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Candidature Unesco » Values of Longobards

Values of Longobards

The recent historiographical debate has definitely renewed the methodological fundamentals of the studies on the Early Middle Ages thanks to the twofold revaluation of the Germanic-Barbarian cultures role and of the archaeological contribution in the socio-historical reconstruction of a period which built the fundamentals of the medieval civilization.

The Longobards are among the main protagonists of the Germanic and central Asian tribes migratory movement which involved the area between Western Europe and the Balkan-Danubian region in the historical period starting from the conclusive events of the Roman Empire. Yet, today it is right to the Longobards, among all the other populations, that we ascribe an extraordinary propulsive role in the cultural transition between the Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Indeed, they played a pivotal role in the formulation and diffusion of those meaningful imprints - cultural, artistic, political and religiouswhich spread from Italy to Europe and influenced the next millennium of Western History.
Therefore the Longobards indelibly contributed to the Western medieval civilization development.


    The anthropological approach enables us to value some peculiar markers of their culture which otherwise, in the light of the Romans-Longobards simplistic dichotomy (even if considered in terms of fusion between the two elements), would not be taken into consideration.
    Therefore we always considered – and underlined when possible – the impact of certain factors which appear to be determinant both in the elaboration of the Longobard culture as a whole and in the specific proposed artistic items. Particularly, the following criteria have been employed:
  • continuity/discontinuity, as referred to both their own traditional culture and the roman one;
  • spontaneity/planning component in the performance;
  • geographical and economic determinism in contrast with human intervention.


We are dealing with interpretative lines which are valid for all the phenomena included in the great system generated by the transformation of the ancient world. This event concerned the entire Mediterranean basin, where different forces operated and inter-operated, such as:

  • the Germanic-Barbarian peoples migration,
  • the propagation of christianity,
  • the establishing of the Arabic presence.

All these factors were determinant, even if in different ways, in the elaboration of the “new” Medieval culture.



The Longobards then accepted, preserved, enhanced and transmitted forms and contents of the Roman-Hellenistic tradition. In these terms we find the most original, creative and permanent contribute of the Longobard culture which makes it distinct from any other civilization elaborated during the same historical context.

The nominated properties represent the physical evidence of this cultural process, which main factors, in the light of the above mentioned criteria, were:

  • the physic-cultural environment as favourable condition (geographical determinism): the Longobards settled in Italy, which had been the centre of the Roman Empire, which was the Christianity seat, and which had been first a Goth site and subsequently Byzantine, as well as a strategic crossroads between West and East;


  • the Longobard élites programmatic and strong will (planning quality) of being in line with the past, but also with the existing powers of their time, such as that of the Roman Church. It should be underlined, however, that each above-mentioned component was predominant in a specific moment.

The opportunity to autoptically verify the material of the ancient heritage as well as to exploit it encouraged not only the knowledge of the tradition and its critic ideological utilization but also its survival and transmission.
This makes the Longobards - as Paul the Deacon himself wrote - the true heirs of the roman civilization, much longer than the Byzatines. Therefore, the relationship of the Longobards with the Antiquitate was not a mythological appreciation, as during Teodorico’s time, nor an uncritical idealization as during the subsequent Carolingian age.



The Longobards were protagonists of a unique and extraordinary experience which resembles other “Roman-Barbarian” kingdoms contexts – particularly, those set by the Merovingian kings in Gaul and by the Visigoth Kings in Spain. Nevertheless the LONGOBARDS were able to express something different and universal: if anything, this is what makes their experience closer to that of other migrant populations which in different periods and contexts opened the path to definitive cultural transformations and historic evolutions.

Despite different interpretations which could still be noted on certain aspects of their productions, it is now widely considered that the Longobards anticipated the so called renovatio- traditionally associated with the Carolingian age - saving, continuing and renewing the classic and post-classic Roman Antiquity in the arts, in the written culture and in the law.
Well before the school of Charlemagne’s court, the Longobards were able to assimilate the ancient forms, giving them new meanings as well as deeply innovating elements, supported by a strong creative activity inspired by the conversion to Christianity, but still grounded to the conservation of they are artistically perfect and refined monumental complexes, expressing the Longobards monarchy or aristocracy.



In this perspective they all are “places of powerwhich well demonstrate the ruling élites will of legitimating their own authority, promoting their interests and expressing their own status.

Worship complexes such as Sanctuaries, private Churches and Monasteries should hence be considered “places of power” through which the Longobards not only expressed their support to Christianity, but performed their accord strategies in respect of the Roman Church and the local clerical élites, assured their control on the population as well as on the economy, and secure themselves the transmission of their own goods (moreover, the Monasteries were important centres of culture where the transcription activities of literary, technical, legal, artistic and scientific works of antiquity took place, guaranteeing their preservation up to the present).

The serial property, therefore, illustrates from one side the specificity of the Longobard culture during the Early Middle Ages, and from the other the universality of its results in the formation of medieval Europe.