Great Dane Meets Dalmatian. Ejnar Dyggve and the Creating of the Cultural Crossroads in Europe

  • Abstract:

    The current sense of cultural fragmentation, dislocation, and the apparent absence of coherence seem to undo cultural unities (Blundell, Chatterjee, Bhabha). In such a situation, it may be beneficial to (re-)consider the theory and praxis of cultural continuity. The paper relates the current situation of the discipline of art history to the Early Middle Ages, the time when today’s Europe began to take shape. As a case in point, the work and character of the deserving, but almost forgotten archaeologist, architect and art historian, Ejnar Aksel Petersen Dyggve (1887-1961) should be brought to mind. Dyggve’s research profile, central motifs and methodologies will be briefly sketched, since they have ultimately lead him to become one of the most cited pioneers in comparative cultural studies in mid-twentieth century Europe. Dyggve´s excavations in and around Salona in Dalmatia and Jelling in east Jutland still serve as the crown witnesses of the Christianization of today´s Croatia and Denmark and are closely bound to the national identities in both countries. Dyggve´s convictions of the causal priority of topological, liturgical and other functional elements over the formal elements of ‘style’ have led him to defend his continuity-thesis, which has provoked a fruitful debate since its appearance in the 1920s. The paper picks a complementary context between Denmark and Croatia as a model for questioning of the European cultural continuity, where the comparative investigation of the life-long collaboration and competition between the two exact contemporaries Ejnar Dyggve and Ljubo Karaman (1886-1971) serve as a special case.