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Bethlehem's Moravian Settlement Nominated for Addition to World Heritage List | WDIY Local News

The Single Sisters' House.
Contributed photo
Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites
The Single Sisters' House.

Bethlehem’s historic Moravian Church settlement has been officially nominated for a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. WDIY’s Sarit Laschinsky has more.

According to a release, the U.S. Department of the Interior has submitted a multi-national nomination to the World Heritage List, which includes Bethlehem’s historic Moravian settlement.

The city joins Moravian settlements in Herrnhut, Germany and Gracehill, Northern Ireland as part of the first multi-national nomination for the United States.

The measure proposes to have these locations join Christiansfeld, Denmark, which was designated a World Heritage Site in 2015, as a single site representing widewide Moravian Church settlements.

The Bethlehem settlement, located near downtown, includes eight structures, four ruins and a cemetery. Some of the buildings include the 1741 Gemeinhaus, Central Moravian Church, 1744 Single Sisters’ House and the 1768 Widows’ House.

The release said Bethlehem “preserves some of the most important structures and sites related to the Moravians in the New World,” and said it was an “outstanding example” of Moravian architecture and town planning.

The push to get Moravian Bethlehem added to the World Heritage List started in 2002, when representatives from Christiansfeld invited the city to join other historic Moravian Church settlements around the world.

Former Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez established the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission in 2017 to support and help get World Heritage status for the city.

In 2021, representatives from Germany and Northern Ireland visited Bethlehem to work on the nomination, and the Department of the Interior authorized Bethlehem to participate in the multi-nation effort in February 2022.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee will make its final decision on Bethlehem’s inclusion to the World Heritage List in the summer of 2024.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2012, one of eight in Pennsylvania and around 200 in the country.

This district was added to the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List in 2017 as a potential “extension” to the Christiansfeld site.

There are 1,154 World Heritage Sites in 167 countries, only 24 of which are in the United States. The list recognizes cultural and natural sites of universal importance and was established in 1972 to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding universal value to humanity.”

(Original air-date: 2/2/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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