Personifications of Sclavinia, Germania, Gallia, and Roma, bringing offerings to Otto III; from a gospel book dated 990.
Medieval notions of a relation of the peoples of Europe are expressed in terms of genealogy of mythical founders of the individual groups. The Europeans were considered the descendants of Japheth from early times, corresponding to the division of the known world into three continents, the descendants of Shem peopling Asia and those of Ham peopling Africa. Identification of Europeans as "Japhetites" is also reflected in early suggestions for terming the Indo-European languages "Japhetic".
In this tradition, the Historia Brittonum (9th century) introduces a genealogy of the peoples of the Migration period (as it was remembered in early medieval historiography) as follows,
The first man that dwelt in Europe was Alanus, with his three sons, Hisicion, Armenon, and Neugio. Hisicion had four sons, Francus, Romanus, Alamanus, and Bruttus. Armenon had five sons, Gothus, Valagothus, Cibidus, Burgundus, and Longobardus. Neugio had three sons, Vandalus, Saxo, and Boganus.
From Hisicion arose four nations—the Franks, the Latins, the Germans, and Britons; from Armenon, the Gothi, Valagothi, Cibidi, Burgundi, and Longobardi; from Neugio, the Bogari, Vandali, Saxones, and Tarincgi. The whole of Europe was subdivided into these tribes.
The text goes then on to list the genealogy of Alanus, connecting him to Japheth via eighteen generations.
Main articles: Culture of Europe and Western culture
European culture is largely rooted in what is often referred to as its "common cultural heritage". Due to the great number of perspectives which can be taken on the subject, it is impossible to form a single, all-embracing conception of European culture. Nonetheless, there are core elements which are generally agreed upon as forming the cultural foundation of modern Europe. One list of these elements given by K. Bochmann includes:
A common cultural and spiritual heritage derived from Greco-Roman antiquity, Christianity, the Renaissance and its Humanism, the political thinking of the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution, and the developments of Modernity, including all types of socialism;
A rich and dynamic material culture that has been extended to the other continents as the result of industrialization and colonialism during the "Great Divergence";
A specific conception of the individual expressed by the existence of, and respect for, a legality that guarantees human rights and the liberty of the individual;
A plurality of states with different political orders, which are condemned to live together in one way or another;
Respect for peoples, states and nations outside Europe.
Berting says that these points fit with "Europe's most positive realisations". The concept of European culture is generally linked to the classical definition of the Western world. In this definition, Western culture is the set of literary, scientific, political, artistic and philosophical principles which set it apart from other civilizations. Much of this set of traditions and knowledge is collected in the Western canon. The term has come to apply to countries whose history has been strongly marked by European immigration or settlement during the 18th and 19th centuries, such as the Americas, and Australasia, and is not restricted to Europe.
Eurobarometer Poll 2005 chart results
Main articles: Religion in Europe and Christendom
Further information: Islam in Europe, Hinduism in Europe, and Buddhism in Europe
Since the High Middle Ages, most of Europe used to be dominated by Christianity. There are three major denominations, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox, with Protestantism restricted mostly to Northern Europe, and Orthodoxy to Slavic regions, Romania, Greece and Georgia. Also The Armenian Apostolic Church, part of the Oriental Church, is in Europe - another branch of Christianity (world's oldest National Church). Part of the Catholicism, while centered in the Latin parts, has a significant following also in Germanic and Slavic regions, Hungary, and Ireland (with some in Great Britain).
Islam has some tradition in the Balkans (the European dominions of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th to 19th centuries). Muslims represent majority of the population of Albania, Kosovo and a purality of 47% in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with significant minorities present in all over Europe. European Russia has the largest Muslim community, including the Tatars of the Middle Volga and multiple groups in the Caucasus, including Chechens, Avars, Ingush and others. With 20th-century migrations, Muslims in Western Europe have become a noticeable minority.
Judaism has a long history in Europe, but is a small minority religion, with France (1%) the only European country with a Jewish population in excess of 0.5%. (With millions of Jews killed during WW2, the Holocaust has contributed to the small population percentages.) The Jewish population of Europe is composed primarily of two groups, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi. Ancestors of Ashkenazi Jews likely migrated to the middle of Europe at least as early as the 8th century, while Sephardi Jews established themselves in Spain and Portugal at least one thousand years before that. Jews originated in the Levant thousands of years ago and spread around the Mediterranean and into Europe. Jewish European history was notably affected by the Holocaust and emigration (including Aliyah, as well as emigration to America) in the 20th century.
In modern times, significant secularization has taken place, notably in laicist France in the 19th century and in the 20th century such as Estonia and German Democratic Republic. Currently, distribution of theism in Europe is very heterogeneous, with more than 95% in Poland, and less than 20% in the Czech Republic and Estonia. The 2005 Eurobarometer poll found that 52% of EU citizens believe in God.
Main article: Pan-European identity
"Pan-European identity" or "Europatriotism" is an emerging sense of personal identification with Europe, or the European Union as a result of the gradual process European integration taking place over the last quarter of the 20th century, and especially in the period after the end of the Cold War, since the 1990s. The foundation of the OSCE followng the 1990s Paris Charter has facilitated this process on a political level during the 1990s and 2000s.
From the later 20th century, 'Europe' has come to be widely used as a synonym for the European Union even though there are millions of people living on the European continent in non-EU states. The prefix pan implies that the identity applies throughout Europe, and especially in an EU context, and 'pan-European' is often contrasted with national identity.