In his book, Common Landscapes of America, 1580-1845
, from which all facts in this writeup
are taken, John Stilgoe says that a roland was also the center
of a certain type of isolate
d rural European community
, the landschaft
, whose English
approximation is roughly the archaic word, vill
. These sorts of communities were roughly circular
(at least as much so as the shape of the land allowed) and had houses and cottage
s grouped in the middle with the settlement's agricultural fields surrounding it in all directions. At roughly the geographic center of the community would stand the roland, which could be virtually any sort of structure, from trees in pagan
times to cross
es in Christian
, with a liberal
helping of stone and wooden staves scattered throughout both periods, although slightly more common in pagan times.
The roland represented something like the spiritual unity of the community. It was a totally symbolic practice serving no physical needs and yet it was widespread throughout Europe, especially in the Northwest. During the Pre-Christian era, the roland and the ground surrounding it became a center for fertility rituals involving drunken licentiousness and general sexual abandon. Apparently this practice, as well as the roland's intimate connection with paganism, led clergy of the Christian era to urge their replacement with the quintessential Christian symbol, the cross, in a movement not unlike the move by the Roman Catholic church to replace the Roman festival of Saturnalia with Christmas. Even when left in their old forms, however, the rolands of Christian Europe symbolized the normative religious and social hierarchy by which the landschaft functioned.