In early July, a Moravian settlement joined “places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America” as a place that “makes up our world’s heritage.”
On July 5, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the cultural and historic significance of the Moravian Church in Denmark by naming the settlement at Christiansfeld to its list of World Heritage sites.
Christiansfeld was cited on two key Heritage Site criteria—a “unique evidence of a cultural tradition still existing,” and “an example of architecture illustrating a specific time in human history.”
In its listing, UNESCO describes the Christiansfeld settlement as “an example of a planned settlement of the Moravian Church, a Lutheran free congregation centred in Herrnhut, Saxony. The town was planned to represent the Protestant urban ideal, constructed around a central Church square. The architecture is homogenous and unadorned, with one and two-story buildings in yellow brick with red tile roofs.
“The democratic organization of the Moravian Church, with its pioneering egalitarian philosophy, is expressed in its humanistic town planning. The settlement’s plan opens onto agricultural land and includes important buildings for the common welfare such as large communal houses for the congregation’s widows and unmarried men and women. The buildings are still used by an influential community of the Moravian Church.”
The Christiansfeld Settlement
Christiansfeld was founded in 1773. The Moravian Community was invited to settle in the fields of Tyrstrupgård, as King Christian VII wanted the area to grow. In Zeist, Holland the King had seen how the Moravians were able to create growth and prosperity due to their fine craftsmanship traditions.
The architecture of the settlement in Christiansfeld will appear familiar to Moravians in Europe and North America. The Church Square is shaped like a cross—with the fountain well and its life-giving water—placed in the middle. Around the square you find linden trees and the most important buildings of the town.
The town is divided into one section for Sisters and one for Brothers. Towards the North you find the Sisters’ House, Widows’ House and the Girls’ Boarding School. Towards the South you find the Brothers’ House and the Boys’ Boarding School.
The well-preserved town and church buildings are home to a Moravian congregation of 150 members. It is also where the Rev. Jørgen Bøytler, Business Administrator for the Worldwide Moravian Unity, serves as pastor. The Moravian Church counts 400 total members in Denmark.
“Being named to the UNESCO World Heritage list is a strong recognition of the Moravian building design and architecture and the Moravian way of living,” said Jørgen in a letter to church leaders. “Christiansfeld is among the best maintained of our settlements and we hope that an inscription on the World Heritage List will benefit not only Christiansfeld, but also give recognition to the more than 20 other Moravian Church settlements around the world.”
The Moravian settlement is one of five World Heritage Sites in Denmark. UNESCO currently lists about 1,000 sites around the world as World Heritage sites. UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. An international treaty adopted by UNESCO in 1972, the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, embodies these ideals.
According to UNESCO, “What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”
Thanks to Jorgen Boytler and Cathrine Reinert of Christiansfeld for this article. Photos by Kolding Kommune, Denmark; Church interior photo by Ole Akhøj.
From the July/August 2015 Moravian Magazine