Cosmin Minea

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Cosmin Minea


Cosmin Minea recently defended his PhD thesis in the Department of Art History at the University of Birmingham (December 2019), titled ‘Old Buildings for Modern Times: The Rise of Architectural Monuments as Symbols of The State in Late 19th Century Romania’. His research considers the European-wide networks of architects and intellectuals involved in creating, restoring and promoting historical monuments, heritage sites and a sense of national cultural identity in late 19th century Romania. He has been a teaching assistant and he is currently a visiting lecturer at the University of Birmingham, convening in 2020 the module ‘Political Art’, where he considers some of the many ways in which art played a visible political role from the nineteenth century to the present. He has been a research fellow at a number of institutions, including Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology, Institut national d’histoire de l’art, Paris, Leibniz Institute for European History in Mainz, New Europe College, Bucharest. His MA thesis, defended in 2014, at Central European University in Budapest received the ‘Hanák Prize’ for the best dissertation in the History Department.

Transnational Relations and National Identity: The Renewal of the Architectural Heritage in 19th Century Romania

The paper describes the study and restoration of architectural monuments and archaeological findings and traces their use as national symbols in 19th Century Romania. If medieval monuments connected Romania with the idea of Byzantine culture, the Roman remains played a special symbolic role as proofs of the Latin origin of Romanians. What was a significant work for the national identity was also a transnational, collaborative discipline that involved foreign specialists. The most active 19th century Romanian archaeologist, Grigore Tocilescu (1850-1909), conducted his studies of Roman monuments together with German and Austrian while other archaeological missions in the region were from France. As well, the main restorer of medieval monuments was the French architect André Lecomte du Noüy (1844-1914). The paper will argue that the discovery, restoration and promotion of the material heritage was a transnational work, involving the input of artists and intellectuals from many European countries. At the same time, the paper will also describe the reactions against foreign specialists and the activities of restoration or demolition of monuments. While with clear nationalistic undertones, these led to the affirmation of a generation of intellectuals who conceived new theories about the Romanian artistic identity and promoted less-noticed historical monuments as nationally significant.