World heritage - and then?

You have probably heard ...

Roskilde Cathedral is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – where it enjoys the fashionable company of world famous attractions, such as the Pyramids in Egypt, Venice in Italy and the Icefjord in Greenland. Something we are very proud of and also like to point out when talking about the splendid attractions of Roskilde. For who would not like to experience an example of World Heritage?

But what does World Heritage actually mean? And what does it take to qualify for an inscription on the esteemed list that today includes about 1000 sites throughout the world (8 of which in Denmark)?

We have asked David Høyer, Head of Communication and UNESCO Site Manager of Roskilde Cathedral.

Relates the history of mankind
A World Heritage is not a hallmark of quality, ranking popular tourist magnets in the same way as, say, Michelin and their star system. It is a place on earth that is worth preserving for its importance beyond national interests. A cultural heritage we must protect and preserve for posterity because it plays an important part in the history of mankind.Man comes and goes but the monuments remain. They are the physical evidence of how far we have advanced up to the present day. And the World Heritage is the protector”, says David Høyer.

Hence, it is not Roskilde Cathedral's status as royal burial church in itself that makes it eligible as World Heritage – but it is the architecture. The fact that it was created in a variety of styles, built up through the ages – providing a unique insight into building art history. This is of universal value.

But a World Heritage is not always what we associate with something positive”, David Høyer explains. It may also be a reminder of something people should not have done. That is why a site like the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland is also on the list. It symbolises something painful, but is to a high degree a symbol of 20th century history. And that makes it worth preserving.

Endangered World Heritage
But in spite of all good intentions - to preserve and take good care of the World Heritage Sites, this is in several places an impossible task when natural disasters or wars threaten to damage or, at worst, destroy the Heritage. This happened to the Buddha statues in Bamyan in Afghanistan – and a large number of ancient monuments in Syria suffered the same fate. In other places, town development is to blame when financial interests have higher priority than the value of preserving a status as World Heritage. Dresden in Germany is one example.

In Roskilde, we take good care of our World Heritage. And we intend to keep on doing so. For the sake of the city, the kings - and the world. And for your sake.

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Did you know that ...

The World Heritage Convention first saw the light of day in 1972 – and is based on the idea that there are places in the world that are so important that they must be preserved for posterity because they are a heritage belonging to all of us. But the seeds of the concept were planted as early as the 1960s when the  Abu Simpel temple in Egypt was in danger of being flooded by the Nile in connection with the construction of the Aswan Dam. With the assistance of the UN organisation UNESCO the huge edifice was moved out of the danger zone – and the way was prepared for an international organisation to take care of mankind's joint cultural heritage.

In Denmark, you can experience the following World Heritage sites:

Jelling Mounds, Runic Stones and Church
Roskilde Cathedral
Kronborg Castle
Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church Settlement
The par force hunting landscape in North Zealand
Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland
The Wadden Sea
Stevns Klint/Cliff