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Lehigh Valley Live: Germany official visits Bethlehem for Moravian settlements’ World Heritage List push

October 20th, 2021 |

Written by Connor Lagore for Lehigh Valley Live

Bethlehem’s push to land its historical Moravian settlement on UNESCO’s World Heritage List took a big step on Monday — to be specific, a step spanning 4,000 miles.

Mayor Robert Donchez, President of the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission Charlene Donchez Mowers, Vice-Chair of Bethlehem World Heritage Commission Curtis H. Barnette and a number of others were on hand at Bethlehem Town Hall on Monday afternoon to welcome Michelle Müntefering, Deputy Minister for International Cultural Policies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, to the Christmas City. Müntefering brought with her a letter that confirmed Germany’s commitment to partner with the United States in efforts to land Moravian settlements across the globe on the World Heritage List.

The German Moravian Church settlement in Hernnhut and the Gracehill settlement in Northern Ireland join Bethlehem, which was added to a shortlist of possible Heritage List additions in 2016, as part of a trio of settlements looking to join the Moravian settlement of Christiansfeld in Denmark on UNESCO’s list. Christiansfeld, one of the 1,154 sites on the World Heritage List, was added to the list in 2015. “It did so under the provision that it might provide for future church settlement extension,” said Barnette during the brief ceremony.


Just a month ago, the U.S. Department of the Interior gave the go-ahead to the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission to partake in the multi-country nomination — the first in the U.S.’s history. The department also extended an invitation to the Hernnhut and Gracehill settlements to join the nomination effort.

Now, Germany is officially on board after Müntefering’s delivery of confirmation to a representative from the Office of International Affairs of the National Park Service who was present at the ceremony. Northern Ireland has not officially accepted the invitation, but has previously met with the three other settlements in Bethlehem to work on the nomination.


Müntering offered some comments before reading her letter, noting that Bethlehem’s industrial past gave her a familiar feeling, as she comes from a coal-mining town. “There is a lot we have in common,” she said. Müntefering is spending her time in Bethlehem touring the Moravian settlement and its archives.


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