Culture, landscape and heritage in the Constitution. By Vito d’Ambrosio

On the subject of the environment, the Italian Consitution contains the barest of statements, beginning with Article 9, the shortest on the twelve Fundamental Principles:
“The Republic promotes cultural development and scientific and technical research. It protects the environment and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation.”
This unusually bald statement gives rise to a number of considerations: the first, and most central, is that the constituent assembly was bent, at all costs, on avoiding a repetition of what had happened under the fascist regime, which had taken upon itself not only to skew cultural research and development but even the way they were taught.
Moreover, and this was a completely new departure, the Constitution assumed responsibility for protecting the landscape of the country and its historical and artistic heritage – notions that were still fairly hazy at the time. Two rapporteurs – the Latin scholar, Concetto Marchesi, a communist, and the budding young professor, Aldo Moro, a Christian democrat – were appointed to produce a first draft. Marchesi was in fact responsible for the article as it appears in the final version of the Constitution; he restored the original wording which had actually been deleted. What is undeniable, however, is that a vision of culture emerges which is, in a certain sense, “utilitarian”. In other words, culture is considered less for its instrinsic value than as an asset to be propagated and kept free.
It may have been at the insistence of Calamandrei (there are no minutes of the meetings) that the word culture, which had been deleted from an earlier reading, was reintroduced in support of that concept which led to the second paragraph (see the blow-by-blow account of the origin of the entire article in the historical reconstruction undertaken by Tomaso Montanari in his commentary in the Fundamental Principles series – one slim volume per article – published by Carocci in 2018). Calamandrei was clear in his own mind that the development of culture would bolster the democratic stability of the Republic (see again Montanari’s observations and reconstruction), but in reality there is no trace of his vision in the text of the Constitution. By proclaiming that it is the responsibility of the Republic to promote the development of culture, the text undoubtedly implies that it is an asset of great value, but this remains an intuition, (almost) self-evident, not an explicit statement.
Of considerable interest, in my view, is the mention of scientific and technical research, placed on a different level from culture. To put it bluntly, in those few words we can discern a distant echo of Crocean theories, from whose “humanist” approach the constituent assembly was trying to safguard the position of science – a different sort of asset, though its development needed to be watched over nonetheless. It was certainly no easy task to decide on the body which was to be responsible for overseeing and developing scientific and technical research, whether the State or the future Regions. In this article the leading role was entrusted to the State, but it was already apparent that it would sit uneasily with Article 117, and the strenuous defence of the article (still referred to as Article 29) was mainly conducted by Marchesi. The problem was further complicated following the reform of the entire Title V of the Constitution – carried out in accordance with the 2001 constitutional law, – which delineated, or rather, botched, a messy separation of roles.
As regards the second paragraph, it should be pointed out that the wording, “the Republic protects”, is used only four other times in the entire Constitution (Articles 6, 32, 35, 37, in the first paragraph of each; see MONTANARI, OP CIT. p.50). After an initial lengthy period during which the whole of Article 9 (and then more specifically the second paragraph) was accorded little more than token value, in more recent times both scholars and the law have assigned ever greater importance to this principle. The earliest effective confirmation of this came in 2006 when law 152 approved a number of general regulations concerning the environment. Meanwhile, at a European level, the “European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights” (Treaty of Lisbon, approved in 2007 and brought into force in 2009) assured the “citizenship”, in a bare provision, of the concept of sustainable development as the principle underlying the protection of the environment. [Art. 37. Protection of the environment: a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment must be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development].
However, it is important to bear in mind that the protection of the historical and artistic heritage of the Italian nation – suggested as long ago as 1519 in tha famous letter sent by Raphael and Baldassare Castiglione to Pope Leo X (see excerpts in Montanari, op. cit, pp.53-54) – has been woefully neglected, as witnessed by the appalling destruction wrought by frenzied urban development driven by greed. (On the whole question which saw “protection” shading off into “development”, until it was virtually ignored under the pretext of transforming the country’s cultural heritage into “the oil” of Italy, and on the slight improvement in the situation recently, see Montanari, op.cit. especially pp.53-58; with specific reference to landscape which ought to be considered in tandem with heritage, pp.59-end, together with the harsh criticism contained in chap. 4 , entitled, and not arbitrarily, “The current situation and the (non) implementation of Article 9). This, too, could form a seperate chapter in an account of the “Non-implementation of the Constitution” (a subject on which nine meetings were held in Ancona in 2018 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Constitution; the proceedings were published the following year).