Small Sacral Christian Architecture in the Cultural Landscapes of Europe

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Abstract

Though often overlooked due to its scale, small sacral Christian architecture has a significant importance in cultural landscapes in Europe and beyond. It represents a shared international cultural heritage and is significant in its diversity, distribution and abundance across cultural landscapes. The tradition of the artistic depiction of the cross in Christianity dates back to the 4th century AD. The first monuments in the form of crosses were placed in open landscapes in Scotland in the 7th century. The most important period for the spread of small sacral architecture of Catholic origin in eastern Europe was during the Baroque, thus most of the preserved small sacral monuments date back to the late 17th,18th and 19th centuries. They are often accompanied by monumental single trees or a compositionally organised group of trees and create a sacred composition of nature and culture. They have become important landmarks, indicators of place and landscape features of spatial organization, representing a significant historical legacy and cultural heritage for future generations. This article elaborates on the origin, historical development and landscape values of small sacral Christian architecture, as well as their relation to separate natural monuments or natural features that create part of the sacral composition, such as memorial trees growing around them. This article introduces the topic of sacral architecture and its contribution to the character and identity of European cultural landscapes.

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