Bethlehem partners with Germany, Denmark and U.K. to petition for ‘World Heritage’ recognition for historic Moravian sites

Written by on September 16, 2021

Bethlehem partners with Germany, Denmark and U.K. to petition for ‘World Heritage’ recognition for historic Moravian sites

By Megan Frank

September 16, 2021

Representatives from Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark were in Bethlehem on Wednesday to sign a joint application to be world heritage sites. Photo | Megan Frank / WLVR

Bethlehem is joining three other international Moravian communities for a once-in-a-lifetime recognition by the United Nations

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Representatives from Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark were in Bethlehem on Wednesday to sign a joint application to be World Heritage sites.

Moravians are a German-speaking Protestant group who immigrated from Czech Republic. They settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s seeking religious freedom.

“There are only a little over 1,000 World Heritage sites in the whole world,” said Charlene Donchez Mowers, president of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. “All of us working together with our colleagues is just fabulous.”

The Moravians settled in Bethlehem about 275 years ago. They developed the first pumped municipal water system in America. In 1762, they pumped fresh water into the entire town of Bethlehem. 

David Johnston traveled here to Bethlehem from Northern Ireland to sign the form. He’s with the Gracehill Moravian Community there.

“The Moravians are a denomination that started in Moravia in Central Europe,” said Johnston. “They brought with them ideas of tolerance. Ideas around education. The notion that you should educate ladies as well as men.”

Johnston says the United Nations heritage sites look for historic places that have a deeply rooted culture and community.

Applications go through a lengthy two-to-three-year review process before a final decision is made. 

If Bethlehem makes the World Heritage list, it will join sites that include Independence Hall and the Statue of Liberty in the U.S., and globally, sites like the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China..

For more information about the city’s application and historic Bethlehem visit the Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites website.

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