FROM MYSTERY TO CIVILIZATION
Mountains have always inspired fear. Inhabited by gods and demons, dragons and evil beings, dispensers of landslides, avalanches and floods, they were places of mystery to be explored and tamed. But mountain civilisation has gone beyond this: even where nature was at its most hostile and least generous, it has succeeded in cultivating a sense of beauty and in developing a sense of religion that goes beyond fear. The Sacra di San Michele bears witness to this, a sentinel in the Susa Valley.
So similar, so different
The men of four or five thousand years ago were not so different from the mountain dwellers-farmers of recent generations. They had learnt to adapt to the mountain environment and already demonstrated the characteristics of those civilisations that would endure up to the middle of the 20th century, becoming increasingly specialised. The sacredness of natural manifestations, especially the more mysterious and inaccessible ones, marked the rhythms of the earliest mountain communities.
Focus on beauty
In spite of what is commonly believed – the mountain world as uncouth and backward – Alpine civilisation has expressed signs of an elevated material culture, deriving from constant creative exchange with the world of the plains. In the valleys, almost nothing was conceived in terms of its mere use. An aesthetic approach was reserved for every object, every tool, rendering them unique and unrepeatable.
The sacredness of wood
The sacred art of Alto Adige, intimately connected with Austrian Tyrolese traditions, admirably demonstrates how the mountain knew how to interpret the culture of its time, often becoming a reference point itself. Religious feeling in Alto Adige is inseparable from artistic creation, shown principally in the artisan working of wood.
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