UNDERSTANDING OF THE MILITARY MONUMENTAL HERITAGE
TERMINOLOGY AND CONCEPTS
The “Understanding of the military monumental heritage” tries to make social understanding of the military monuments as cultural properties easier. For that purpose there is a varied program where you can find different resources about the history of each of our fortifications which this virtual site is too concise and limited to explain. However, for those people interested in the military monuments, here is a brief sample from one of our subjects that discusses the use of terminology and concepts.
We can’t give information without the object we are referring to being defined in an appropriate, clear and precise way. The list of imprecisions and confusions, both semantic and conceptual, in fortification terms is large. We have talked before about the mistake of using the word castle as a synonym of a bastioned fortification or later. Now it’s time to talk about other common examples.
The expression military fortress, for example, is used frequently when people want to define or reinforce the military nature of a modern or contemporary fortification’s work. There is no such thing as a civil fortress, but we use the word military in the same way we know to go up can only mean one direction but to go up above is still a common phrase.
It became very common to use military whilst talking about the architecture of a modern and contemporary fortification, military architecture for example despite the fact these constructions have nothing to do with religious or civil buildings. Technically or conceptually these buildings weren’t architectural works, on the contrary, they were engineering works because they were designed and built by engineers, who lead sieges and defenses and repaired defenses if it was necessary. This is contrary to nowadays, where architecture professionals are in charge of restorations, improvements or maintenance of these same engineering monuments.
Another inaccuracy, in this case clearly intentional, is hiding the strictly military character of a fortification with synonyms and suggestions such as, for example fortified heritage, defensive heritage, conflict heritage, bastioned art, etc. The same happens with the insistence of blurring the absolutely military character of the military engineers, “…to the best service and endeavors to your Majesty”. Engineers were distinguished and elite professionals with valuable technical training; their civil works weren’t very common but they were essential to the progress of the country. However, awards and promotions were given for merits achieved in military campaigns.
Apart from some isolated urban exceptions in which the work of a military engineer could take a police role, as for example with the citadels; the aim of the fortification was always to have dual function. Firstly, it had a dissuasive function and secondly, if it failed on its first role, a defensive function. Consequently, its main purpose wasn’t conflict; on the contrary, it was conflict prevention.
The different modern and contemporary fortification works should be considered part of a continuous evolutionary process, demonstrating suitable technological solutions for every circumstance, and this fact must be take precedence when interpreting them. They weren’t designed to commemorate anything or with abstract purposes, but they were strictly functional according to their technical nature.
A fortification work, as a whole or only a part of it, might have become a memorial space thanks to a specific historic moment and this specific time needs to be present in its discourse. However, we can’t forget that the reason it qualifies as a Cultural Heritage Property (which justifies its protection and conservation) is in the value of its documental nature, and not just of the events that took place there.