Alois Riegl.
The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin

V–A–C x CEM (Centre for Experimental Museology)

A reflection on the historical development of the cult of monuments and how our sense of their value changes in the present.

Alois Riegl was a historian, an art critic, a representative of the Viennese School of artistic research, a proponent for formalism in art. He advocated for the recognition of art history as an academic science.

The book “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin” was first published in 1903 and it was there that the foundations of a modern approach to the preservation of cultural heritage were laid.

Starting from the particular problems of the restoration of monuments, Alois Riegl reached the conclusion that it is necessary to create a system of values of memory. It traces the origin of these values, their historical presence and their interactions. Riegl was guided by the concept of artistic will and excludes artistic value from the concept of the "monument", because it is not related to the memory of the past but is a product of the present.

Modern man recognizes part of his own life in a monument and any interference with it disturbs him just as much as an intervention upon his own organism.

– Alois Riegl