Fascinating World Heritage

Luthergedenkstätten in Wittenberg Enlarge image (© DZT/Jochen Keute) Germany is strongly involved in the preservation of cultural monuments around the world. Now Germany has again been elected as a new member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee until 2015.

Germany will be able to play a major role in shaping the development of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in the next four years. On 7 November 2011, during the 36th UNESCO General Conference in Paris, Germany was again elected to the World Heritage Committee, which represents the 188 signatory states of the World Heritage Convention. After 14 years Germany is thus returning to the body that takes all important decisions on the UNESCO World Heritage. This also includes the acceptance of new sites on the World Heritage List.

The re-election to the UNESCO body is a great success – and an honour – for Germany. Cornelia Pieper, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, said: “We see it as recognition of all Germany is doing to preserve World Heritage sites not only in Germany but also around the world.” The World Heritage Convention is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012. The UNESCO World Heritage List currently contains more than 900 sites. Germany has 36 World Heritage sites – only Spain, Italy, China and France has more cultural and natural sites that are allowed to bear the UNESCO signet. The prestigious list includes a diversity of German architectural monuments, castles, churches, monasteries, whole old-town quarters, gardens, landscapes and industrial sites. If you wanted to visit them all, you would have to travel the country for weeks, but the journey would give you an amazing impression of German cultural history.

Some of the prime examples of representative grandeur among Germany’s World Heritage sites are doubtless the Prussian palaces and gardens in Berlin and Potsdam, the fantastic yet defiant Wartburg Castle near Eisenach and the Würzburg Residence with its gigantic ceiling fresco by Tiepolo. Outstanding sacred monuments include the centuries-old cathedrals of Aachen, Cologne, Speyer, Trier and Hildesheim.

Völklinger Eisenhütte Enlarge image (© DZT/Hans Peter Merten)

The places associated with the Reformation and Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Eisleben and Eisenach are equally exceptional. The industrial sites are far more worldly, but they too played an important role in German history. Examples here include the Völklingen Ironworks in the Saarland and the Zollverein coal mining complex in Essen. You can easily spend days here learning a great deal about the times when coal was the black gold of world industry. Visitors also need to earmark a lot of leisure time for the World Heritage sites of Bamberg, Goslar, Lübeck, Quedlinburg, Regensburg, Stralsund and Wismar, where the entire old-town quarters enjoy UNESCO protection. The most extensive German World Heritage site is the German-Dutch Wadden Sea along the North Sea coast covering an area of around 10,000 square kilometres. However, the 550-kilometres of the ancient Upper German-Raetian Limes, which once formed the frontier of the Roman Empire, holds the European record as the longest archaeological site. In 2011, the list of German World Heritage sites received three new entries in the shape of the Fagus Factory in Alfeld, which is an outstanding example of modern industrial architecture, five extensive primeval beech forests in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Thuringia and Hesse as well as prehistoric pile dwellings in southern Germany.

Muskauer Park/Park Mużakowski Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/dpa) Despite their diversity, the World Heritage sites have one thing in common: Germany, which is the third largest contributor to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund, keenly supports the careful and sustainable development of its UNESCO-protected treasures. And the country gladly shares its experience and expertise in protecting and restoring monuments. Germany is involved beyond the borders of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, since it helps to conserve cultural heritage throughout the world as part of the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme. A total of 50.2 million euros was used to fund more than 2,350 projects in 142 countries between 1981 and 2010. These projects include such things as the restoration of historical buildings and objects, as well as support and technical equipment for museums and archives. The spectrum of the various projects is broad and fascinating. The common denominator is that they usually play a special role in their country’s cultural identity, such as the Hathor Chapel in the forgotten ancient city of Naga in Sudan, the temple city of Angkor in the Cambodian jungle or Babur’s Garden in the Afghan capital Kabul. The Cultural Preservation Programme focuses particularly on communicating and exchanging know-how based on partnership, and specifically fosters the education and further training of restorers, archivists, archaeologists and museum directors.

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Fascinating World Heritage


German Commission for UNESCO