Moravian Church Settlements
United States Department of the Interior
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2015. Moravians created an international religious community with a network of towns, cities, and communities on multiple continents. The statement of integrity for the inscription of Christiansfeld includes the information that “In terms of the overall network of Moravian settlements, further elements could contribute to Christiansfeld’s integrity by means of a future serial transnational nomination of Moravian Church Settlements into which Christiansfeld could be integrated.” The full scope of a transnational series has not yet been determined, as other settlements could be considered as well.
The Moravian Bethlehem district in the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a mid- and late-18th century planned community created in conjunction with the larger Moravian congregation in Herrnhut, Germany. Bethlehem became the religious and administrative center of Moravian activities in North America. It consists of religious, domestic, and industrial components, reflecting the full scope of Moravian community life in a North American context. It is proposed as a transboundary extension to the Christiansfeld inscription.
The previously inscribed Christiansfeld is an 18th century settlement, an exceptional example of a Moravian Church planned colony settlement, which reflects the Moravian Church’s societal and ethical ideals. Founded in 1773, it was built as a colony of the Moravian Church, a Lutheran free congregation centered in Herrnhut, Saxony. Christiansfeld is noted to be one of many exceptional settlements; it presents the best-preserved example of a northern European colony settlement constructed around a central Church Square. The town presents an intact and well-preserved collection of buildings, oriented along two tangential east-west streets surrounding the Church Square and integrates a cemetery placed outside of the town. The town reflects the Moravian Church’s societal structure, characterised by large communal houses for the congregation’s widows and unmarried men and women. The architecture is homogenous and unornamented, with one- and two-story buildings in yellow brick and with red tile roofs. The proportions, materials, and craftsmanship contribute to the town’s special atmosphere of peace and harmony.
Moravian Bethlehem is a serial proposal comprising a main group of buildings and related resources built between 1741 and 1810, primarily along the western end of Church Street and extending west to the Monocacy Creek, as well as two discontiguous buildings. The district forms an intact group of structures reflecting Moravian principles of communal ownership and representing all aspects of life in early Bethlehem, including a complex of communal residences, the Central Moravian Church, a waterworks and tannery, and archaeological resources including a cemetery and an industrial quarter that helped make the 18th-century community nearly self-sufficient in what was then rugged country populated by outside secular influences. Another house and inn are located a short distance away. The mostly two-story buildings are built primarily in the German colonial style, using white oak timbers and locally quarried limestone. The Central Moravian Church, built in the early years of the 19th century, though traditionally Moravian in plan, is stuccoed and decorated in the Federal style. The plan of the town follows Moravian precepts of how a town center should be developed and how it should function, a physical manifestation of the artistic, architectural, cultural, religious, and industrial attributes that set the Moravians apart from other colonial settlers in North America.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The 18th century settlements of Christiansfeld in Denmark and Bethlehem in the United States are exceptional examples of Moravian Church planned colony settlements, reflecting the Moravian Church’s societal and ethical ideals as they were disseminated to many countries from the colony of the Moravian Church, a Lutheran free congregation centered in Herrnhut, Saxony. Christiansfeld and Bethlehem are two of a number of exceptional settlements, and they present the best-preserved examples of these settlements in northern Europe and in North America. Christiansfeld pesents an intact and well-preserved collection of buildings, oriented along two tangential east-west streets surrounding the Church Square and integrates a cemetery placed outside of the town. The architecture is homogenous and unornamented, with one- and two-story buildings in yellow brick and with red tile roofs. The proportions, materials, and craftsmanship contribute to the town’s special atmosphere of peace and harmony. Bethlehem, founded 32 years earlier in Pennsylvania, comprises a varied group of buildings and related resources, forming an intact group of structures representing all aspects of life in early Bethlehem, including residences, worship, and industrial and manufacturing activity. The mostly two-story buildings were built primarily in the German colonial style, using white oak timbers and locally quarried limestone. The town plans follow Moravian precepts for social structure, characterised by large communal houses for the congregation’s widows and unmarried men and women.
The comparative analysis developed by the State Party of Denmark for the nomination of Christiansfeld examined the large number of Moravian settlements around the world, and noted Bethlehem’s importance as an earlier colony in North America, among others. ICOMOS in its evaluation encouraged future consideration of a transnational serial inscription, which might include mission stations in other places such as South Africa, Tanzania, Nicaragua, the Danish West Indies, and Labrador. Bethlehem’s role as the religious and administrative center of Moravian activities in North America, as well as its very complete range of the settlement’s functional elements that have been preserved, make it an understandable extension to the original inscription, to which further extensions might be justified. The history of the Bethlehem community also presents unique aspects related to its location, showing the way Moravian precepts were applied in different regions, such as the presence in the historic community of Christianized American Indians, and its experience as a fortified town during the French and Indian War in the 1750s.
Criterion (iii): The Moravian Church settlement of Bethlehem bears an exceptional testimony to Moravian principles, which are expressed in the town’s layout, architecture craftsmanship, and evidence of 18th century communal activities, as well as the fact that numerous buildings are still used for the support of Moravian Church activities. Its exceptional state of preservation and broad testimony to the habits and pursuits of the founding community allows Bethlehem to be recognized as the best preserved and most complete example of a North American Moravian Church colony illustrating urban planning principles aimed at reflecting the social and ethical values of this community. The paired testimony of the settlements of Christiansfeld and Bethlehem illustrates both the underlying similarities and regional variations in Moravian settlements around the world.
Criterion (iv): Bethlehem is an outstanding example of a planned idealized Protestant colony, as is illustrated in its town plan, unity and functional distribution, in which the Moravian Church’s vision of an urban society spread across the world could be realized. Like other Moravian settlements, it reflects new ideas introduced in the Age of Enlightenment which anticipated ideas of equality and social community that became a reality for other sectors of the surrounding society only much later. The democratic organisation of the Moravian Church is expressed in its humanistic town planning, illustrated by its ordered plan that segregated the sexes and established schools, manufactures and other important services for the common welfare. Bethlehem and Christiansfeld illustrate the unity of Moravian settlements through homogenous groups of buildings with shared principles and functions, both demonstrating a high level of craftsmanship but with regional variations in styles and materials.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The boundaries of the Bethlehem property include all the important elements of the original planned town of Bethlehem that were established as part of the 18th-century Moravian Church settlement. A large percentage of the original buildings have been preserved, including rare industrial buildings as well as those for residence and worship; archaeological evidence testifies to more ephemeral industrial functions. The religious rituals and beliefs of the community, which are the reason for the design of physical spaces, are in many respects maintained in a modern context. The visual relations between different elements of the historic settlement, including the buildings, cemetery and relationship to Monocacy Creek, are still extant. Bethlehem, due to its excellent state of preservation, illustrates the highest number of characteristic elements found in any North American Moravian Church colony settlement and therefore demonstrates integrity in its historic role as the religious and administrative center of Moravian activities in North America. It supports the integrity of the previously inscribed settlement of Christiansfeld in Denmark by showing the consistency of the execution of Moravian principles in settlements widely spread around the world, and there is potential for Moravian settlements in other countries to further enhance integrity of the series.
The structure and characteristics of the original town plan of Bethlehem remain largely unaltered, though the larger city of modern Bethlehem exists beyond it. The major buildings that illustrate critical functions of the community retain their authenticity in material, design, substance, workmanship, and some as well in function and use. The district has the active continuing involvement of the Moravian Church community through use of the church for worship, and the use of the residential buildings by theological students and for the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem. This contributes to safeguarding authenticity in spirit and feeling as well as atmosphere of the property. Though some buildings have been altered, floor plans still show their Moravian origin and functions, and a very high level of original materials and craftsmanship remain, including such details as doors, hinges, and locks on some buildings.
Comparison with other similar properties
After an earlier Moravian mission in the British American colony of Georgia did not succeed, Bethlehem became the community from which all other Moravian settlements in North America developed, including Salem in North Carolina. Therefore Bethlehem is the most significant and representative Moravian settlement in North America, as well as being very complete and well-preserved. The United States in particular has a complex history of utopian religious communities from the 18th and 19th centuries that exhibit a wide range of distinctive philosophical, town planning and design characteristics. New Harmony in Indiana is related to the Owenite or Harmonist town of New Lanark, United Kingdom, on the World Heritage List. The Shakers established a number of highly distinctive communities with a unique and influential form of architecture and the design of personal goods. Within the context of the Moravian Protestant denomination, however, Bethlehem is the outstanding property in North America.