In 1972, the World Heritage Convention became the first international legal instrument to recognize and protect cultural landscapes.
Cultural landscapes represent the "combined works of Man and Nature" referred to in Article 1 of the Convention.
They illustrate the evolution of society and human occupations over the ages, under the influence of the constraints and/or assets presented by their natural environment, and under the influence of successive social, economic and cultural forces, internal and external.
Cultural landscapes fall into three major categories (2008 Operational Guidelines, Annex 3):
The most easily identifiable is the landscape that is clearly defined, designed and created intentionally by Man, which includes landscapes of gardens and parks created for aesthetic reasons that are often (but not always) associated with religious buildings or ensembles.
The second category is the essentially evolving landscape. It results from a requirement of social, economic, administrative and/or religious origin and reaches its present form by association and in response to its natural environment. These landscapes reflect this evolutionary process in their form and composition. They are subdivided into 2 categories:- A relict (or fossil) landscape is a landscape that has undergone an evolutionary process that has stopped, either suddenly or over a period of time, at some point in the past. However, its essential characteristics remain physically visible.- A living landscape is a landscape that retains an active social role in contemporary society, closely associated with the traditional way of life and in which the evolutionary process continues. At the same time, it shows clear evidence of its evolution over time. This is the case with the Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion.
The last category includes the associative cultural landscape(3).
In the Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion, everything points out that Man and Nature have advanced together, by developing the cultivation of the vine that appeared more than 2,000 years ago. A cultural landscape like that of the Jurisdiction is shaped by its history and geography. Religious architectures, wine-growing architectures or small familiar architectural heritage from past generations (vine huts, washhouses, watercress, mills, etc.) are all expressions of a society, of its know-how to be kept alive and transmitted to future generations.
It is important to note that the Convention recognizes the interaction between human beings and nature and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.