Moravian Church Settlements (Germany)
Permanent Delegation of Germany to UNESCO
Free State of Saxony
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United States of America
Moravian Church Settlements
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Moravian Church Settlements is a proposed transnational extension of Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement (Denmark) founded in southern Jutland 1773 as a colony of the Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination in the free church tradition centred in Herrnhut, Saxony. The serial extension comprises three component parts: Herrnhut (Germany), the ‘mother’ or ‘founding town’ of the Renewed Moravian Church, established in 1722 in Saxony and which emerged in step with the evolution of Moravian theology and societal ideals, defining the principles of all Moravian Church settlements; Historic Moravian Bethlehem (USA) founded in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1741, highlighting the most prolific settlement building decade and its early transatlantic dimension, and adding the cultural dimension of the Moravians’ outreach to Native Americans; and Gracehill (UK) founded in Northern Ireland in 1759, representing the importance of the Moravian Church in the UK and representative of a series of ‘ideal’ urban plans, and one which illustrates a remarkable axis of gender symmetry.
The series brings with it additional attributes of the phenomenon of eighteenth-century Moravian cultural tradition and its spiritual ideals and social order expressed in urban planning and architecture. This includes the layout and characteristics of the original Moravian Church settlement where the Renewed Moravian Church began, representative variations in urban plans, additional buildings that are representative of the development of specific building types and functions, together with the temporal sequence of transnational settlement building, and the distinctiveness of geographical and cultural reach reflected in regional contributions in architectural style and local construction materials. Additional intangible values include organisational attributes and linkages with other settlements and mission stations which also highlight the remarkable mobility of Church members and reinforce the concept of network. The series represents the unprecedented international network of ideal settlements that were planned and constructed in Europe and North America by the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum). No other denomination built in such a systematic and comprehensive fashion.
The systematically developed settlements and their urban plan reflect the Moravian Church’s communal organisational structure, economic practice, educational and cultural activities. Attributes are manifest in original urban layouts, including open and green spaces, and distinctive architecture including essential elements such as the Gemeinhaus (congregation building), Saal (sanctuary), God’s Acre (Gottesacker, cemetery), Choir Houses (houses for communal living according to age, gender, and marital status), industrial and other buildings that were planned as part of such characteristic settlements, worldwide.
Each settlement presents a significant group of buildings oriented along streets, based on a grid-pattern and commonly involving a central square. Varied urban layouts of the prototypical Moravian Church settlement model are represented, together with a range of innovative and architecturally cohesive buildings and spaces developed to serve religious and social practices of the Renewed Moravian Church.
Moravian Church Settlements express Moravian Church theology and practice, where great emphasis was placed on the unity of spiritual matters and secular life. Although some Moravian Church values and traditions have changed over the past 300 years, underlying cultural values continue to be sustained by the presence of local living congregations and the worldwide network of the Moravian Unity.
Name(s) of the component part(s)
Free State of Saxony
N51 58 E14 44
Description of the component part(s)
Herrnhut is located in Upper Lusatia, in the Free State of Saxony, around 70 km east of Dresden, Germany. Herrnhut was the ‘founding town’ of the Renewed Moravian Church in 1722 and emerged in step with the evolution of Moravian Church theology and societal ideals which defined the principles of Moravian Church settlements. Sited strategically on a long-distance road in the 1720s, the historic town centre is oriented in a characteristic grid that is parallel to this road and centred on an elongated square. This is connected by a perpendicular avenue (Berthelsdorf Allée) running 1.5 km to the northeast to the former manorial estate of Berthelsdorf. The prototype Moravian God’s Acre lies on the southern slope of the Hutberg hill, offset to the north between Herrnhut and Berthelsdorf, and forms the third sector of this single component part.
Berthelsdorf Manor is in the northeast and was the country seat of Count Zinzendorf, progenitor of the Renewed Moravian Church, and from where he and his closest followers organised and administered the process of establishment of the Moravian Church, and of building Herrnhut as the first settlement. Berthelsdorf illustrates the prototype of Zinzendorf’s eighteenth-century Moravian Church Civic Baroque and comprises a quadrangular ensemble of manor house and economic buildings, together with adjacent brewery and distillery. Successive Moravian administrative buildings date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and highlight the historic administrative role of Berthelsdorf.
An oblique but straight allée links the town centre via Comenius Street with the rectilinear but correspondingly laid out plot of God’s Acre (1730). It is characterised by rows of simple flat gravestones in chronological order, with separate fields for men and women, manifesting the principles of equality and gender symmetry. This was a profoundly influential design, as all subsequent Moravian Church cemeteries are constructed on the same principle.
In the town centre, key substantial buildings cluster near the main road and central elongated square (Zinzendorf Square), their long facades facing streets and their plan forms dominated by rectilinearity and right-angled wings. Key buildings include: the Saal (1756/57), which provided a model for other settlements including Gracehill and Christiansfeld; Widow’s House, an example of choir houses which were first developed in Herrnhut; several administration buildings including the ‘Vogtshof’, the Zinzendorf House, and the Unity Archives; the Boys’ School building, highlighting the significance of Moravian education, first introduced in Herrnhut in 1724; and industrial buildings such as the Dürninger manufacturing and wholesale complex. Most display a predominantly rendered and pastel-painted ‘Moravian Church Civic Baroque’ style with red-tiled mansard roofs. They are richly accompanied by park-like green spaces, formal and informal gardens, with woodland in the south. Herrnhut has a stock of garden houses and pavilions, a tradition that was transferred to other settlements such as Christiansfeld.
Herrnhut is the historic and spiritual source of the Renewed Moravian Church and is unique in the series as it manifests the primal community organisational structure of the Church that was developed first in Herrnhut. With the international expansion of the Moravian Church, the model of the Herrnhut settlement was transferred and replicated throughout Europe and North America in no less than 27 additional Moravian Church settlements founded between 1738 and 1807. Systematically planned developments were supported by the church leadership’s centralised and sophisticated administration in architectural design and construction, unique in a global context at that time. Herrnhut remained pivotal in the organisation, coordination, and centralised leadership of the worldwide Moravian Church, well into the second half of the nineteenth century. Herrnhut retains an active congregation and a number of the original intangibles such as liturgical forms, music, and the Unity Archive.
Historic Moravian Bethlehem
Historic Moravian Bethlehem is located in Northampton County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, around 100 km north of Philadelphia, USA. It lies at the confluence of the Lehigh River and Monocacy Creek and dates from the early 1740s, the joint second oldest permanent Moravian Church settlement (along with Niesky) after Herrnhut. Urban layout is not like the ideal plans of European continental congregational settlements laid out on relatively flat land, as in Christiansfeld. Instead, it is an example of a plan modified and adapted to suit the constraints of local topography and resources, a common characteristic of Moravian Church settlements. Bethlehem illustrates special attention to functional differentiation: communal residential buildings are located on an east-west limestone bluff overlooking the river to the south, God’s Acre is set apart to the north, and an industrial quarter nestles in the valley of the Monocacy Creek to the west. Historic Moravian Bethlehem contains one of the most important ensembles of early Moravian Church buildings, including the only settlement in the series with an extant Gemeinhaus.
The settlement is centred on an east-west closely linked ensemble of key Moravian Church buildings which face West Church Street that runs along the bluff parallel to the Lehigh River in the south. Central to these is the oldest building in Bethlehem, the log built Gemeinhaus, constructed 1741-43 as a multi-functional Moravian Church community house. It is the oldest surviving, anywhere, of this highly significant building type. It is also one of the largest log buildings remaining in the US from that period, a rare construction that is representative of what was initially a common construction form in Moravian Bethlehem, soon succeeded by stone. Its associated buildings in exposed rubble limestone with mansard roofs and double attics, include all types of choir houses (brethren’s, sisters’, and widows’ houses) built 1744-72, and the Bell House built 1745-46 as a refectory and living quarters for married couples (enlarged 1748-49). The Second Single Brethren’s House, built in 1748 at the end of West Church Street on the axis of Main Street, is the most impressive example of eighteenth-century Moravian Church Civic Baroque in the US (today it is part of Moravian University). Bethlehem’s God’s Acre (1742, consecrated by Zinzendorf) is very well preserved as the oldest perpetually maintained cemetery in the US and covers three acres with over 2,700 burials. Its gravestones, placed in the traditional manner in simple rows, document the diversity of the early Bethlehem congregation, including members of Native American peoples and individuals from mission stations around the world.
In terms of architectural style, Moravian Church Civic Baroque is apparent in most eighteenth-century buildings. They are distinguished by symmetrical façades and gables, multiple floors including basements and upper and lower attics, rows of small windows with shutters, gambrel roofs with dormers, and a range of fittings from herringbone doors to Moravian Church-style wooden staircases. Building materials are overwhelmingly characterised by grey-coloured field limestone, now rare log and brick (walls), brick window arches, clay-brick tiles, slate shingles and tiles, and cedar shakes (roofing).
Bethlehem is also significant in highlighting the importance of Moravian Church technology and manufacturing, its industrial quarter including a pioneering water-pumping station (1762, the first pumped municipal water system in North America), and the tannery (1761, in classic Moravian Church architecture) which represents the most important industry of the frontier community.
Bethlehem was the first permanent Moravian Church settlement in the North American continent and became the preeminent religious and administrative centre of Moravian Church activity in North America. Bethlehem exerted a profound influence on the subsequent development and expansion of the Moravian Church in North America and mission stations in the Caribbean. The buildings ensemble on West Church Street, the cemetery and the Industrial Quarter together form an exceptional example of early urban planning in North America. Historic Moravian Bethlehem is the most complete Moravian Church Settlement in the US and contains the largest concentration of vernacular German architecture in the country.
Bethlehem is part of the Moravian Unity’s Northern Province of North America and retains an active congregation. Moravian Church heritage is further reflected in continued property ownership by the Bethlehem Area Moravians together with the Moravian University which has its roots in 1742.
Gracehill is located 3km from Ballymena in Mid-County Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK. This planned Moravian Church Settlement was founded in 1759 and as one of the four larger settlements in the British Isles is the only one in the British Moravian Province designed on a traditional continental model grid plan with central square. Gracehill is part of a series of geometrically similar ‘ideal’ urban plans which include Herrnhaag (1738, Hesse, Germany), Gnadenberg (1743, Lower Silesia, Poland), Gnadau (1767, Saxony, Germany), Christiansfeld (1773, Denmark) and ultimately Königsfeld 1807, Baden-Württemberg, Germany).
The principal ensemble of key Moravian buildings is clustered around the central green square. A distinctive long-axis of the settlement is oriented northeast-southwest on the topography of a gentle slope towards the River Maine. The corresponding grid axis forming the square is principally a two-road design of Church Road and Cennick Road, together with the principal right-angled internal links of Academy Street and Montgomery Street. God’s Acre (1761) is notably integrated into the overall design as a long and narrow western section on the summit of the rising ground of a low hill behind the church (‘Long Mountain’). The church dominates the ensemble and overlooks the park-like square and an exceptional designed vista to the River Maine via the open eastern side of the square, a key view still appreciated today.
The main axis of the settlement significantly scribes a perfect straight line which forms a gender axis of symmetry in the urban plan: from the centre of the western end of God’s Acre, bisecting the male and female sides of the burial ground and the Brothers’ and Sisters’ walks, bisecting the church (1765) lying longways in the centre of one side of the square and its opposing choirs of brothers and sisters, and by their flanking choir houses (Sisters’ House, 1765, and Brothers’ House, 1767), through the central pond in the square, and ultimately in alignment with an ancient Irish fort and the Jacobean Galgorm Castle, a total distance of around 1 km.
An exceptional ensemble of original buildings is preserved, mostly directly fronting the streets in characteristic Moravian Church style, with space for work yards, gardens, or orchards behind. One and two-storey buildings, some with attics and dormers, reflect an influence of Moravian Church Civic Baroque, while the Church is modelled after the Herrnhut Saal. The church, however, exhibits local differences between British and continental interiors in that it has a ‘Tulip’ pulpit with stairs. Later buildings are characterised by an ‘Irish Georgian’ architectural style. Distinctive building materials and construction methods visually comprise two main types: large hand-dressed local basalt set with lime mortar and which commonly features decorative ‘galleting’ in the form of lines of small basalt spalls pressed into wet mortar joints between courses, some buildings with brick window jambs and heads; the second type comprises stone-built constructions covered with a later lime-washed stucco, the Church being a prominent example, with lines scribed into it to give the ordered finish of cut stone. Other stuccoed buildings are distributed throughout the settlement.
Gracehill is characterised by historical universal religious and political tolerance and support, notably neutrality and reconciliation first evidenced in the ‘United Irishmen Rebellion’ in 1798, and significant missionary activity in the Caribbean. Gracehill retains an active congregation.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Moravian Church Settlements is a serial nomination of three towns founded in the eighteenth century and based on the Moravian concept of an ideal city: Herrnhut (Saxony/Germany), Historic Moravian Bethlehem (USA), and Gracehill (Northern Ireland/UK). It is a proposed extension of the World Heritage Site of Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement (Denmark).
Each of these settlements exemplifies the Moravian Church’s spiritual, societal, and ethical ideals that aimed at the creation of an intentional religious community and found expression in a distinctive style of town planning and architecture. While Christiansfeld is the best-preserved Moravian Church settlement in the world, and illustrates a number of representative aspects, Herrnhut as the mother settlement is testimony to original Moravian urban design principles as well as introducing key attributes of the Moravian Church’s spiritual, societal and ethical ideals, Historic Moravian Bethlehem is the first and best-preserved colony settlement in North America, and Gracehill is the best-preserved in the UK planned around a central church square.
The development of the settlements is characterised by overarching urban planning principles guided by ideals of the Moravian Church that have distinct buildings including the particular type of congregation building (Gemeinhaus), central church building (Saal), several large structures designed as communal dwellings for unmarried men, unmarried women and widows (Choir Houses), and the distinctive God’s Acre cemetery (Gottesacker) placed nearby. Based on their similarities they together represent the transnational scope and consistency of the international Moravian community as a global network, built from the eighteenth century through the founding of settlements and mission stations which continue to characterise the Moravian Church today.
Moravian Church Settlements are testimony to the temporal sequence of establishment and distinctive geographical and geocultural reach of an unparalleled international network of ideal settlements planned and constructed by the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) in Europe and North America, substantially during its formative phase in the eighteenth century.
Criterion (iii): The transnational series of Moravian Church Settlements bears exceptional testimony to Moravian Church principles, the community’s faith, way of life and distinct religious and social ideals which are expressed in the towns’ layouts, architecture, and craftsmanship, as well as the fact that numerous buildings are still used for their original function or the continuation of Moravian Church activities and traditions. An exceptional range of essential tangible and intangible attributes allow these settlements to be recognised as the most significant examples of Moravian Church settlements, part of a unique and vibrant worldwide network in which none existed in isolation. The continuing presence of vibrant Moravian Church communities in each settlement ties the historic structures to the ongoing life of the larger Moravian Church community.
Criterion (iv): The transnational series of Moravian Church Settlements is an outstanding example of intentional religious town planning within the Protestant tradition, combining both spiritual aspects and practical considerations of community life. Each settlement bears witness to the Moravian Church vision of a unified and coherent urban design, based on ancient concepts of the ‘ideal city’ and anticipating Enlightenment ideals of equality and social improvement that became a reality for many Europeans only much later. Transforming patterns of civic architecture of the late Baroque period, Moravian Church Settlements stand for the movement towards democratisation, offering the same standard of living to all its members. Open public space, shared gardens, provisions for schools and medical facilities, as well as thoughtful arrangements for agriculture and industry served to advance the common welfare. Each settlement possesses distinctive functions and illustrates unity through homogenous groups of buildings with shared styles, materials, and proportions (each with local variation), together with a consistent high quality of Moravian Church craftsmanship.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The property overall meets the conditions of authenticity. The structure and characteristics of original urban plans remain largely intact. Most buildings, especially those of the early Moravian Church period (eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries), retain substantial authenticity through their original material, design, substance, workmanship, and many of them remain in continued use by the Moravian Church. The continuity of the Moravian Church community contributes to safeguarding authenticity in spirit and feeling as well as atmosphere of the property. Most of the residential units have been modernised in their interiors to be in line with contemporary living standards.
Documentation and objects underpinning authenticity include expansive archival collections, which include settlement plans, administrative documents, letters and reports, diaries, and thousands of autobiographical memoirs, as well as paintings, photographs, and commemorative objects. Herrnhut hosts the Unity Archives (Unitätsarchiv) founded in 1764 and managed in Herrnhut since 1820 as the official repository for the central institutions of the worldwide Moravian Church. It also holds the archive for the European Continental Province. Bethlehem hosts the Moravian Archives of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church in North America, and Gracehill hosts the archives of much of the Moravian work in Ireland. There are also ethnographic objects collected during worldwide missions and sent back to each settlement. Collectively such material reflects not only administrative order but also a memory bank that is characteristic of Moravian Church cultural tradition.
The transnational serial nominated property comprises three component parts which, together with Christiansfeld, illustrate sufficiently the origins, evolution, and global spread of Moravian Church Settlements during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They represent the continuing religious heritage and the spiritual investment of many generations, each sharing a common set of attributes while making a discrete contribution to the series, including distinctive geographical and cultural reach, representative variations in urban plans, exemplars of specific building types, regional contributions in architectural style and local construction materials, temporal sequence of establishment, and linkages with other settlements and mission stations. Boundaries are determined to include all key attributes, mindful of the integrity of the whole transnational property. Urban plans remain widely legible and are largely intact. Visual relations between different parts of the settlements, including the cemeteries and in part with surrounding landscapes, are still largely extant and readable. None of the settlements suffer from neglect and none are threatened in any way.
Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole
The Moravian Church built a total of 28 congregational settlements in Europe and North America in the period 1722 to 1807 (17 on the European mainland, four in the UK, and seven in the British colonies in North America). Most were established within 50 years from 1736.
Component parts have been selected in each country with careful consideration of the categories of principal attributes for which Christiansfeld was inscribed, broadly grouped under (1) town planning values, (2) architectural values, and (3) cultural values. In comparative analysis, nationally and internationally, special attention was given to the contribution that each component part was able to make to the series as a whole and thus the overall integrity of Moravian Church Settlements – a single World Heritage Site as an extension of Christiansfeld.
Attributes of the Moravian Church phenomenon contributed by the nominated component parts comprise:
Temporal sequence of transnational settlement-building: Christiansfeld was a relative latecomer (1773, therefore has benefitted from decades of development of Moravian Church settlements, being closest to the ideal Moravian Church Settlement) compared to the first Moravian Church settlement founded in 1722 and 58% of settlements being constructed in the 1740s/50s. Herrnhut (1722, Germany) is essential to the series as the founding settlement, while Historic Moravian Bethlehem (1742, USA) brings in the most prolific settlement building decade, and Gracehill (1759, Northern Ireland/UK) the new 1760s era of post-Zinzendorf urban planning and architecture.
Geographical and cultural reach: The greatest concentration of Moravian Church settlements is in east-central Europe (Germany-Poland), with around a third of the overall total in Germany. Settlements have active congregations except in Poland. Herrnhut is representative of this geography, and a further aspect of early concentration in Upper Lusatia. The important North American Moravian province – the Atlantic dimension of the Moravian phenomenon – is included through Historic Moravian Bethlehem (USA), a site that was evaluated in comparison with other settlements (including all in the USA) for the United States Tentative List, adding the site in 2017. Bethlehem was subsequently reconfirmed in this latest study, additionally bringing the cultural dimension of the Moravians’ outreach to Native Americans. The important British Moravian Province is represented by Gracehill, further testimony to the historic importance of Moravians in the UK.
Variations in urban plans and buildings of the original Moravian Church settlements: Herrnhut’s pioneering evolution was a result of planned expansions which are profoundly influential and reflect the development of Moravian theology and social organisation and the way this is manifest in urban planning and architecture - in all subsequent settlements. Apart from layout, the architecturally influential Saal (sanctuary) and the prototype God’s Acre (Gottesacker, cemetery) are exceptional elements, so too are the Berthelsdorf Manor, the administrative buildings, and the gardens and garden houses, industrial/manufacturing complexes, and general housing in the historic town centre. The Widows’ House is symbolically important for the Choir House typology which originated in Herrnhut. Historic Moravian Bethlehem introduces a settlement that is strongly influenced by topography and does not illustrate the classic continental European plan. It demonstrates clear functional differentiation between residential and industrial, with an exceptional group of early classic Moravian Church buildings (including the only extant Gemeinhaus in the series, and all choir buildings represented) and a clearly zoned industrial quarter with important buildings. Gracehill represents the only UK settlement to illustrate the classic continental European plan that evolved mid-century and features the church and key buildings clustered around a square. Gracehill also exhibits precise gender axial symmetry and shows how this clearly reflects Moravian Church social organisation in the placement of its buildings and key spaces. In the Christiansfeld comparative study, Gracehill was ranked almost alongside Christiansfeld in terms of urban design and buildings of the original Moravian Church settlements.
Regional contributions in architectural style and local construction materials: Moravian Church architectural style, distinguishable in all Moravian Church Settlements, is demonstrated at source in Herrnhut. Here, Saxon High Civic Baroque, which came with Zinzendorf from his involvement in the Saxon Court in Dresden, is fused with Pietist simplicity to originate ‘Moravian Church style’. This was first demonstrated in Berthelsdorf Manor (1722) and the Herrnhut Gemeinhaus (1724/25, destroyed 1945), also a prototype building form which incorporated an assembly hall and did not resemble the later apparent church forms of ‘Kirchensaal’ or ‘Betsaal’. This appeared from 1756 onwards and is exemplified in Herrnhut. Commonly rendered and pastel-painted buildings contrast with the yellow brick of Christiansfeld, the black basalt stone in ‘Irish Georgian’ style in Gracehill, and the exposed massive rubble walls of grey limestone with segmental red brick arches of eighteenth-century Moravian Church choir buildings (and tannery) in Historic Moravian Bethlehem.
Organisational values, linkages with other settlements and with mission stations, and other intangibles: From the early eighteenth century the Moravian Church has always understood itself as an international network with shared rituals and worship, music practice, educational ideals, the rotation of ministers, teachers, and other leaders, synodal government, the circulation of reports and memoirs, coordinated administrative and financial matters, and shared mission endeavours. Herrnhut represents not only the source of the Renewed Moravian Church, but also its founding settlement where eighteenth-century Moravian Church religious and social beliefs, practices and cultural tradition developed. It was also the place from where subsequent settlements were planned or their plans approved and served as the longstanding administrative head settlement of a connected global network of settlements and mission stations. Herrnhut also hosted the central archive where not only building plans were deposited but also all the various documentary evidence of the memory of daily life that reflects a significant and discrete theological aspect of Moravian Church faith. Bethlehem highlights its role as the administrative centre for North America and for mission work especially in the Caribbean. Gracehill was one of the most important Moravian Church settlements in the UK and was also significant in missionary work in the British West Indies.
Comparison with other similar properties
The inscription of Christiansfeld confirmed its exceptionality as the best-preserved European colony settlement of the Moravian Church, but that the World Heritage Committee in 2015 recommended that further Moravian Church settlements might have the potential to make additional contributions to integrity. The evaluation of Christiansfeld confirmed that other Moravian Church settlements illustrate specific approaches to planned urban design which merit recognition on the World Heritage List. Therefore, as a basis, the ‘internal’ comparative analysis already approved in the inscription of Christiansfeld was used. This was confined to settlements (as differentiated from mission stations) which are deemed to best qualify for potential World Heritage listing based on their town plans, key principles implemented, state of preservation as well as the architectural details of individual key buildings and spaces. However, the Christiansfeld comparative study was performed for a single settlement, not for a serial listing of an international network of settlements. So, a new comparative study included additional selection criteria and consequently a re-evaluation. As part of the nomination process for the newly proposed series, a full site inventory was undertaken during 2018-21 of all 22 extant Moravian Church settlements in Europe and North America. The selected component parts: Herrnhut, Historic Moravian Bethlehem, and Gracehill were considered the best representatives of Moravian Church settlements, alongside the existing WHS of Christiansfeld. The justification of component parts (3.c.1) conveys some of the distinctiveness of each nominated settlement as revealed in comparative analysis.