterranean fluxes (and Portuguese, Castilian and Aquitanian
ports the Southern Atlantic ones), so did Bruges with regard to the
nordic seas. Cheap and bulky goods followed the sea road while
expensive and cheap items tended to take the inland one across the
Alps. They all assembled in Bruges, and were reelaborated and
reexported towards the South, the North and the East through the
maritime or the land roadways.

 

The
very origins of Europe can be sought in the westward drive which set
sail on the nearer coasts of Asia and in ancient Greece. Fluxes
between the Eeastern Mediterranean shores and inner Asia had also
been assured, through commerce and cultural intercourse, through
domination and warfare, almost since the primeval times of
civilization. Notwithstanding Europe becomes closer to acquiring its
basic traits -which have remained as the warp into which its
variegated tapestry is weaved- through fruitful contacts between the
Mediterranean and the Nordic universes. The voyages of travellers of
the Bronze Age in search of the distant lands where tin was mined,
The Roman military and cultural expansion, Christianity, the flood of
Germanic tribes over the crumbling Roman Empire, The commercial
adventures which led Baltic tradesmen to the Black Sea, the viking
raids, the journeys of itinerant artists, artisans, peddlers,
politians, soldiers, noblemen and clergymen, the roads of pilgrimage
and war, the Jewish wanderings and setllements all about Europe, the
Muslim push towards the North -in Sicily and, specially, in the
Iberian peninsula- and the resulting Christian push towards the
South, the adoption of the Christian Othodox faith by many Slavic
peoples… All these are but some of the early landmarks of the
potent North-South interactions which have made up Europe, while
events such as the Oriental commerce, the crusades, the eastern drive
of Germanic settlers between the XII and the XV century and the
subsequent stablishment of a dense network of newly-built cities, the
Ottoman push in the Southeastern frontiers of Crhistiandom or the
Slavic colonization of the Asian immensities provided the East-West
contacts. Interactions and relations between the North and the South,
the East and the West have often ben conflictive, but conflict not
only can have positive functions for the preservation of a social
system; it is a very intense form of contact which may be very
energetic and fruitful.

 

It
was in the XV and early XVI century when the urban-based system for
communication and commerce acquired the structure which had been
developing itself since the XII century. The core of the most active
corridor of Europe occupied an area limited, at its western limit, by
a line running from Genoa to London through Milano, Basel, Strasburg,
Frankfurt and Cologne, while its eastern limit went from Venice to
Lübeck through Augsburg, Nüremberg, Erfurt and Hamburg. An
amplified version of this longitudinal core covered the terrritory
between, on the one side, Marseilles and Rouan, through Paris, and,
on the other, between Venice and Danzig. Tentacles of the eastern
secondary band reached, at its northeastern end, Bergen, Stockholm,
Riga and Reval, but it met the Ottoman Empire not far from its
Southeastern limits. It included important urban centres such as
Viena, Ratisbone, Prague and Crakow. The western band was limited by
the French Central massif and diluted itself in the fields of
nothwestern France. The Pyrenes hardly allowed any good accesses to
the Iberian Peninsula: Roncesvalles and other minor passages, in
Navarre and Aragon, frequently snow-bound during the winter, and
somewhat more practicable passes at the Catalan and the Basque ends
of the peaks. Most of the northbound traffic of the Crown of Aragon
was done by sea, following the steps of the Geonese shipping lines,
or, more frequently, through short sea routes which became
terrestrial at the Provençal and the Italian ports. Portugal
and also the Crown of Castile were, on the contrary, Atlantic powers.
Their trade followed the Gulf of Biscay and the English Sea.

 

Te
active urban corridors of Europe served as channels for cultural
development. Universities, centres of Humanism, printing presses,
artistic, scientific and artisanal activities tended to concentrate
in them. The geographical factors had, therefore, been very relevant
in the development of urban-based systems for economic and cultural
exchanges. In fact, descriptive geography has to be kept very much in
mind when thinking about the formation of ethnocultural Europe. If,
for instance, the forests of the Ardennes managed to stop the advance
of Latin into the Netherlands, the fish-bone structure of the
Pyrenees-Cantabrian range and the existance of a mountainous barrier
between Galicia and Castile affected the original distribution of
languages in the Iberian Peninsula. Mutual isolation gave birth to
distinctive languages in Galicia, Asturias-Leon, Aragon and
Catalonia, and Basque remained as a relic of an obscure
pre-Indoeuropean past. Whereas east-west contacts were difficult in
the Northern Iberian ranges, Catalan, Basque and some Occitanian
speeches were spoken at both sides of the Pyrenees. While the quickly
developing Castilian language absorbed Aragonese and Leonese, the
rest of the Hispanic neo-Roman languages (Catalan, Galician and
Castilian itself) headed South from their original nucleii, following
the advance of Christian armies, of settlers, sheperds, lords,
burgesses and parsons. An orographical factor was, therefore, at the
origin of the spatial distribution of Hispanic languages. Examples
taken from throughout Europe could be many.

 

The
ethnocultural map of Europe was almost drawn in the early Middle Ages
and would acquire in the late Middle Ages and early Rennaissance most
of the profiles which had arrived almost intact until the present
century. The religious problems which affected most of Europe in the
XVI and XVII centuries, the discovery of continents and, eventually,
the European world expansion and the development of world economies,
the growth of the contemporary state since its seminal times, between
the XV and the XVIII centuries, to the acquisition of its modern
traits in the XIX and XX centuries, the industrial revolution and the
results of the recent wars have continued shaping Europe. However
political transnationalization, economic globalization, the changes
which have taken place, in the past few years, in Central and Eastern
Europe, the new transnational transport networks and, to a lesser
extent, the growing importance of telematic communications have
somewhat altered the scheme. Those factors have certainly altered the
political, the economic and the infraestructural schemes and are
deeply affecting the cultural systems lying under them.

 

A
good deal of intellectual fuss has ben made in recent years about the
two main urban and flux corridors of the Continent which have alrady
been mentioned: the “Mediterranean Arch” and “the
European Spine”; The “two bananas” scheme, as it is
popularly known. While most researchers have just assessed the
quantifiable coherence -according to a series of socio-economic
indicators- of the “bananas”, a few of them have pointed
out the highly possitive correlation that can be spotted, in both
systems, between economic and deep cultural variables. The latter
scholars have sometimes stressed the economic, cultural and political
importance of the ancient Lotharingia and, specially, of the States
of Burgundy during the XV century, when compared to the situation
which resulted from the scattering of the different fragments of
those multinational states among France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
In consequence, “the Lotharingian axis” is sometimes
preferred as a way to name the most active of all European corridors,
the one corresponding to the road of the Spanish Habsurgs
(Barraclough) or, better, the main communication channel between the
most creative poles of the European civilization during the late
Middle Ages and the Rennaissance: the Flemish and the Tuscan nucleii.
While medieval Bruges has a Tuscan hue, the Flemish inspiration can
be easily spotted all along the commercial roads in contact with
Flanders; from Portugal, Castile, Aragon, Catalonia, Majorca,
Valencia and the Aragonese states of Naples and Sicily to Bohemia or
the Tirol. There is a blatant Flemish flavour in pieces of Burgundian
architecture such as the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, in Rheinish late
Medieval painting and, even more, in Provençal works such as
those of Nicolas Froment or the Master of the Anunciation of
Aix-en-Provence, in the Lombard and Venetian
quattrocento
The artistic synchretism achieved by Bellini, Girlandaio, Antonello
da Messina and, particularly, by Dürer owes a lot to the main
North-South corridor. Its modern heir, the “European Spine”,
has as many economic, cultural and even political possibilities as
its ancestor of five hundred years ago.

 

With
regard to the “Mediterranean arch” -also defined according
to socio-economic variables-, its cultural grounding is even more
solid
xviii.
Very closely related languages (Catalan and Occitanian in their
different varieties) and a similar version of Gothic art and
architecture run from the lower Rhone to Alicante
xix.
Historical nostalgia would claim the Gallo-Hispanic Visigothic
kingdom routed by the Franks at the battle of Vouillé, the
overall cultural similarity between Catalonia and Occitania and the
political links which existed between these two portions of a single
cultural universe before they were severed by the northern crusaders
of Simon de Montfort
xx.
Some would try to prove the higher degree of coherence of the Crown
of Aragon when compared to the unified Spanish state, while others
would speculate on how different Europe would have been if the
subtily negotiated marraige between Mary of Burgundy and Ferdinand
the Catholic would have taken place and if the fifteen century
alliance between the Crown of Aragon, Portugal, Britanny, England,
the states of Burgundy and, eventually, Provence would have stopped
the expansive drives of the inland-born state-building monarchies:
France and Castile
xxi.
To play these kind of games with history could be ludicruous and is
often a dangerous affair. However, they have to be taken very much
into consideration because they can arrive to make sense among
communities in need to provide some historical backing to their
demands for self-goverment. Arguments of this kind can serve as
emotional catalysts for segregationist movements with strong
economic, sociological, cultural and geographical bases, as it
happens in in Flanders, in Catalonia, in the Basque country, in
Lombardy, in Southern Tirol, in Corsica. Eventually, it could even
happen in French Flanders or in Alsatia. Such arguments surely
produce unrest in states with highly centralistic political cultures,
like France, Spain or Italy.

 

 

4.-
Aquatic and teluric Europe:

Europe,
kidnapped by Zeus on the coasts of Phoenicia and taken with him to
Crete, had a maritime birth. In many ways the history of Europe in
the history of its seas. Any western European lives, at the most, 350
km. away from them, while someone from central Asia may have to cross
never-ending deserts, the highest and coldest chains of mountains and
the most uninhabitable plateaus before arriving to the ocean. If
Montesquieu and Buckle realized the importanece of geography in
social evolution and in the way cultural patterns are fashioned,
Rashevski, Hagenstrand or Mollat de Jourdin, have pointed out and
even measurred the importance of the seaways in the
hyerarchically-organized phisical expansion of innovations through
contacts and exchanges. It is not by chance that the capricious
coastline of Greece and the inevitable presence of the sea gave way
to the stablishment of coastal cities and propiciated cultural and
economic interactions.

 

Commerce,
social intercourse and innovation is related to the sea and also to
roads and to rivers used as roads and leading to the cities where
interactions and exchanges take place. On the contrary, the hard
inland nucleii tend to be self-centered and set apart from active
corridors. Two Europes can, therefore, be distinguished: the aquatic
one and the telluric, the open and closed.

 

The
XII century Tunisian thinker Ibn Khaldun has sufficient assets to be
considered a legitimate founding father for most social sciences
xxii.
In Ibn Khaldun’model, we find two basic social actors very much
conditioned by geophysical determinants: the desert bedouins and the
city dwellers. The former live in the inlad wastelands, while the
later inhabit the prosperous coastal plains where agriculture is rich
and commerce flourishes. Cyclically, the desert bedouins burst by
fire and sword into the cities… to eventually become themselves
prosperous and pleasure-loving dwellers of cities which will,
eventually, be seized and destroyed by new and fresher bedouins.

 

Ibn
Khaldun had, of course, in mind the hords of soldier-monks from the
African deserts who periodically imposed their simple creed to the
gallant princedoms of Al Andalus, although he knew very well that
every continent and every historical period has had its inland
wastelands, its deserts of the bedouins. He also knew that, in spite
of the weight that his model put in the environmental conditions, it
could be taken beyond strict geographical determinism; that the
bedouins and the deserts of yesterday could be the citizens and the
gardens of today… and viceversa. Nevertheless his
environmentally-conditioned social typology aroused great interest in
authors like Hilford McKinder and K. Haushofer and had quite
important geopolitical implications. These authors gave a practical
turn to Kahldun’s model and pictured the vast inland territories as
the hard nucleii of Continents the possession of which -in
contradiction to Mahan’s sea-power theories- would assure universal
hegemony. Maybe a cleverer option than the one which led to the
routing, in the vecinity of the Kyber Pass, of the armies of British
Raj or of the conscripts of the Soviet Union and to the disastrous
mis-en-scene,
in Russia more than half a century ago, of Haushofer’s
Lebensraum
theories would be to stop thinking in telluric terms and in terms of
sheer domination and put matters in an evenly interactive, mutually
enriching, complementary way. The way out does not seem to be taking
over the telluric shrines or menacing them from distant gunboats
(because they have proved to be very stubborn and sturdy) but to
civilize the bedouin in the richest, urban and interactive sense of
the term “civilization”. While territorially-oriented
societies develope cultures, civil societies give place to
civilizations which may end up begetting more open and less
impositive cultures.

 

In
Europe, wide-range relationships used, from their very origins, the
sea as an ample an active road. From the Near Eastern mariners who
followed the daily westward journey of the sun to the English, Dutch
and Hanseatic seamen who started to become customary in the
Mediterranean during the XVI century, the seas have played
communicative and cohesive functions. The grand overseas adventure
started by portuguese and castilians -with the help of Genoese seamen
and Valencian money- is in close contact with the North-South
relations. Isabella of Portugal, the sister of Henry the Seafarer,
had married Phillip the Good and his son Charles was to marry
Margaret of York, born of a nation meant to become a naval power
soon. Phillip the Handsome, the great grandson of the Portuguese dame
became the husband of Jane the Mad, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon
and Isabella of Castile who had given their support to Columbus.
However if those royal marriages brough nearer, at first, the North
and the South of Europe, the Atlantic expansion contributed to the
consolidation of modern states, quite incompatible with the idea of a
Europe thought in systemic, urban-based terms.

 

Extended
markets, colonial expansion, scale economies, productive
protectionism and massive warfare could be claimed as primary reasons
for the early development of modern European states. Just as the
quickly-growing states barricaded themselves within their
well-defended frontiers and eagerly sought internal cultural unity
and external distinctiveness at any price, the sea also passed from
being
mare liberum
to
mare clusum.
Pope Alexander VI divided between Castile and Portugal the world to
be colonized yet, while state monopolism and control became the model
of commerce for Spanish America.

The
Hansa became something of the past too when the sea was thoroughly
privatized by the new and powerful states, when impreganable borders
were drawn all over the European continent, when the wars of religion
made borders even more impregnable. It was not only the discovery of
America and the distorsion of the previous economic axis of Europe
what brought many of the once flourishing merchant cities to their
doom. It was, rather, the growth of those states and the
state-controlled character of the Spanish colonial adventures. Two
Atlantic and inland powers, respectively centered in Paris and
Madrid, were drinking the sap of the main city-borne cultural and
trade corridors of Europe: the one running from Genoa down to the
Mediterranean façade of the Iberian peninsula and the one
stretching from Flanders to the western Alpine passes.

 

It
is not by chance that the general consulate for Castilian wool were
in Burgos. When one compares the ports which late Medieval Castile
had in the Gulf of Biscay with those of the Crown of Aragon (mainly,
Barcelona, Valencia and Palma), he immediately realizes that while
the former were mere habours with minute towns behind them, the
latter were the maritime gates of splendorous merchant cities.
Castile had never ceased to be an inland country, enclosed in its
weather-beaten plateau. When Phillip II looked for a capital for his
immense dominions, he could have chosen Lisbon, Valencia or Anvers.
He preferred a eerrie den at the furthest distance from the sea one
can be in the whole of Western Europe.

 

Neither
Mdrid, nor Paris, Moscow, Warsaw or even Rome were maritime cities.
They all developed enormous urban deserts about them. They grew as
capitals of uniatarian, unifying, homogenizing, expanding inland
states; away from the sea and away from the main corridors of
commerce. Those corridors tended to flee from the expansive urges of
such states. Only London maintained part of its former maritime
flavour. As the French state pushed westwards and the Spanish
Habsburgs tried to apply in Flanders the uncompromising policies
experimented in Spain
xxiii,
innovation and activity fled from the Champagne to Bruges, to
Brussels, to Anvers, to Amsterdam and Hamburg…

 

The
dialectical relationship “aquatic/telluric” or “open/close”
has reached contemporary Europe as a living memento of the model
devised by Ibn Kahldun more than eight centuries ago. The “northern
banana” seems to fancy the German Rhine while it tends to avoid
the French-run territory. This is why it has the curved shape of a
banana and is not straight like a fish bone. It sticks to areas with
a long and strong tradition of urban liberties, confederations and
leagues, not totally dismantled by latter-day unitarian states as the
various German reichs have been and as Belgium used to be. Attention
should also be paid to the fact that the better knit urban systems
within the French state tend to prefer the less nuclearly French
regions (Flanders, Franche-Comté, Alsace-Lorraine, Provence,
Brittany…). In a similar manner, the “Mediterranean Arch”
runs along areas in France and Spain (Occitania, Catalonia and
Valencia) with an ancient and sound city structure and originally
belonging to cultural universes different to those favoured by their
respective states. The cases of Lombardy or South Tirol could also be
mentioned in relation to the strongly unitarian Italian state.

 

As
inland-born, unitarian states gradually centralized their political
apparatus and their transport infraestructures, the tragic scene, as
it had been designed by Sebastiano Serlio, often imposed itself in
their capital cities to the comic scene which had characterized the
down-to-earth medieval towns. Well-measured squares and chillingly
straight avenues started digging in the ancient womb of those towns
still inhabited by the characters gathered by Chaucer or Boccaccio.
The proud spires of the city of Bruges depicted by the Master of
St.Lucy, the cosy interior of the master of Flemalle or van der
Weyden, the colourful Venice portrayed by Carpaccio were becoming the
empty and well-measured spaces of the ideal cities painted at the
palace of Federigo de Montefeltro in Urbino. Emptiness and
abstraction became the structuring element of the urban space as
human scale dissapears. The process is very moticeable in Paris; it
reaches the era of François Mitterran
xxiv.

 

 

5.-
The nation-state against the city
xxv

 

The
transition between the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance
culminated the process of doom of civil Europe as a result of the
constant reinforcement of the royal power throughout the XIV and XV
centuries. Cities ceased to be the natural allies of the crown
against the feudal aristocracy which gradually realized that all had
to change in order to maintain things as they were and that its
survival depended on their good disposition to become a courtly
class. While the upper burgeoisie was acquiring aristocratic habits
and the urban gentry was losing its disgust for bussines and trade,
two social types haunted the autumn of an era. The errant knight of
individual honour and bravery hab been displaced by the ranks of
professional infrantrymen and gunners. The colurful peagentry, the
fondness for affected archaism and the realm of literature were the
only magic kingdoms left for him, until Cervantes swept away all that
with the wise strokes of his pen. On the other hand, the heirs of the
civil pride of the Matins of Bruges and the battle of the Golden
Spurs (1302), in which the urban militia put to flight the French
feudal cavalry, were subjected to Maximilian’s will in Bruges and
routed by Frederick III and, finally, by Charles V in rebelious Ghent
(154o). The son of Phillip the Handsome and Jane the Mad had also
anihilated the revolted guilds in Valencia (1520). The spirit of the
free city could hardly survive anywhere: some faint traces of it in
the northern Netherlads, in the powerless remains of the Hansa…
and, mainly, in the group portaits of honorary militiamen and jolly
crossbowmen.

 

Arnold
Toynbee pointed out something which, paradoxally, was going to be
developed by Foucault and by neo-marxian urban Sociology of the
sixties and seventies: that most of the modern revolutionary uprisals
which Europe has witnessed have taken place, preferably, in the urban
space rather than in factories. They have been, in many ways,
affirmations of the city agains the state, reivindications of the
autonomous character that the city once had and appropiations of the
urban space by the deprived citizens. The state was one of the
principal risposible for the kidnapping of everydayslife in our
fragmented, zonified, empoverished, anonimous, prison-like,
alienating metropolis. The definition of society in strict
rational-legal terms and according to the iusnaturalistic principles,
in which the individual is the only contracting atom, had demolished
the feeling of community that the medieval city provided. The jacobin
state completed the task and even kidnapped words so undetatchable
from the city as “citizen” or “politics”. If
civility was so kidnapped, only “urbanism” and “urban
planning”, the merely physical aspects of a hollow shell, were
left to the city. It is true that, as social sciences often assesed
since its formal beginnings, freedom and equality, individual
liberties and identity, are concepts difficul to match and that much
has the humanity -or a part of it- politically advanced in the realm
of the first elements of these pairs. But Revolution, no matter what
it may have been demanding, also meant, while it lasted, the recovery
of some of the traits of the community, of the sense of community in
which the Medieval city tended to surpass the modern urbs and the
contemporary metropolis. The growing demands in favour of the
preservation or the inforcement of the identy, of the human scale and
of the sense of closeness which traditional cities used to have are
but peaceful expressions of the determined impulse to recover the
lost civility.

 

Astonishingly
enough, the initial uprisals which eventually led Poland to the
dismantlement of the previous regime did not place in the streets of
Danzig but in the Danzig shipyards. It is not going to be easy to
recover the civic heritage of the Hansa. Wars and national
mobilizations, nation-building institutions and efficient burocracies
have tried for centuries to make state-nations out of the frequently
multiethnical European states. In the North, the South, the East, the
West and the center of Europe, the omnipresent media reinforce -day
after day and through sounding boards ranging from the weatherman to
the soccer leagues- the emotional alligeance needed by those states
to become well-knit nations, to assure their existence beyond any
hypothetical social contract.

 

The
building of contemporary European states is the result of a long
journey paved with cultural genocides and very physical bloodshed of
which the relatively recent national frencies of Hitler or Stalin
have been the most enormous and insane manifestations but, certainly,
not the only ones. If one of the consequences of that long
state-building journey was the blurring of the urban exchange
corridors of the late Middle Ages, it has been in the XX century when
those corridors and urban systems have been more thorougly defaced,
coinciding with the profound changes experimented -specially, in
Central and Eastern Europe- by the centuries-old ethnocultural map of
the Continent.

 

The
peaces which closed I World War reached different objectives: the
neutralization by the winning powers of their economic, political and
colonial competitors, the reassesment of the French pride, very much
injured by the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent annexion of
Alsacia to the German state and its reincorporation to the Germanic
cultural universe; the dismatling of the Central and Eastern European
empires and the very legitimate fulfillment of the national
aspirations of many subdued Central European peoples: poles, czechs,
estonians, eslovenians, albanians… Regarding the last statement,
it should also be reminded that most of the new states issued from
those peaces were often less permisive with their own cultural
minorities than the former empires had ever been; than the Habsbug
one, in particular. Such a long-waited and anxious construction of
homogeneous nation-states was accelerated even more after II World
War -in spite of the Soviet ideologization and tutelage- due to the
atrocities commited by the nazi regime and their local allies. Entire
ethnocultural minorities (the Jews, for instance) had practically
been anihilated in many places by those agents and some other had
experimented severe war losses. The one-sided but unquestionable
official versions of national history and the massive population
movements produced by the war -and forcefully implemented or induced,
at the end of the war, by most national authorities of the area of
Soviet influence- are well-known. It is well-known that over
15.000.000 Germans fled or were deported from the places (east of the
frontiers of Austria and of the German states resulting from the war)
where most of them had had their roots since the Middle Ages. The
Polish case is certainly the most gaudy one. Everywhere, The original
German toponimics and signs were translated into the national
language of the states to which the places named by those toponimics
had been assigned. Ancient symbols and, actually, any trace of the
German original ancestry of so many inhabited nucleii of Central and
Eastern Europe were thoroughly effaced. A whole page of history
dating back to the XII century (a part of the European heritage and
of the urban adventure of the Continent) was, therefore, erased. Very
reasonable motives can be found for it, but none of them justifies
enough those facts or, at least, their perpetuation. Reasonable
solutions, capable of reasonably satisfying the parts envolved -and
always referred to cultural and human matters-, are in need to be
found. Europe has to calmly face her own history, all her history.
She has to calmly and objectively start discussing about her tabus,
no matter how politically unconvinient might be to call things by
their appropriate names.

 

The
First and Second World Wars completely distorted the historical urban
scene of Europe. The latter meant the divission of the Continent in
two blocks and the subsequent and drastic splitting of urban systems
and communication and transport networks whic had previously been
absolutely coherent. It was specially blatant the segregation of
Rostock or Stettin from the urban and infraestuctural systems
centered in Lübeck, Hamburg and Berlin, of Breslau from the ones
of the western side of the Oder, of Frankfurt/Oder from the ones of
eastern Brandemburg and Silesia… The Eastern block organised its
infraestructures and its urban and flux systems in a self-centerd
manner, reinforcing what had already been implemented by the states
resulting from the treaties of Versailles, St.Germain, Trianon,
Nuilly, Brest-Litovsk, Bucarest and Riga. The more centralised and
the more jealous of its newly-acquired territories a country
adscribed to the Eastern block was and the tenser its relations with
its western neighbour were, the more urban systems across borders
were going to be severed.

 

When
we make use of sinple equations, such as the Rank-Size, roughly
measuring the distribution of urban populations across territories,
we soon realize that the most unbalanced of those distributions tend
to correspond to big, centralised states and to state-building
regions with inland capitals. When we segregate from thse states, the
peripheral regions more recently incoporated to them or with a
traditionally lesser degree of cultural similarity with the
domineering culture of that state, distributions become even more
unbalanced. France is, of course, the artchetype of macrocephalia,
and Paris the archetype of head of a domineering, nation-building
cultural region. Countries such as the Netherlands or Belgium show
very even distributions. The ones of the Benelux are more
well-balanced yet.

 

The
rupture of the Austro-Hungarian compound had very noticeable
consequences regarding the urban structure of its contitutive
elements. While contemporary Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic
show a strong degree of primacy of their capital-cities,
distributions become better when summing up the three states. If the
size of the population of Viena was in full accordance with the urban
system which it led before I Wold War, it was definitely enormous for
the Austrian state resulting from the treaty of St Germain-en-Laye.
It should also be stated than if we take the current population of
the formerly Hanseatic cities, we notice that the distributions of
the Hanseatic urban universe are also better than the ones of most
European states, and certainly better than the ones of centralised
states should one deprive them, for measuring purposes, of their more
newly-acquierd regions with an original culture different to the one
favoured by those states.

 

There
seems, therefore, to be an inverse relationship between modern
state-building (and the subsequent nation-building) and territorial
balance of urban centres. On the contrary, strongly interactive,
decentralized but mutually coordinated small units seem not only to
have developed more well-balanced urban systems but also to have
afforded very good economic and cultural fruits. The Hansa was never
strictu senso
a political entitity or even a city league. The Hansa of cities was
an economic association which, even if it sometimes exercised
political or military functions, was made of units with different
levels of allegeance to also different princes. When it tried to
tighten political links among its members, as a reaction to the
pressures exercised by the growingly-strong neighbouring states, it
was too late; those modern states made it impossible. In fact, strong
and stable political links had already proved evil for Hanseatic
commerce, as it happened, for instance, when conflicts arose between
the fur-providing Russians and the only prince who was also a member
of the Hansa, the Great Master of the Teutonic Order. On the
contrary, looser and more mobile groupings seemed to work better
xxvi.
Even with so malleable organization and with so fluid and
de-territorialized external or inner limits, the Hansa of cities was,
in the late Middle Ages, a redoubtable economic and cultural power.
At times, it gathered more than two hundred cities throughout a
territory stretching over a thousand miles. It survived for over
three hundred years.

 

One
may argue that to speak in terms of sub-state pieces as units for
European convergence sounds rather unseasonal in an epoch of
supra-state constructions. However the basic laws of natural and
social evolution tell us that heterogeneity and complexity are not at
all sinonimous of ill-definition and lack of coherence. Quite the
contrary. One can certainly imagine Europe in terms of cities,
urban-systems and city-borne regions and macro-regions. The result
could be a more heterogeneous, complex and also well-defined and
coherent organism than the current Europe of states and also than the
forseeable United States of Europe. It may coincide more closely, as
well, with a Europe defined by deeper cultural layers than the one
which modern states have endeavoured to impose.

 

 

6.-
Pasts, presents and futures:

 

Judeo-Christian
cosmogony has provided us with a reasoning matrix based on
ex
nihilo
creationism,
while the Enlighted
philosophes
expanded their belief in unilinear evolution and their faith in
progress. The former pattern has made out of the western man an
anxious transformer of nature; the latter relates social development
to the optimistic arrow of the evolution of the species, but it
leaves aside the life-cycles of individuals which go from birth to
death and renewal under new trappings. In this sense, Ibn Kahldun
proposed a cyclical and pendular conception of history -recaptured by
thinkers such as Spengler, Sorokin, Nietzsche, Toynbee or Sarkar-
which might contain a very high degree of uberty when trying to
forsee future setups for Europe.

 

Several
authors -including Le Goff- have pointed out the historical
recurrency of many of the recent economic, political and cultural
phenomena. E.L. Jones (1987: 174) points out that if we review
European history from a cyclical perspective, taking the city and the
state as the two poles of an ongoing dialectical relationship. we
would have periods with of city-preponderance and, at the other
extreme, periods of state preponderance. We may well be entering one
the of former ones, if we are to consider the fact that Medieval
urban networks and corridors are, in many ways, reconstructing
themselves as the weight of states and state-borders diminishes. It
would be absurd to think that the past can be brought back to life or
even that we can reconstruct the past Hence the faliacy of the
“abolute correction” pretended by historicism when
observing, trying to comprehend and interpret preterite issues. Our
present circumstances and our future prospects provide the lenses
trough which we gaze at the past. In the same manner, whenevar the
past seems to come back to life or we pretend to bring it back to
life, it will always do it under constantly-renewed clefs. When
Delacenserie pretends to design as a Medieval building the Provincial
Palace in Bruges, the resulting work will be, in spite of such
purposes, modern. It will fully belong to its time. Notwithstanding,
the very act of selecting out of the enormous catalogue of styles and
forms is, in itself, a creative action. To think in terms of city
leagues and urban systems -instead of doing it in terms of states-
is, therefore, more than a sheer nostalgic revival. It is thinking in
terms of a past for a future; a European past as the one represented,
among others, by the hanseatic heritage.

 

The
past, as George Herbert Mead (1932) so precisely exposed, is inserted
in the present and affects the future. The past is constantly
rewritten from the functional present. It is constantly addapted to
the previsions which we make about a future which, as such, has not
emerged yet but is, nevertheless, advanced
in
mente
through our
restless conjecturing. As phenomenology pointed out, we observe the
world through our reflexive acts and objectivize ourselves through
the conceptual observation of our acting. Through such a
conceptualizing reflexion, we can elaborate futures for presents. We
can also select pasts for those presents endlessly marching towards a
future which, as eternal faustuses, we wish to predict and control.
The past responds, therefore, to situations defined from the present
with the future in mind. Should we push even further the idea of the
inevitability of our creating the past from the standpoint of a
future reflectively observed from the present, we could argue that
the future is also inevitably created from the standpoint of a past
observed from the acting present and no matter how eagerly we may
claim our will to build futures from a
tabula
rasa
situation.

 

Past
social formations and trends which the evolutionary process set aside
-and often considered as obsolete- might have been pregnant with
better capabilites to beget human ingenuity and progress than the
formations and trends by which they were overcome. An architectural
example will again be suitable here. Not all revivals have
necessarily been reactionary. If neo-Gothic architecture tends to
have in Bruges -and also in Valencia- a conservative leaning, this
was not the case of Barcelona. Catalan as well as Brugian revivalists
intended to recover, through Gothic architecture, an urban past
politically and culturally autonomous, but architects such as Puig,
Domenech and, specially, Gaudí soon abandoned mimetic
attitudes and paid a very close attention to Viollet’s intuitions
about the creative and technological potentials contained in Gothic
structures. For them and for their country as a whole, history
becomes, therefore, a the trigger of modernity; a past for a future
with very solid roots. The possibilities contained in city
associations like the Hansa and in Medieval confederations and city
leagues were aborted by modern states. Hamburg, Lübeck and
Bremen remained as relics of the Hansa after its long agony and doom.
They remind us of a path which the main streem of European history
might have followed. In spite of the almost nominal quality of their
hanseatic status, a lot can be learnt from them when thinking in
terms of European integration.

 

The
decline of the extensive and unitarian states is being to the
advantage of aquatic urban Europe. The recovery of the economic and
urban coherence of the “Lotharigian Spine” seems to have
led to the final armistice of the age-old war fought along the scar
running between the French and the Germanic universes
xxvii.
It may provide -next to the partial recovery of the
“Catalan-Occitanian axis”- elements of judgement when
thinking in terms of future prospects for the once Hanseatic world.
The sociopolitical and economic changes experimented by Central and
Eastern Europe are surely contributing to the reconstruction of some
of the ancient city-borne flux corridors of the area. However
suspicions are still very much alive.

 

Urbanity
-the physical aspect of the city- seems to be spreading itself over
vast territories to such an extent that the city seems to be losing
its discrete identity to become an amorphous continuum. However there
are also traits of the recovery of the city undestood as “civility”
xxviii,
of the self-reliance of the city with regard to its historical
competitor: the modern state.

 

Contemporary
states tend to be too small to assure scale economies or even the
fulfillment of defense tasks, while they are often too large to
assure immediate identity if it is not my means of the biassed and
massive usage of media. To put it in different terms, most of the
existing European states are less capables of importing, addapting,
using and transforming free energy, when compared to the very lively
city-based systems. These are proving to be sounder functional
artifacts than those states, specially than the vaster ones. The
closely-knit “European Spine” runs across eight states, but
great portions of them are disregarded by its course as it happens
with the three or four states affected by “The Mediterranean
Arch”.

 

Perhaps,
the main contemporary tasks of states are the maintenance of
acceptable levels of social welfare and the assurance of a certain
degree of interregional balance within their borders. Once the UE
institutions are able to channel, coordinate and implement
innitiatives issued -according to the subsidiarity principles- at
whatever level is the more suitable one for them, they will be able
to be relieved from those duties. Many of the tasks now assigned to
the state -and, specially, to vast states- will have to be fulfilled
at the municipal, the regional, the macroregional level. Present-day
municipal, regional or state borders will often prove to be
functionally inadequate.

 

Once
we have trained our minds to think Europe in spatial terms as well as
in terms of interactions and fluxes, it would not be difficult to
imagine maps which do not define their territories according to the
immobile, all-embracing, territorial logics of our states. Should we
think, for instance, in terms of rivers, our maps will not have to be
the same than those for automobile transport, for maritime routes or
for language purposes. According to such an scheme, administrative
limits become the changing, overlapping or interpenetrating facets of
a complex body, defined by interactions rather than by structural
relations. Such a caleidoscopic image of Europe is very much in tune
with the poliphonic qualities of our reality and heritage. It
certainly is in tune with the hanseatic heritage.

 

 

7.-
The Hansa: confronted opinions:

 

The
world of the Hansa has aroused the interest of the historian and also
of the ideologist and the dreamer. It has often been highly praised,
whereas, no less often, bitterly cursed. One can still use as a
metaphor of such a dual judgement the uncompromising way in which the
archangel St Michal is separating the saved from the damned, in the
representations of the Last Judgements which presided, in the urban
Middle Ages, the formal meetings of councillors and magistrates
xxix.

 

For
some, the Hansa was a colonial institution based on a class structure
which led to a lasting and pitiful economic domination exerced
against many peoples. According to such an outlook, the Hansa
considerably retarded the development of autoctonous middle classes
among non-Germans where it stablished itself, while it maintained for
centuries a very noticeable inbalance between economic centres and
peripheries only capable of providing raw materials. Within the
hanseatic cities and the hansatic society itself, a particularly
conservative social structure perpetuated the domination of the urban
patriciate against opposition movements coming from the small
burgeoisie and from the working classes.

 

For
some others, the Hansa (so closely related to the cities founded by
Germans between the XII to the XIV centuries) meant civilization and
know-how and the prosperity of heathen and uncouthy peoples. A step
forward in this way of putting matters sometimes led to fancy that
Germanism meant civilization and prosperity, while Slavism was
assimilated to lack of impetus and even to mental rudeness. An evil
consequence of these assumptions has been to assimilate the medieval
Drang nach Osten
with Haushofer’s
Lebensraum
theories, Von Bülow’s settlement policies in Posnania and
eventually with Hitler’s attitudes concerning Slavic Europe. This is
why themes related to the Hansa have sometimes raised mistrust,
specially in countries which had incoporated cities of Hanseatic
origin and formerly Germanic territories.

 

There
are, of course, more balanced ways of observing the topic within the
ranks of critical analysts. Prof. Konrad Fritze, from Greifswald
University, pointed out, when briefly evaluating -more than ten years
ago- Marxist historiography on the theme, that, quite apart from the
economic and social evils stated above, “on the whole the
positive influences of the Hanse prevail”. Such possitive
influences have to do with the network of stable communications
between Eastern, Western and Northern Europe which made technological
and cultural development possible for very remote areas. They also
have to do with the consolidation and generalization of the urban and
middle class standards of living which are so much present in
architecture and in other sacred and secular arts. The Hansa
certainly meant a spirit of dialogue and compromise againt warfare
(Dollinguer), of commerce instead of lordly or tribal banditry.

 

The
official versions of history in force in the DDR were not the same as
the ones prevailing in the DBR. However the collective
mea
culpa
sentiment became
a substantial part of post II World War German culture
xxx,
to the point that history was widely considered, in both German
states, a slimy field. De-historizacion often came to be more common
than one-sided historization. Notwithstanding, the Hansa always
remained, among most Germans, a cherished matter of cultural pride;
one of the most brilliant manifestations of their collective genious.
On the contrary, until quite recently, the times of the Hansa were
often presented East of the Oder-Neisse line as an ignominous
historical period the memory of which had to be totally erased.

 

A
few years ago, I travelled along the Vistula Valley from Crakow to
the Baltic Sea. I went through cities with such an obvious Germanic
past as Thorn, Kulm, Marienwerder, Marienburg, Danzig or Elbing. War
damages had not been the same in all those cities and outlooks with
regard to restoration varied from one place to the other. However in
very few countries so much has been done with so scarce resources to
recover and preserve the built heritage as in Poland.
Notwithstanding, I was amazed at the meticulous efforts invested in
erasing all signs of Germanism
xxxi.
In Torún, there was no written sign, of the Hanseatic Thorn,
as in Chelmno there was no sign of Kulm. The same phenomenon I was
going to encounter in cities
de
facto
segregated from
the German state after II World: in Breslau, in Stettin… Memories
become even more difuse and distant in Crakow and even more in Riga,
in Tallin, in Tartu… Long-cherised nationalism when, later,
combined with the Soviet inspiration made them suspicious. In the
Hneiphof of Koenigsberg, renamed Kalingrad, the severely ravaged
Cathedral of Notre Dame and St. Albert stands like an almost absurd
witness of the past in the middle of an anonimous city. It may be the
clue left by a mischivious joker to the traveller standing on one of
the new bridges crossing the Pregel, trying to solve old puzzles and
peeping for imaginary futures.

 

In
Danzig, I had to go though great pains to follow the steps of young
Oskar Matzerath (Gunter Grass’ obsesive character) in search for
traces of pre-war Danzig. The church of St.Bridget is now adorned by
a huge sign boasting the motto “Totus tuus”. An absolutely
enormous statue of Pope Woijtila stands in front of it. I did not
quite succed in mentally recunstructing the Hanseatic city either, in
spite of the stepped gables and of the façades of Dutch
inspiration emerged from rubble after the massive bombings. A very
neat navigation museum lodged in a complex of old warehouses by the
Mottlaw hosts the remains of the cargo carried by a “kogge”
sunk in the port during the fourteeen-sixtees and rescued in 1975.
However, it is difficult to imagine in the lovingly restored and
still splendororous city, at the Long Market or along the street of
Notre Dame, the stern Hanseatic bourgesses whose portraits still hang
at the City Hall of Lübeck, the London merchants so precisely
painted by Holbein the Young, the well-off Danzinger depicted by
Albert Durer.

 

Norbert
Elias spotted the importance of rituals and etiquette in the
existance and maintenance of social systems and situations. In a very
conservative institution, as the Hansa ended up being, such things
acquire an added importance. The last rattles of the complex network
of long-stablished bourgeois rituals, traceable to the Hansatic days,
can be vividly felt in Thomas Mann’s Lubeck. One can even capture
feeble scents of it in certain corners of Elbchaussée or in
Rothenbaumchaussée in Hamburg. They seem gone in Danzig. In
fact, they are gone from almost everywhere; they belong to the sphere
of aesthetics, of nostalgic decadence. However, they are part of the
past of a site and, as such, their memory becomes a part of our our
collective heritage. It becomes necessary to reconcile oneself with
one’s pasts. We may prefer some of them to others and we may
consequently favour those ones, but all of them are, in different
proportions, the constituents of our present and future reality.
Slavic, Teutonic, Hanseatic, Jagellonian, Vasa, Prussian and Polish
Danzig are all contained in the contemporary city, just as other
elements are contained in other places.

 

 

8.-
Southern theory and northern prospects:

 

Matters
dealing with geopolitics and with national identities are
particularly prone to bear heavy ideological contents and arise
passions. They are subject to many limitations exercised by the state
and also by means of socially-internalized norms. In Europe, tabus
and evil spirits are immediately recalled when the Germanic identity
is at the stake. The peace treaties for II Wold War have certainly
not been signed yet. Some issues related to it are not talked about
outspokenly, in spite of the process of European integration and
despite the fact that the majority of the European population was
born after 1945. While the right to claim one’s own cultural identity
and even to to express nationalistic feelings and to demand some form
of self-goverment is officially recognized to all peoples on Earth
-including all European nation-states-, the mildest affirmation of
the German identity is looked at with a very suspicious eye,
notwithstanding that cultural nationalism was first theorized by
German authors and, then, addopted everywhere in Europe; by the
French state -the champion of the contractual nation-, very much in
particular. A polite silence is usually preferred for matters such as
the French efforts and attitudes during II World War, the post-war
retaliations, the Oder-Neisse border, the massive deportions of
civilians after the war, the present status of non-official or
“second rank” languages and cultures in many European
countries… There are public ways of calling things which are the
only ones considered socially and politically correct. There are
correct ways for calling ethnocultural or sex groups and also for
calling countries, cities or places. This last fact has also affected
countries who did not participate in the last war and even peoples
who tend to look with a sympathy the claims in favour of cultural
identity. The atlas of the Catalan Encyclopedia, for instance, makes
great efforts to write place-names in their proper Basque,
Occitanian, Welsh or Breton versions, but Strasburg, Karlsbad,
Stettin or Königsberg appear, respectively, as Strasbourg,
Karlovi Vary, Szczcin and Kaliningrad. Not even the possibility of
using two languages has been considered.

 

When
thinking in terms of a more integrated Europe, there are issues which
are “out of question”. Europe will advance more or less
rapidly along the path of convergence, but the premise of the whole
process is that the states, the present states -with their present
borders and their peculiar identities- are the main actors when
thinking in those terms. It is true that if we look at Europe from
the linguistiic, religious, economical, infraestructural or military
standpoints, we would obtain pictures which are very different to the
ones provided by the official political maps. Nevertheless, the state
remains unquestionable in Western Europe and along the sturdy
frontier which formerly splitted Europe in two blocks.

 

The
“Lotharingian axis”-“Mediterranean Arch” model
pays little aattention to state borders. However discussing about
“the two banana” scheme has become a commonplace among
economists, sociologists, geographers or politologists. The model has
affected national policies and also the public opinion, leading,
sometimes, to passionate discussions in countries lodging important
national minorities and with a long centralistic tradition, as it
happens in France, in Spain or in Italy. Abundant research has been
produced
xxxii.
By just comparing “Europe 2000” (1992) and “Europe
2000+ (1994), one can realize how the model has stretched and
complexized itself in order to cover the whole Continent. The rather
gross approaches which spotted a centre and a series of peripheries
and semiperipheries, as well as the theoretical and research
approaches -from liberal or Marxian to the World System ones- which
considered the state as the main level of analysis, had to radiply
reconsider their postulates. Recent events are also leading to the
consideration of culture and cultural identity as independent
variables for the economic or the political ambits.

 

It
is worth pointing out here that a good majority of the most relevant
and earliest theoretians of the “two banana” scheme como
from the “Southern banana”. Research related to it has been
mainly produced in Montpellier, Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante and
also in northern Italian cities. The cultural roots of most of these
areas are different to the ones favoured by the states of which they
are a part. Such areas also tend to be more energetic, from the
standpoints of economy and innovation, and more outwardbound than
most of the culturally privileged ones, while their economic and
cultural relations tend to show a great deal of disrespect for
interregional and interstate borders. Disparities in economy or in
culture are too great within the vaster states to consider them the
adequate units of analysis. Unfortunatelly, if statistical data
related to states and even to regions are abundant, the ones related
to cities are much less accessible.

It
is not by chance that the “two banana” researchers have
assesed the “southern drive” experimented by innovation and
also that there are other ways of looking at Europe than through the
present states. Interest in those fields of study is more apt to
merge in areas where cultural identity is a problem and where
atatchment to nuclear Europe is not only necessary from an economic
point of view but is often seen as a means to achieve higher levels
of economic, political and cultural home rule. This tends to be the
case, in particular, of Catalan and Valencian scholars. This is why
those scholars have often been prone to relate to culture the social
estructures, the interregional and intestate interactions, the
policies related to communication and transport infrastructures and
the economy. Themes considered as more worth to be studied tend to be
the ones which affect in a more direct and problematic manner the
researcher and his social environment. Flanders, Catalonia or Quebec
have produced more sociolinguistic research than Madrid, Paris or
Rome. The still active mea culpa complex, could be at the root of the
relative absence of German scholarship capable of realizing and
assessing that the “Hanseatic axis” could well be the
nordic counterpart to the Mediterranean axis. It could also be at the
root of the relative lack of theorization ready to point out that the
present economic drive towars the East and the Southeast follows
historical paths; it often means the economic and flux reconstruction
of old political entities such as the Danubian monarchies. The fear
of stiring up still very active gohsts tends to prevent many social
analysts from bearing witness of quite obvious realities and trends.
In this sense, a conference dealing with the European future of the
Hanseatic heritage is certainly an oddity.

 

To
come from an area situated very far away from the ill-healed scars of
Europe is rather comfortable for dealing with European tabus. It
allows to observe fishy matters in a fairly detatched way. It makes
out of the observer a character close to the “the outsider”,
so masterfully drawn by Georg Simmel. And being an outsider provides
certain benefits: distance from the web of commitments,
negatively-acting nornms and tabus imposed to the thoroughbred
members of a group, and also knowledege since the outsider is not an
absolute stranger. From the distance provided by the condition of
outsider, one can make squeaking statements. The outsider can, for
instance, advance as a research hypothesis that the urban systems
produced by the Hansa, by the Austro-Hungarian Empire or even by
Hohenzollern Germany might have been more coherent than the ones
corresponding to states carved out from those entities, as well as
that such a coherence persists in spite of political and cultural
transformations. Consequently, he can propose research programmes
dessigned to verify those assesments; programmes which include
equations intended to spot urban systems and functional dependancies
between cities, factor and cluster analysis meant to tipify cities
according to dimensions such as interurban interactivity and
maintenance of historical identity, quantitative and qualitative
approaches geared to detect correlations between the geoghraphical
placement and the economic and cultural ambits; between culture,
economy and politics…

 

 

9.-
Shepards and mariners; a practical case:

 

While
economic, political and cultural elements work, at any of the levels
of a social system, in a synergic way, and social phenomena are the
product of many factors, culture tends to be, in the last instance,
the strongest determinant of those phenomena. By culture, I also mean
its deeper layers. A practical case may illustrate it.

 

The
central Iberian peninsula basically was, in the golden times of
Bruges, a country of shepards; the healthy revenues from Castilian
sheep allowed the import of expensive works of art from Flanders and
the building of gorgeously-sculptured cathedrals in the market cities
and also of bizarre palaces for the lords of the woollen fleece. If
the Castilian plateau was the age-old land of the wart-hog, of the
warlord and the shepard, the coastal domains of the Crown of Aragon
had been, for no less longer, the home of the farmer, the dealer and
the ancient mariner who still worshiped feminine pre-Classical
divinities throughout the Mediterranean.

 

Rivers
have played a very important role in the configuration of economic
and cultural Europe. From the point of view of river basins, Castile
is neither a Mediterranean country nor, if one excepts its peripheric
outlets, a maritime one. It is, in many ways, the epitome of the
telluric universe. It has historically tended to build self-centered,
unitarian, homogeneous, centralized and warlike political entities,
while the Crown of Aragon worked as a plurinational compound,
politically organized according to confederate patterns.

 

It
is true that the Castilian navy played a very important role during
the One Hundred Year War, that Castile anticipated England in
becoming a naval power, that Queen Isabella sponsored the discovery
of America. Basque, Cantabrian, Galician, Andalusian and also
Portuguese or Genoese seamen were resposible for those naval
exploits. However the inland immensities were soon going to become
the yoke for seamanship. The telluric spirit can already be sensed in
the Spanish Armada, in the bulky vessels so uncapable of dealing with
the Dutch
gueux-de-mer,
in the enormous convoys ponderously making their way from Sevile to
America, in the marine corps which turned ships into sailing
barracks…

 

Castile
has been for centuries the ideological cornestone for the strenuous
construction of Spain. The idea of the state favoured by the French
Bourbons and the radial communication and transport system derived
from it -and imported into Spain in the XVIII century, when the House
of Bourbon ascended to the Spanish throne- reinforced the
centralistic and unitarian tendencies of the leading Spanish kingdom.
However the historical lack of efficient administrative devices, the
isolation and relative poverty of Madrid (and also its uncapability
-if compared to Paris- to produce a fully-accepted prestige lure),
the urban importance of Barcelona and the economic and demographic
weight of the peripheries (of the Basque Country and Valencia, in
particular) impeded the full consolidation in Spain of the French
model.

 

Contemporary
Spanish goverments have often seemed to be the heirs to the Castilian
spirit and scepter. It is no wonder to see them renouncing to CEE
funds for the amelioration of seaports, while they put all their
efforts in making out of the diagonal inland axis
(Barcelona-Madrid-Sevile) the spinal column for Iberian development,
to the detriment of the Mediterranean coastel roadway which had
proved itself as the main axis of the Penisula since pre-Roman times.

 

The
Spanish TGV started operating in 1992 from Madrid to Sevile and is
intended to connect with the transnational European netwoks through
Barcelona and the easternmost pass through the Pyreenes. It will
therefore cross hundreds of miles of rough and deserted lands. An
option difficult to undertand if one pays attention to the fact that
it leaves aside most of the Mediterranean axis (from Barcelona to
Gibraltar); that is to say the most active and inovative areas of the
Iberian peninsula from the points of view of competitive agriculture
and industry, culture and tecnology, tourism and commerce. While the
balance of payments is systematically negative for the whole of
Spain, revenues from exports (automobiles and automobile parts, light
machinery, computer elements, oranges and agricultural products,
shoes, tiles, furniture, toys…) are, in the Valencian region, much
higher than imports. The variety and the good levels of attendance
and bussiness of numerous trade fairs held in Valencia are good
indicators of this outward orientation of economy. Four large
universities, a technological park and two international airports
reinforce it even more. If we take commerce with Germany as an
example of it, we see that, the whole of Spain exported, in 1994,
goods worth 1.309.410,000.000 ptas, and imported for
1.803.725,000.000 ptas, while the Valencian region alone exported for
238.484.000.000 ptas. and imported for 175.991.000.000 ptas. However
It should be stated that Valencian exports have gone down from being
a 23,48% of the Spanish total in 1988 to a 17,5% in 1994.

 

The
policies devised to gradually minimize the relative economic power of
Mediterranean Spain are starting to work. Even so, the port of
Valencia is the most rapidly growing one in Spain with regard to
trade, with a 23% increse in the last year. Its annual traffic of
8.070.000 tons for 1994 has only been supassed by Algeciras
(11.918,000t.) and, barely, by Barcelona (8.284.000t.). In 1970, with
1.165.000t., it lagged behind Bilbao (3.916.000t.), Barcelona
(2.920.000t.), Avilés (1.960.000t.), Motril-S. Ciprian
(1.671.000t.), Las Palmas (1.494.000t.) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife
(1.355.000t.). Figures about port traffic show very clearly the loss
of economic weight of the Cantabrian coast and the growing importnace
of the Mediterranean axis down to its African connexion. Algeciras
has gone from moving a bare 257.000t. in 1970 to becoming the first
Spanish harbour. Meditterranean harbours concentrated a 60% of all
Spanish sea traffic. Sevile, the Southern pole of the
officialy-promoted development axis has a river port scarcely dealing
with 814.000 tons.

 

In
view of these figures, the axis Barcelona-Madrid-Sevile seems insane.
It is even more insane if we pay attention to figures referred to
urban systems and inner fluxes. The sharp Spanish urban and regional
planner Luis Racionero verified in 1975 -using Input-Output tables-
economic interactions among Spanish cities. Madrid assesed its
Atlantic vocation through its strong links, in the first place, with
Burgos and the Cantabrian coast, while Valencia and Barcelona were
strongly interlinked, and the diagonal axis through Saragossa,
although weaker, acted as the main diagonal NE-SW connection. The
optimal scheme of spatial connections between systems inside of them
followed, according to Racionero (1976), the basic traits of this
pattern. His previssions for 1990 regarding the saptial structure of
the Iberian peninsula forsaw the completion of the totality of the
Mediterranean axis and its continuation towards France and towards
Africa through Algeciras, where it met the second axis (Sevilla-Jaen,
Madrid, Burgos, Basque Country, France). A third axis went from
Lisbon to the Basque outlet through Salamanca and Burgos, while the
connexion Sevile-Madrid-Saragossa-Barcelona was a secondary one. The
map published in the late eighties by Datar-Reclus and showing the
main transport corridors within the CEE -to be favoured by member
states- asserts again that the two main transnational axis of the
Iberian peninsula are the Basque Country-Madrid (continuing to either
Sevile or Lisbon) one, and the one linking, along the Mediterranean
coast, Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia. Paradoxally, the European
TGV plan of priorities for 2010 (EEC, 1992, 1994) changes its mind
and disconsiders the Mediterranean roadway and backs the axis
sponsored by the Spanish government: Sevile (or Lisbon) –
Madrid-Saragossa-Barcelona-transeuropean networks. The distance,
measured in terms of the duration of a TGV journey, between Madrid
and Brussels will become, when the high speed train is fully in
sevice, about one-third shorter than the one between Brussels and
Valencia. Alicante will descend -regarding, again, distances to
Brussels- to the latitude of Sicily. The teluric option has imposed
itself to the aquatic one; the shepard, to the mariner.

 

The
reasons for these aparent absurdities were, of course, political and,
in the last instance, cultural. The option chosen meant the
compulsory integration of Sevile and Madrid (the two main parameters
to define all-Spanish culture) into the active Mediterranean axis
through the shortest path, detatching themselves from the declining
Cantabrian pole and maintaing as much as possible the radial system.
It surely meant the relative doom of aquatic Spain and the forceful
severance of the Southwestern expansion of the Mediterranean Arch
and, of course, of its capabilities for spreading innovationn through
urban networks
xxxiii.
Notwithstanding there was a very substantial political benefit in
these moves, even if it was being achieved through economic siuicide.
The main purpose of the Barcelona-Madrid-Sevile teluric axis was to
severe all links between Catalonia and Valencia along the
Mediterranean corridor
xxxiv.
Both areas share language and historical links. Their tactical
alliance would mean the end of the Spanish state or, at least, of its
traditionally telluric orientation and, surely, the minimization of
the role of Madrid. Great efforts have ben made, therefore, to
provoke animosity between Valencia and Barcelona. The cases of
Flanders/Northern Netherlands or Alsace/Germany could be recalled
here.

 

Culture
always defines the situation from which economic options are chosen
or from where policies related to infraestructues or administrative
divissions spring, to be implemented according to cultural logics
too. Centralistic and unitarian administrative setups -as compared to
decentarlized, heterogeneous schemes- are not only political options
but also deeply-inbred ways of undestanding reality. They are the
reflexions of the deep cultural layers in which those options have
their roots.

 

The
declining weight of extensive, unitarian, well-bound, self-centered
states may increase the importance of aquatic urban Europe, including
the formerly Hanseatic urban systems should they be able to
funtionally reattatch themselves to active transnational systems.
State-bound political decissions -with a strong cultural grounding-
may, of course, impede it.

 

 

10.-
Blue bananas, white gloves and green leaves:

 

When
the “European Spine”-“Mediterranean Arch” scheme
appeared in Le Monde, in 1989, references to bananas started. Since
the London-Lombardy axis had been printed in blue, it was immediately
baptised “the blue banana”. The Mediterranean axis was more
like a string of ill-shaped sausages, but, as things worked better in
pairs, it also took the fruity name of its richer brother, although,
this time, the banana was red or yellow, as the Southern suns, I
beleive.

 

The
double banana scheme has been either praised or critiziced, depending
on the ideological point in which one stood. Nevertheless it has
remained a basic model for researchers until very recently. However
the changes experimented by Central and Eastern Europe since the end
of the last decade and the subsequent reconsideration of German
interests have altered matters. In recent approaches, the blue banana
stays where it is, although gradually moving from west to east, from
the Rhine to the Elbe. In fact, it is slowly starting to reproduce
very closely the scheme of urban networks and interurban links of the
late Middle Ages and the early Rennaissance, the core of which went
from Genoa to London and from Venice to Hamburg. Once the former
frontier between the DDR and DBR has fallen and the borders between
the new Germany and the countries formerly included in the Eastern
block have become permeable, the area of influence of a port like
Hamburg can easily include the totality of those countries. If the
cold war favoured, on the one side, Rotterdam and Anvers and, on the
other, Rostock, Stettin or Gdynia, the old Hanseatic universe finds
again its centre in the Wendish nucleus, while Germany recovers its
eastern vocation.

 

J.
Duquesne (1991) has elaborated an scheme which takes very much into
consideration the new Eastern drive. For Duquesne, the blue banana
maintains its importance, but is gradually becoming somewhat
peripheral to what he calls “the dense triangle” or the
“hyperconcentrated triangle”, gradually moving towards
Central-northern Germany. Transnational public works of considerable
scope are contributing to these processes: The Mitteland Kanal, which
assures the W-E fluxes and connects the Blue banana with the eastern
European systems; the Rhein-Main-Danau Kanal, touching ports such as
Viena, Bratislava, Budapest, Novi Sad and Belgrade and fully
incoporating the upper Dabube to the German transport network
xxxv;
the TEM (Transeuropean motorway), from Gdynia to Istambul, with
branches crossing the Balcans and heading for the basin of the Elbe.
The axis Nüremberg-Praga-Brno (Brünn)- Bratislava
(Presburg) is already built. This will open up the European Southeast
and reconstruct, in economic and flux terms, the main NW-SE Habsburg
roadway and also a merchant world which acted as the Southern
counterpart of the Hansa.

 

Everything
seems to start working in tune with the Eastearn and Southeastern
drive of the German nucleus, while the Atlantic Arch becomes even
more a continuum of
finisterrae
and the “Continental diagonal” (Paris-Madrid) an inland
world. The Mediterranean Arch loses some of its
elan
as well. Two Europes start to configurate themselves with regard to
these processes: one led by Germany, looking towards the East and
losing interest in the southwest, and another one led by France and
including the rest of the southwestern countries: Spain, in
particular, and also Italy, although both Italy and France are better
placed than the Iberian peninsula and participate of the some of the
main force lines of the Continent. Portugal remains in its Atlantic
solitude. Political options related to the centralistic,
state-oriented culture of the bigger Southwestern states may deepen
the gap between the two clusters, once shares of powers start to be
demanded -at the UE level- by small Central and Eastern European
countries. Under these circumstances, the future role of the
Mediterranean Arch and of the second of the two cities to which these
pages are specifically dedicated (Valencia) becomes obscure.

 

Th.
Baudouin (1991) has pointed out the scopes opened to maritme traffic
in a tri-polar world; a world nuclerized by Europe, the United States
and Japan. While, in 1953, a 60% of all maritme traffic went through
the Atlantic Ocean, today Atlantic traffics ammount to a bare 30% If
we are used to think in all-water transport for long-distance
shipping, the possibilities contained in worldwide multimodal
transport have to be considered
xxxvi.
Europe is not any longer a bare redoubt for American atlantism. It is
not difficult to imagine two routes for merchandises going from Japan
to nuclear Europe: 1) an all-water one, sailing through the Malaca
straits, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, Suez, the Mediterranean, the
Gibraltar Straits, the Atlantic Ocean and the English channel; 2) a
mixed one, just crossing the Japanese Sea into continetal Asia to
arrive in Europe acros Siberia. This last option would reinforce even
more the Easter European axis.

 

Both,
land rodas and maritime roads, also met in Bruges during the
Hanseatric period. Nowadays, they meet in Zeebrugge. In fact, the
main power axis of Europe are following well-trodden roads, as I have
tried to assess. Five of them can be detected, as if they were the
fingers of an enormous hand the wrist of which would be placed on the
Noth Sea, between London and the Northern Frisian Isles. The thumb
would curve itself to reach Southern Sweden through
Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklemburg and Denmark; the forefinger would
point to Poland, the Baltic states and St. Peterburg; the middle
finger, the longest one, to the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary,
Rumania, Bulgaria, Istambul and the Black Sea; the ring finger, to
Austria and Northeastern Italy, to the ex-Jugoslavian states and,
eventually, to Greece. Finally, the little finger would correspond to
the blue banana and to its link with the Mediterranean Arch.

 

A
white glove made of fine leather could be a good image for what, in
some moments of history, has been an open hand and, some others, a
paw. But the five-fingered figure could also be the image of a green
cannabis
leave; the image of dreams and volatile presences. It is not by
chance that the whole scheme points towards Asia, as the mythical
Orient Express and as the 1912 project for a railway linking Bagdad
and Hamburg used to do. But dreams often contained, among Orientals,
a good proportion of down-to-earth information and teachings. So did
the aparently fantastic stories and, specially, the parables. The
brilliant thinker Johan Galtung once told me a very illustrative one.
I have re-elaborated it in the following manner:

 

“Some
decades ago, a German tradesman started looking for a place in the
East to do bussiness. In the meanwhile, a Japanese merchant was
heading West, loaded with his wares, after having landed at the port
of Magadan. They both walked, rode, flew, drove and were railed
throught the endless taiga. They both encountered all kinds of races
and habits; deserts, mountains and forests; blizards and torrid suns.
One day, more than half a century after they had started their
respective journeys, they met at the twilight of dusk in a forgotten
valley of the Urals. They had never seen each other before but they
approached, smiled, shook hands and uttered: ‘
La
guerre est finie
‘”

 

The
confident recovery of the civic heritage of the Hansa could be a much
better end for a very hard journey; a happy end for a long, long war.

 

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Captures
for maps, graphics and photographs:

 

Photographs:

F1.-
Valencia, detail of the Silk Market (XV century). The appropiation of
a feudal motif (the crowned battlements) wants to express the
strenght and the political autonomy of the city. The same idea is
present in seats of civic power in Flanders or Tuscany.

F2.-
Valencia, Serrans gates, XV century. Often quoted, next to the
Holstentor in Lübeck (see, v.g., J. Bialostocki, 1993: 261), as
an archetype of those splendid gates which stood, throughout Europe,
as pieces of the defensive system of cities and also as symbols of
urban pride, independance and power.

F3.-
Jacomart: saint James and St Gilles, from an altarpiece painted in
Valencia in 1451. This painting, in which some of the traits of
“international gothic” can still be traced, is one of the
many examples of the cultural influence of Flanders -of Van Eick, in
particular- in Valencia. Photo: courtesy of St. Pius V Museum,
Valencia.

F4-
Street in the ancient part of Valencia. The human scale of the
medieval city.

 

F5.-
Polders and canals in the flat, flat country; a constantly renewed
love-hatred affair with the waters, very much present, both, in
Valencia and in Flanders.

F6.-Danzig,
Market square. The soaring belfy of the city-hall pierces the sky in
the midst of houses with a definite Hanseatic and Dutch flavour.

F7.-
A statue of Copernicus by the belfry of Thorn (Torun). F8.-
Valencia, St Michael and the dragon, bronze casted after a XV century
original. The archangel standing by an orange tree in front of the
seat of the Valencian parliament (XV-XVI c.) recalls the liberties of
European cities.

F9.-
Patio of a late-medieval urban palace in Valencia and (F10) the
turreted profile of the Gruuthuis in Bruges as it was restored by L.
Delacenserie. The North and the South, two clefs for one symphony.

F11.-
Francesc d’Osona, “Christ and St Thomas”. This altarpiece,
painted in Valencia in 1505, reflect the persistance of the Gothic
taste and the Flemish sensitivity in most of Europe during the first
quarter of the XVI century. Valencia -the most important commercial
centre in the Iberian peninsula in those times- acted as a turnatable
which introduced the Flemish taste in Southern Italy and gave it the
Mediterranean flavour which can be already felt in this painting.
Photo: Courtesy of the St. Pius V Museum.

F12.-
Beaune, belfry with a definite Flemish flavour. The roads followed by
commerce were the ones of cultural exchhange. They generated a
peculiar spirit which went beyond political links.

F13.-
Danzig, ship moored by a Hanseatic warehouse.

F14.-
Valencia, lantern of the catedral of St Mary taken from the bell
tower.

F15.-
Hans Memling, Bruges. Portrait of the artist as a young man.

F16.-
A maritime universe.

F17.-
Crane in Danzig.

F18.-
Brick Gothic houses in Thorn (Torún)

F19.-
Marienburg (Malborck), the seat of the Teutonic Order.

F20.-
Bruges, Our Lady.

F21-
Hanseatic and Italian architecture stand side by side and even mingle
in the streets and the monuments of Crakow.

FF22.-
The distant spires of Ypres still seem to be wellcoming the a motley
crowd of medieval travellers.

FF23.-
Franche-Comté, between the Rhone and the Rhine valleys,
disputed by Bourbons and Habsburgs, one of the main corridors in
Europe. F24.- The imposing citadel of Beçanson, fortified by
Vauban once the Franche Comté was incorporated to the French
state, assured the control of such an important passageway.

F25.-
Brussels, Notre Dame du Sablon; F26.- Brussels, Palace of Justice
(detail). The tragic scene often imposed itself to the scene of life.

F27,
F28.- Ghent, a traditionally rebelious city. Belfry (F27); kermesse
(F28).

F29.-
A witness of the age-old war fought along the scar running between
the French and the Germanic universes. German graveyard in the
Flemish front.

F30.-
Railway station in Marienwerder (Kwidzyn). The German name of the
city has been substituted by its Polish counterpart. Even the
original coats of arms have been erased. Only the white eagle is
permited.

 

Prints:

1.-
B. Bermejo: St Michael, XV century, National Gallery (London).
Painted for the baronial church of Tous (Valencia). Source: Dptment.
of Culture, Town Hall, Tous.

 

Maps
and graphics:

 

1.-
The urban corridors of Europe in the XV century. Source:

2.-The
Renaissance. The printing press and centres of Humanism. Source:

3.-
Western European cities. Source: Brunet, 1993

4.-
Eastward move of the main European corridor. Source E.Mira, 1995.

5a.-Spain:
Economic interaccions among cities (n. of links in imput-output
table, coef. Strcit). Source: L. Racionero, 1976.

5b.-Source:
Spain: Spatial structure, horizon 1990 L. Racionero, 1976.

5c.-Source:
Spoain: Optimal spatial structure, horizon 1990 L. Racionero, 1976.

6a.-TGV
previsons, Source: EEC-DATAR/RECLUS, 1989

6b.-TGV
previsons, Source: E. Mira, 1995

6c.
Distances in relation to TGV journey (2015), Source: Barthelemy,
Cauvin. Deblanc, Reymond

7.-
Rank-size for formerly-Hanseatic cities over 100.000 h. Source: E.
Mira, S.Gisbert, 1995.

8.-
Id. for Austrian, Czech and Hungarian cities. Source: E. Mira, S.
Gisbert, 1995

9.-
Id. for cities in ex-Yugoslavian republics. Source: E.Mira, S.
Gisbert, 1995.

10.-
Source:

11.-
Sourca:

12.-
Economic weight. Source: After R. Brunet-RECLUS, 1989

13.-
Source: After: R.Brunet-RECLUS, 1989.

14.-Axis
ofd European growth. Source: Ekonomiaz, 1989.

15.-
The dense triangle of Europe. Source: J. Duquesne, 1991.

16-
A tripolar world. Source: T. Baudouin, 1994.

16a.-
Scenario I: US-centered

16b.-Scenario
II: Europe-centered

16c.-Scenario
III. Japan-centered.

17.-
The blue banana. Source: E. Mira, 1996.

18.-
The white glove. Source: E. Mira, 1996.

19.-
The green leave. Source: E. Mira, 1996.

 

NOTES:

i.Mr.
Felipe Basabe -ex-assistant to professor Picht, now lecturing in
Madrid and with whom I maintained very substantial conversations
while I was in Bruges- should also be mentioned here
sensu
absoluto
.

ii.
A title which I have used in previous papers (Mira, 1994), since it
is a concept particularly dear to me.

iii.It
is well known the somewhat pedantic leaning to make use of such
literary games often shown by all social sciences. However, in this
case, the purpose was neither to demonstrate ingenuity nor to
produce a mere figure of speech.

iv.For
an already classical description of the city, see SANCHIS GUARNER
(1976). See also PEREZ MORAGON M. & JARQUE F. (1994).

v.
For references on the topic, FURIO (ed.), 1985. I have often streesd
such a character (Mira, 1989).

vi.For
a selected bibliography on the “Mediterranean Arch – European
Spine” scheme, see MIRA, 1996.

vii.On
the Hansa, the classical book by DOLLINGER (1964) and the
magnificent work by D’HAENANS (1984) are absolutely issential.

viii3.
A selected bibliography on obsolescence of modern states as compared
to cities and city-systems is provided by Mira, E. (1996).

ix.Such
an assumption must certainly produce uncomfort among those enginers,
economists, administrators and polititians who would ardently
subscribe the jacobin paradigm as expressed in J. Baudouin’s witty
sentence: “The port, for the port-people; culture, for the
culture-people; the city, for urban planners, and the State for all
of us” (Baudouin, 1994). See DATAR, 1989; Baudouin & COLIN,
1991, 1994; DUPART & CHALINE, 1991; AIVP, 1993, 1994; CHARLIER &
MALEZIEUX, 1994.

x.The
sensitive little book by DEREK BLYTH (1990) is a helpful little
companion for such a walk. For a Flanders companion, I very much
recommend the sensitive book by P. CARSONS (1991). For further
references on art and architecture in Bruges, see, specially, V.
VERMEERSCH (1992)

xi.The
archetype of which is to be found in the chivalrious figure of Saint
George, one of the most splendorous manifestations of which is, for
sure, the one by Lübeck-born Bernt Notke at St Nicholas Church
in Stockholm.

xii.It
is not by chance either that, next to the church of Notre Dame,
there usually was a temple dedicated to St.Nicholas, patron saint of
trade. Chivalrious yearnings, which led late-medieval bourgesses to
seek ennoblishment, never interfered -quite the contrary- commercial
practicity.

xiii.I
stressed this assesment in MIRA, 1995

xiv.As
the melancholic young man who presumably tried to heal at the Oud
Sint Jan the fantastic wounds said to have been inflicted to his
body and soul on the bloody fields of Nancy; at the battle where so
many dreams of an independent life for the states of Burgundy sunk
in the mud with the mortal remains of Charles the Bold. Quite a
different image, indeed, to the one of the artist who settled in
Bruges during the mid fourteen sixties, when, in fact, he was over
thirty years old.

xv.Bruges
was an exception to this rule

xvi.Nüremberg
was the point where the road going up North from Venice split in
two: its eastern branch headed for Erfurt, Magdeburg, Hamburg and
Lübeck; its western one went to Bruges through Cologne and
Frankfurt/Main where it met the other North-South axis, the one
coming from Genes though Milano. Geography contributed to
Nüremberg’s commercial importance and surely to its cultural
and artistic activity.

xvii.I
developed this notion in MIRA, 1993.

xviii.To
the point that some prefer to call “Latin Arch”, although,
if one wants to pout matters in stricter cultural terms, labels such
as “Septimanian”, “Septimano-Tarraconensis”,
“Ligurian”, “Catalan-Occitanian” or “Gran-Oc”
axis would have been more suitable. The term “Strabo’s Arch”
has also been used.

xix.See
MIRA, 1990.

xx.See
LAFONT, 1969, 1991.

xxi.See
CALMETTE, 1949

xxii.In
the six
Muqaddima
which serve as a prologue for his
Kitab-al-Ibar,
he lays, according to O. UÑA (1979), the foundations of the
future Philosophy of History, of historiological methodology,
economical sciences, human etology, anthopology, geopolitics, urban
studies and sociology of culture.

xxiii.See
PARKER, 1985

xxiv.The
concept of “baroque” could be applied here in the sense in
which Lewis Mumford did, instead of in its purely artistic one. It
could be used, therefore, as a synonimous of extra-urban power
imposing itself on the once autonomous city. Architecture and urban
layouts belonging to the tragic scene become the expression of such
a power. The same spirit can be sensed from the Trajan forum and,
centuries later, from the Corso Ercole in Ferrara to contemporay
realizations in Paris. In La Defense, the new Opera House, the new
Library or the Ministry of Finances the barroque expression has gone
far beyond Napoleon or Louis Bonaparte. These recent,
state-sponsored works have become the most achieved models of
contemporary hyperbarroquism. Quite a terrifying prospect if one
pays attention to Mumford’s assesments.

xxv.This
headline somewhat recalls the title and the contents of the book by
J. DE SAVIGNY who presents the issue though the French case.

xxvi.The
general assamblies which usually took place in Lubeck was the only
durable institution of an organization with no burocracy. While many
minor towns were represented by the leading cities of their area,
not even all the important cities were always present at the
Hansetag,
in spite of menaces and fines, to the point that is difficult to
know which cities belonged to the Hansa at a given time. The very
way in which the Hanseatic cities grouped and the fact that some
cities changed from one group to the other are also evidences of the
laxitude of relations within the Hansa. But the Hansa surely
produced a strong feeling of belonging far beyond commercial
agrements. I have sometimes felt a certain family likeness in donors
looking at me from the depths of their altarpieces in so many cities
of the Hansa. One can spot in the portraits at St Annen-Museum in
Lübeck the minutely-constructed existances which may still be
faintly throbing in the city where the Buddenbrooks led their
literary lifes.

xxvii..
The “five-hundred year war”, if we think in Maximilian of
Austria, or the “eleven hundred year conflict” if we are
to trace it back to the legacy of Charlemagne.

xxviii.On
this dual concept, see the excellent article by F.CHOAY, 1995

xxix.The
triptich by Memling which ended up at Danzig Cathedral is one of the
best examples of the motif. In some ways, Memlinc’s is superior to
its model: the one painted by Roger van der Weyden for the
Hotel-Dieu in Breaune. However my favourite representation of the
archangel is the lees-known Hispano-Flemish version painted by
Bartolomé Bermejo for the parish church of Tous (a village
near Valencia) and now at the National Gallery in London. Gothic
angels are often very civic beings. They are the guardians of many
cities, They hold as the tenats the coat of arms of Valencia at the
main gate of the ancient ramparts and at the Silk market. They also
guard the exchange of Palma de Mallorca, town hall of Barcelona…
St Gabriels such as the ones in the Announciations by the Master of
Flemalle or by Roger van der Weyden introduce us in the privacy of
domestic urban life. I have always been fascinated by Gothic angels.
I much rather have their unscrutable serenity to the impossible
humanity of their Renaissance peers and to the excedengly human
norbidity of the Baroque
putti.
At the the crypt of Our Lady in Bruges, the tomb of Mary of Burgundy
and the one of her father, Charles the Bold, lie side by side. Both
of them were made of black marble and gilt bronze. Phillip II
ordered his great-great-grandfather’s tomb to be a match to the one
of his great-grandmother. However they are absolutely different. To
me, the late Gothic spirit of Mary’s monument is much more
attractive than the already manieristic and stern sentitivity of the
one commanded by King Phillip.

xxx.A
Danzinger like Gunther Grass may find the drastic human and cultural
transformation experimented his chresihed city a vary painful fact
and, nevertheless, natural consequence of German ill-doings, but
for other Europeans (specially for those who, like myself, do not
find their origin in the old Hanseatic world) a less anguished
revission of the Hanseatic heritage becomes necessary.

xxxi.
Even the black Prussian eagle had often been either defaced or
repainted in white.

xxxii.For
scholarship on the theme, see Mira, 1996.

xxxiii.In
1898, a Spanish admiral blocked with all his fleet, in the bay of
Santiago de Cuba, by the much more powerful American navy decided to
abandon his safe hideout and head at full steem for the enemy
instead of surrendering his ship. “Better to have honour and no
boats, than boats without honour”, it seems that he said. The
whole fleet was sunk and most of the crew drowned. The telluric
spirit had imposed itself again, as it has happened nowadays.

xxxiv.See,
on this topic. MOLLA D. & MIRA E. (1986)

xxxv.See
also SCHREY, 1994.

xxxvi.See
Baudouin, 1991, 1994;

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