Who will be world heritage? Jewish culture in Germany, health resorts, the Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony and parts of the Roman Limes are competing for the coveted title. What matters is their universal value.
The world heritage is one of the “inestimable and irreplaceable goods not only of every people, but of all humanity”, writes Unesco on the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage.
In the next two weeks, the responsible committee of the UN Organization for Education, Science, Culture and Communication (Unesco) will decide again who will be allowed to adorn themselves with the World Heritage award – and thus also assume the obligation to preserve them.
Of the 40 or so nominations, five applications with German participation are pending for decision: The Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony in Darmstadt, the Jewish cultural heritage in Mainz, Speyer and Worms, the health resorts of Baden-Baden, Bad Ems and Bad Kissingen as part of important historical baths in Europe as well the Roman border walls of the Danube Limes and Lower German Limes.
Because of the corona pandemic, the 44th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Fuzhou, China, was postponed a year ago. Now the meeting will be rescheduled online from Friday until July 31st. The first decisions can be expected from July 23rd to at least July 25th, said a Unesco spokeswoman.
The so far 1,121 cultural and natural sites in 167 countries include the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. So far there are 46 sites in Germany. Here are the German applicants:
Baden-Baden (Baden-Württemberg), Bad Ems (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Bad Kissingen (Bavaria) are applying with eight other European health resorts as ‘Great Spas of Europe’. This refers to baths that gained international importance from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
This is still evident in the cityscape today through a building geared towards medical, therapeutic and social functions: “In these glamorous places of health care, leisure and social gathering, architectural prototypes and an urban planning typology emerged for which there was no previous parallel », Says Baden-Baden about the application.
Natural thermal waters are the basis of a ‘tradition of European bathing culture that spans epochs’. The eleven spa towns that are part of the application also include Spa (Belgium), Vichy (France), Bath (United Kingdom) as well as Karlsbad, Franzensbad and Marienbad from the Czech Republic.
Mainz, Speyer and Worms are the places of the Jewish Middle Ages. With these so-called Schum sites according to the Hebrew initials of the three cities in what is now Rhineland-Palatinate, Jewish cultural property in Germany would be recognized as a world heritage for the first time. The Schum sites, also known as “Jerusalem on the Rhine”, are considered to be the cradle of European Jewry.
In Mainz, the old cemetery is part of the legacy of the Jewish people. Around 1000 years after the first burials, many historical gravestones can still be found. There is also a Jewish cemetery in Worms, as well as a quarter with a synagogue, ritual bath (mikveh) and museum. Speyer had a similarly rich Jewish community life.
The plan to apply with the Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony had matured in Darmstadt (Hesse) for ten years. The complex of 15 buildings, park and sculptures is considered to be the intersection of modern architecture – not just an Art Nouveau ensemble, but a step towards the Bauhaus. Peter Behrens was one of the first artists to later teach the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius.
The intention to build the colony at the end of the 19th century was by no means just of a cultural, but of a tangible economic nature. Due to a lack of natural resources, the Hessian Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig saw an economic upswing only guaranteed by more quality in the factories and brought artists of all stripes to Darmstadt.
LOW GERMAN LIMES AND DONAULIMES
The Lower Germanic Limes and the western part of the Danube Limes are applying for the serial World Heritage “Frontiers of the Roman Empire”. The approximately 400 kilometers long Lower Germanic Limes was the outer border of the mighty Roman Empire with forts and legionary camps along the Rhine. One speaks of the «wet Limes». Applicants are the residents: The Netherlands as well as North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.
The border section begins in Rheinbrohl in Rhineland-Palatinate and ends at the North Sea in the Netherlands. In NRW there are 220 kilometers between Bonn and Kleve. The border region was a center of ancient culture and the beginning of the cities in the Rhineland. Roman traces include military installations, sanctuaries, statues and everyday objects. The inclusion in the world cultural heritage is intended to close a gap between two already protected sections – the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes as well as Hadrian’s Wall and another in Great Britain.
The western part of the Danube Limes is a joint application by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. The Danube Limes as a former Roman border stretches in the Bavarian section from Bad Gögging in the Kelheim district via Regensburg and Straubing to Passau. There were many watchtowers and fortresses. Archaeological sites and museums are now tourist attractions.