Around 6000 years separate the Prehistoric Pile Dwellings on Lake Constance and the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates – yet they are closely linked in a network of 42 UNESCO world heritage sites which extends throughout Germany and includes
Cologne Cathedral, the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen and Wittenberg, where Martin Luther launched the Reformation. The German world heritage sites are truly representative of cultural diversity. They are all unique in their own way, and all so significant that UNESCO considers them part of our human heritage, like the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China. However, not only notable constructions can testify eloquently to the past: natural monuments such as the Messel Pit Fossil Site, the Wadden Sea and Ancient Beech Forests also provide deep insight into the history of the Earth or highlight striking natural phenomena.
Other landscapes owe their characteristic structure to human design and intervention. Examples here are the Upper Middle Rhine Valley with its castles and terraced vineyards, Muskauer Park (Park Mużakowski) on the Polish border and the rococo Garden Kingdom of Leopold III, Frederick Franz, Duke of Anhalt-Dessau. Garden landscaping and architecture harmonise equally well in the Sanssouci ensemble, the castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Brühl and the Bergpark (hillside park) of Kassel-
Wilhelmshöhe. The Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura are perfect examples of the influence nature had on early mankind.
Sometimes, only an hour by car separates the modern world and the Stone Age. A visit to many of the world heritage sites, which frequently lie close together, transforms easily into a walk through the millennia:
The Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps document a form of settlement which originated in the Stone Age. The Romans left traces in the shape of amphitheatres and baths not just in Trier: their Limes, or frontier, extends approximately 550 kilometres from the Rhine to Bavaria. At around 80 points along the route, today’s visitors are presented with engrossing accounts of life at the outer reaches of the Roman Empire. The ambition of Charlemagne, who wanted to create a new Rome, is reflected in Aachen Cathedral with its almost 1000-year history. The Carolingian dynasty saw the construction of the “King’s Hall” in Lorsch, the location of one the most important monasteries in Europe, aswell as the Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey of former Corvey monastery. An abundance of religious buildings demonstrates that faith not only moves mountains, but in the Middle Ages also created monuments. The Monastic Island of Reichenau and the Maulbronn Monastery Complex are examples of this, as are the Cathedrals in Speyer, Hildesheim and Cologne.
Bamberg, Regensburg, and Quedlinburg achieved great significance as political centres in the Middle Ages. The historic city centre in each of these towns still presents as a complete ensemble. The same applies to Bremen, Lübeck, Wismar and Stralsund, which became wealthy through trade and where the historical town halls and magnificent façades testify to the pride of their citizens and the heyday of the Hanseatic League. Also Hamburg´s wealth derives from trading activities. Testimony to this is the Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District that survived the years without damage or alteration.
The spirit of the reformer Martin Luther lives on in Wittenberg, Eisleben and in Wartburg Castle. From the house in which he was born to the Castle Church where he nailed up his theses it is possible to trace a life which was to change the world.
Secular wealth in the Baroque era sets the scene in residences and magnificent gardens. The Prussian Palaces of Potsdam and the Prince-Bishops’ Residence in Würzburg illustrate how much manifestations of this style can vary. The Pilgrimage Church of Wies in Pfaffenwinkel displays an abundance of religious art from the same period.
The Classical Weimar ensemble was epoch-making. Here where Goethe, Schiller and Herder lived and worked, we are reminded vividly of a very significant chapter in intellectual history, one on which Germany bases its national cultural identity as a country of poets and thinkers. The musical history and it´s architectural structures are represented in the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth. Even 250 years after its erection, it exerts an incomparable magic to its visitors.
However, Germany is also known throughout the world as an industrial nation. The Völklingen Ironworks and the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen are two monuments which document steel-making and coal-mining, industries which once guaranteed work and prosperity. The centuries-old tradition of mining is given the museum treatment in the Mines of Rammelsberg near Goslar with striking success.
The social aspects of industrialisation at the beginning of the 20th century are reflected in the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates. The requirement to build affordable housing for a rapidly growing number of workers resulted in a new type of urban construction which adhered to the “new objectivity” approach. The powerhouse behind these visions is also part of our global heritage. The Bauhaus Sites, buildings designed by Henry van de Velde and Walter Gropius, can be found in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau. They became the centre of a new school of thought which revolutionised architecture and design. In the Fagus Factory, an early work by Gropius in Alfeld, these modern approaches are realised in a factory building. Another contributor to the Modern Movement was the architect Le Corbusier, who´s architectural work made him famous around the world.
And finally, a self-reflection of culture: The world-famous Museumsinsel (Museum Island) in Berlin presents 6000 years of human history concentrated in an area of less than a square kilometre. The exhibits range from archaeological finds to art from the 19th century. The “city of temples” in the Spree has grown over 100 years, starting with plans drawn up by Schinkel and culminating in the construction of the Pergamon Museum. This unique bastion for fine art has undergone extensive renovation: Like the river in which the buildings stand, the culture they house is in constant flux.
The UNESCO world heritage convention
In 1972, the UNESCO General Conference adopted the “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage”. It places the protection of cultural and natural assets with “exceptional universal value” in the care of all humanity. In signing the convention, every country undertakes to protect monuments within its borders and to maintain them for future generations.
“German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association”
Sustainable travel can contribute to the maintenance of world heritage sites. “UNESCO-Welterbestätten Deutschland e.V.” would like to make the world heritage sites in Germany better known and encourage careful and high-quality tourism to an extent compatible with the monuments in question. This will also deliver the opportunity not only to make our global heritage accessible to the public but to guarantee its maintenance from the income stream generated by sustainable tourism.
The German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association is based in Quedlinburg. It brings together tourism organisations from the cities, regions and federal states which are home to world heritage sites.
UNESCO Welterbestätten Deutschland e.V. – Palais Salfeldt- Kornmarkt 6, 06484 Quedlinburg,
Tel: +49(0)39 46-8112-53 /54, Fax: +49 (0)39 46-81 12–56, E-Mail: email@example.com