Category Archives: UNESCO Germany

Germany – Margravial Opera House Bayreuth

Germany-UNESCO-Bayreuth Opernhaus

A masterpiece of Baroque theatre architecture, built between 1745 and 1750, the Opera House is the only entirely preserved example of its type where an audience of 500 can experience Baroque court opera culture and acoustics authentically, as its auditorium retains its original materials, i.e. wood and canvas. Commissioned by Margravine Wilhelmine, wife of Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg–Bayreuth, it was designed by the renowned theatre architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena. As a court opera house in a public space, it foreshadowed the large public theatres of the 19th century. The highly decorated theatre’s tiered loge structure of wood with illusionistic painted canvas represents the ephemeral ceremonial architectural tradition that was employed in pageants and celebrations for princely self-representation.

 

The 18th century Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth is a masterwork of Baroque theatre architecture, commissioned by Margravine Wilhelmine of Brandenburg as a venue for opera seria over which the princely couple ceremonially presided. The bell-shaped auditorium of tiered loges built of wood and lined with decoratively painted canvas was designed by the then leading European theatre architect Giuseppe Galli Bibiena.

The sandstone façade designed by court architect Joseph Saint Pierre provides a focal point within the urban public space that was particularly planned for the building. As an independent court opera house rather than part of a palace complex, it marks a key point in opera house design, foreshadowing the large public theatres of the 19th century. Today it survives as the only entirely preserved example of court opera house architecture where Baroque court opera culture and acoustics can be authentically experienced. The attributes carrying Outstanding Universal Value are its location in the original 18th century public urban space; the 18th century Baroque façade; the original 18th century roof structure spanning 25 metres; the internal layout and design of the ceremonial foyer, tiered loge theatre and stage area including all existing original materials and decoration.

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Germany – Regensburg

 

Located on the Danube River in Bavaria, this medieval town contains many buildings of exceptional quality that testify to its history as a trading centre and to its influence on the region from the 9th century. A notable number of historic structures span some two millennia and include ancient Roman, Romanesque and Gothic buildings. Regensburg’s 11th- to 13th-century architecture – including the market, city hall and cathedral – still defines the character of the town marked by tall buildings, dark and narrow lanes, and strong fortifications. The buildings include medieval patrician houses and towers, a large number of churches and monastic ensembles as well as the 12th-century Old Bridge, which dates from. The town is also remarkable for the vestiges testifing to its rich history as one of the centres of the Holy Roman Empire that turned to Protestantism.

Germany – Rhein Valley

 

The 65km-stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley, with its castles, historic towns and vineyards, graphically illustrates the long history of human involvement with a dramatic and varied natural landscape. It is intimately associated with history and legend and for centuries has exercised a powerful influence on writers, artists and composers.

There has been human settlement on the terraces of the Middle Rhine Valley since the last Ice Age. It came under Roman rule in the 1st century BCE, as a frontier province, and a military road was constructed on the left bank, linking military fortress and camps. The Rhine was also a major shipping route during this period, linking northern Europe with the Alpine massif and the Mediterranean lands, a role that exerted a major influence on the subsequent history of the Middle Rhine Valley.

There was continuity of settlement following the departure of the Romans in the 5th century. The Roman settlements were taken over by the Frankish kings and most of the area from Bingen downstream to Koblenz was crown property until well into the Carolingian era. However, the process of divesting the state of this property began in the 8th century and was not to be completed until the beginning of the 14th century. Much of it was donated to the church and the monastic orders. As bailiffs of the abbey of Prüm the Counts of Katzenelnbogen established control in the area around St Goar and Rheinfels, and this was to pass to the Landgraves of Hesse in 1479.

With the partition of Charlemagne’s empire in 842 the left bank of the Rhine was assigned to the Middle Kingdom. Lorraine was not to be united with the East Frankish Kingdom until 925. It remained a heartland of royal power until the election of the Hohenstaufen King Konrad III in 1138. This saw the fragmentation of power in the Middle Rhine area, with parcels of land being distributed among the bishop-electors of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier and the counts palatine. Some forty castles were constructed between Bingen and Koblenz, as symbols of power and also as customs stations on this flourishing trade route. Towns such as Boppard and Oberwesel struggled to maintain their independent status as free towns, as testified by the remains of their defensive walls.

The Middle Rhine Valley was a core region of the Holy Roman Empire. Four of the seven Electors, the highest ranking rulers within the Empire, held portions of the area and it was here that they would meet to determine the succession.

Bacharach was the centre of the Rhine wine trade in the later Middle Ages. Vines had been cultivated on the lower slopes since Roman times, and this expanded greatly from the 10th century onwards. Some 3000ha of vineyards were under cultivation by 1600, five times as much as at the present time. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) witnessed a substantial decline in viticulture, the land being converted partly into orchards and partly into coppice forest. The 14th-16th centuries were the golden age of art in the Middle Rhine, which saw the convergence of artistic influences from the Upper Rhine (Strasbourg) and the Lower Rhine (Cologne). Gothic masterpieces such as the Werner Chapel above Bacharach, the Church of Our Lady in Oberwesel, and the former collegiate church of St Goar date from this period.

Since the 17th century the Middle Rhine has been the scene of conflict between Germany and France. During the War of the Palatine Succession (1688-92) there was extensive destruction of fortresses and town fortifications, and much of Koblenz was destroyed. In the late 18th century the left bank of the Rhine became part of, first, the French Republic, and then the French Empire. This came to end in 1814, when the region came under Prussian rule. Extensive fortifications were constructed, including the fortress at Koblenz, and trade was fostered by the construction of the Rhine highway from Bingen to Koblenz, the widening of the shipping channel, the abolition of tolls over long stretches of the river, and the introduction of steam navigation. Railways were constructed on both the left and the right bank in the 1850s and 1860s.

A deliberate policy of promoting the Rhine as a “German” landscape was adopted by the Prussian state. This led to the renovation of fortress ruins in the Romantic style and the reconstruction of historic monuments, and also to the beginnings of the modern monument conservation movement.

The 20th century has seen major structural changes, notably the decline of the traditional winemaking sector and of mining and quarrying. Freight traffic has become concentrated on a small number of large harbours. The most important economic sector is now tourism. Ordinances of 1953 and 1978 have focused on the preservation of the cultural landscape, which is the main economic asset of the Middle Rhine.

(whc.unesco.org)

Germany – Monastic Island of Reichenau

Reichenau Island lies in Lake Constance in southern Germany. It lies between the Gnadensee and the Untersee, almost due west of the city of Konstanz. The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway that was completed in 1838. Nevertheless, the island is separated from it by a 10-meter-wide Bruckgraben, which is spanned by a low road bridge that allows passage of ordinary boats but not of sailboats through its 95-meter course.

It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 because of its monastery, the Abbey of Reichenau. The abbey’s Münster is dedicated to the Virgin and Saint Mark. Two further churches were built on the island consecrated to St Georg, and to Sts Peter and Paul. The famous artworks of Reichenau include the Ottonian murals of miracles of Christ in St Georg, unique survivals from the 10th century. The abbey’s bailiff was housed in a two-storey stone building that was raised by two more storeys of timber framing in the 14th century, one of the oldest timber-frame buildings in south Germany.

Among the Abbey’s far-flung landholdings was Reichenau, a village in the municipality of Tamins in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, named for the Abbey.

Today the island is also famous for its vegetable farms. The Wollmatinger Ried next to the island is a big nature preserve, a wetland area of reeds which is used by many birds for the stopover during their annual migration.

Germany – Wartburg Castle

 

Wartburg Castle blends superbly into its forest surroundings and is in many ways ‘the ideal castle’. Although it has retained some original sections from the feudal period, the form it acquired during the 19th-century reconstitution gives a good idea of what this fortress might have been at the height of its military and seigneurial power. It was during his exile at Wartburg Castle that Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German.

The legendary creation of Wartburg Castle is attributed to Count Ludwig der Springer. The first steps in its construction were taken in 1067, following the troubles caused by the Investiture Contest, troubles which encouraged the birth of feudalism. The castle is mentioned for the first time in 1080 as a strategic base, one of the key points in the early years of Ludovician sovereignty. This sovereignty grew more firmly established during the first half of the 12th century. Raised to the dignity of landgraves, the Ludovicians supported the policies of the Stauffen emperors. The building of the palace in the second half of the 12th century illustrates their status as Princes of the Empire. Towards the end of the 12th century, a literary court developed at Wartburg castle, attracted by Landgrave Hermann I, who surrounded himself with poets and musicians. The poetry of Walther von der Vogelweide describes the brilliant society life which gave rise to the episode of the singers’ tourney at Wartburg Castle, a romanticized version of which inspired Richard Wagner’s opera, Tannhäuser.

In 1221 Landgrave Ludwig IV, the son of Hermann, married Elizabeth of Hungary. Widowed in 1227, Elizabeth devoted herself to charitable works to which the Landgrave’s family took exception. Driven out of Wartburg Castle with her three children, she founded a hospital in Marburg and lived her life by Franciscan principles. She was canonized in 1235, four years after her death.

Heinrich Raspe IV, the brother of Ludwig IV, succeeded him and, espousing the Pope’s cause, was appointed King of Germany on the initiative of Innocent IV. His death in 1247 ended the Ludovician dynasty.

The Margrave of Wettin, Heinrich von Meissen, took possession of Wartburg Castle. Over the next century, the site was to receive a series of new buildings. The transfer of the seat of power to Gotha and subsequently to Weimar at the beginning of the 15th century marked the beginning of the castle’s decline.

Under the protection of the Prince Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther stayed at Wartburg Castle in secret. Here he devoted himself to literature, producing a considerable body of work attested by his correspondence, from which many letters have survived. It was at Wartburg Castle that he made his translation of the New Testament into German. His exile came to an end in March 1522 and by the end of the 16th century, the memory of Luther was already attracting large numbers of pilgrims.

From the 16th century onwards, the castle was kept more or less in a state of repair: though abandoned as a seat of power, its strategic importance was nonetheless highlighted several times. The events that had taken place there, and in particular the memory of St Elizabeth and of Luther, were also arguments for its preservation, but neglect gradually led to inevitable dilapidation, which was almost total by the end of the 18th century. Goethe paid a visit in 1777 and made a drawing of the ruin which shows only the palace remaining partially intact. The poet suggested the creation of a museum, justified by the ever-growing numbers of pilgrims. After the Napoleonic wars, a national sentiment emerged which revelled in the image of ancient Germany as symbolized by Wartburg Castle.

In 1817, the students’ associations organized an event which set the seal on this tendency, further confirmed by the revolution of March 1848. Wartburg Castle was to remain the headquarters of students’ associations for the whole of Germany.

In the first half of the 19th century, on the initiative of the Grand Duke of Saxony, the entire site was completely renovated: the remains of the palace were raised from their ruins, the curtain wall restored, and the remainder of the buildings reconstructed under the supervision of architect Hugo von Ritgen. The large part necessarily played by assumptions in the reconstruction have rather more to do with the romantic imagination than with historical reality. The involvement of renowned artists such as Moritz von Schwind, particularly in his illustration of the life of St Elizabeth, underlines the symbolic nature of the site.

This allegorical monument was for a short time the object of attention from the Nazi regime, but no event of importance was held there over the period, apart from the subjection of the students’ associations to the principles of the regime.

In 1945, the bombing of Eisenach spared Wartburg, although the castle was later pillaged by Soviet troops. The German Democratic Republic made Wartburg Castle a national monument, major restoration work was carried out, and numerous commemorative ceremonies were held in connection with the religious connotations and symbolic value of the monument.

Since the reunification of Germany, restoration work has concentrated primarily on the interiors and on the problems of preserving the stonework on the palace facades.

(whc.unesco.org)

Germany – Museum Island in Berlin

 

Museum Island (German: Museumsinsel) is the name of the northern half of an island in the Spree river in the central Mitte district of Berlin, Germany, the site of the old city of Cölln. It is so called for the complex of five internationally significant museums, all part of the Berlin State Museums, that occupy the island’s northern part:

  • The Altes Museum (Old Museum) completed on the orders of Karl Friedrich Schinkel in 1830.
  • The Neues Museum (New Museum) finished in 1859 according to plans by Friedrich August Stüler, a student of Schinkel. Destroyed in World War II, it was rebuilt under the direction of David Chipperfield for the Egyptian Museum of Berlin and re-opened in 2009.
  • The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) completed in 1876, also according to designs by Friedrich August Stüler, to host a collection of 19th century art donated by banker Joachim H. W. Wagener
  • The Bode Museum on the island’s northern tip, opened in 1904 and then called Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum. It exhibits the sculpture collections and late Antique and Byzantine art.
  • The Pergamon Museum, the final museum of the complex, constructed in 1930. It contains multiple reconstructed immense and historically significant buildings such as the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.

In 1999, the museum complex was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Germany – Cologne Cathedral

 

Cologne Cathedral  is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne (currently Cardinal Joachim Meisner), and is under the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It is renowned as a monument of Christianity, of German Catholicism in particular, of Gothic architecture and of the continuing faith and perseverance of the people of the city in which it stands. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The cathedral is a World Heritage Site, one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany, and Cologne’s most famous landmark, described by UNESCO as an “exceptional work of human creative genius”.[1] It is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day.

Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete. It is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its towers are approximately 157 m tall.The cathedral is one of the world’s largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. For four years, 1880-84, it was the tallest structure in the world, until the completion of the Washington Monument. It has the second-tallest church spires, only surpassed by the single spire of Ulm Minster, completed 10 years later in 1890. Because of its enormous twin spires, it also presents the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir of the cathedral, measured between the piers, also holds the distinction of having the largest height to width ratio of any Medieval church, 3.6:1, exceeding even Beauvais Cathedral which has a slightly higher vault.

Cologne’s medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship of the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as “a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value” and “a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe”.