Cradles of European Culture - CEC

The legacy of Charlemagne (814 - 2014):

A story that has never been told before

This exhibition will tell, for the first time, the story of the last 1200 years from a new perspective: it will show how the several unification attempts of the European area struggled to find a balance between the unity needed by any such political project and the diversity of the many ethnic groups that composed the population. If this story sounds familiar to the contemporary visitor it's only because the European Union is the ultimate embodiment of this aspiration and the exhibition will show how it finally came into being.

The journey starts with a short presentation of the Roman Empire, in order to give the visitor an insight into the inspirational model later used by all the great medieval emperors. With its administrative complexity and flourishing cultural life, the Roman Empire served as starting point and legitimacy reference for the ruling program of the Carolingian and Ottonian Emperors.

The core of the exhibition recalls the historical moment when Charlemagne's Empire was divided between his three grandsons by the treaty of Verdun in 843. This division marked the end of the Carolingian dream of unification and created the three political entities known as Francia orientalis (later Germany), Francia occidentalis (later France) and Francia Media (present countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and a part of Croatia).

The focus is then placed on the middle region, Francia Media, which is unexpectedly connected in many ways to the contemporary European Union. Grouping countries with no common history or ethnic identity, this temporary Realm shows a beautiful example of an early attempt to reach unity within an unsettling diversity. The different regions of the former Francia Media are presented in a detailed manner, displaying a selection of iconic objects and art works. The perspective is then widened to include also the neighboring territories from the South-East and Central Europe (present day Slovenia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic), which all interacted with Francia Media and influenced each other.

The following exhibition rooms then present historical events which took place in the geographical area of the former Francia Media from the late Middle Ages until today. The visitor learns about the ambitious dreams of the Burgundian dukes, illustrated by the unification attempt of Charles the Bold (1433-1477), about the way in which Napoleon resorted to references to the Roman and Carolingian tradition in order to legitimate his imperial desire, references later used also by Hitler and Mussolini in their propaganda. A special attention is eventually devoted to the European project, which is, in fact, yet another dream of unification. So far, the most successful one...

We invite you to embark in this fascinating journey and visit the exhibition in one of its following venues:

- Ename, Belgium: 10 May 2014 - 30 November 2014 (see more here) pdf
- Prague, Czech Republic:
- Ravenna, Italy: 04 October 2014 - 20 January 2015 (see more here ) pdf pdf
- Marseilles, France:


This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

This project is partly co-funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia