Cultural Route of the Council of Europe

"Cultural Route of the Council of Europe" is the certification of the Via Francigena which comes from the Council of Europe Cultural Routes Program, officially launched by the Council of Europe with the Declaration of Santiago de Compostela in 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Route of the Saint James’s Ways - the first cultural route of the Council of Europe - highlights the importance of intercultural dialogue and the meeting point of three Christian major pilgrimages of the medieval time: Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem.
The Declaration ratified in  Santiago de Compostela on October 23, 1987 insists on the principles: "The human dimension of society, the ideals of freedom and justice, and confidence in progress are the principles which, throughout history, have forged the different cultures that go to make up the specifically European identity. That cultural identity has been and still is made possible by the existence of a European space bearing a collective memory and criss-crossed by roads and paths which overcome distances, frontiers and language barriers". And also: " The route of Santiago de Compostela, highly symbolic in the process of European unification, will serve as a reference and example for future projects. "

Within the Declaration the theme of pilgrimage and paths is strongly present as a metaphor for the rediscovery of European roots. It is an invitation addressed above all to the “young people in particular, to travel along these routes in order to build a society founded on tolerance, respect for others, freedom and solidarity”.

The Saint James’s Ways became a pioneer of the pilgrimage routes’ revival: the routes to Rome, such as the Via Francigena; the paths of Sant Olav in Northern Europe; Saint Michael the Archangel pilgrimages – all of them are in the extended family of the European cultural routes. Other itineraries joined the family: their themes are linked to history and geography, commerce and culture. Europe is made of a cultural routes matrix that unites them while preserving their diversity.

The 38 cultural routes recognized by the Council of Europe offer a journey to discover European history and identity, celebrating traditions and peoples that have made us what we are today; cultural routes unfold following the footprints of traders, artisans, religious orders, musicians, inventors, favouring economic and social development. From the viticultural landscape to industry and crafts, from thermal culture to the Hanseatic network of commerce, to the Vikings and their history: they testify the meaning of diversity and a possibility to promote stable and prosperous societies.

To give greater political impetus to the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe Programme, in December 2010 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution (2013) 66 establishing an Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes (EPA), joined by 33 member states.  The EPA seeks to reinforce the potential of Cultural Routes for cultural cooperation, sustainable territorial development and social cohesion, with a particular focus on themes of symbolic importance for European unity, history, culture and values and the discovery of less well-known destinations. The EPA helps to strengthen the democratic dimension of cultural exchange and tourism through the involvement of grassroots networks and associations, local and regional authorities, universities and professional organisations. It contributes to the preservation of a diverse heritage through theme-based and alternative tourist itineraries and cultural projects.

The Governing Board of the EPA awards the certification “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” and, based on the Resolution (2013)67 that establishes the certification rules, periodically evaluates the certified routes. The European Institute of Cultural Routes, the Council of Europe’s technical agency on the cultural routes, was established in 1998 in Luxembourg to assist in the evaluation cycles of certified and candidate networks. The Institute also gives advice to candidate networks to certification and houses the documentary resources on the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme. It provides advice and assistance to routes networks and hosts visits by project managers, researchers and students.