Bethlehem World Heritage Commission confirms the U.S. Department of the Interior has submitted the Moravian Church Settlement Site as its first multi-national nomination to the World Heritage List


Today, J. William Reynolds, Mayor of the City of Bethlehem, and Chair of the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission along with representatives of Bethlehem Area Moravians, Central Moravian Church, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Moravian University, and Northampton County, confirmed that they have been advised that the United States has submitted a multi-country nomination to the World Heritage List. The Nomination includes Historic Moravian Church Settlements in Bethlehem, Herrnhut, Germany, and Gracehill, Northern Ireland/United Kingdom. It is proposed to have them join Christiansfeld, Denmark, designated a World Heritage Site in 2015, to be a single Moravian Church Settlement Site that represents the world-wide Moravian Church Settlements. This is the first multi-national nomination for the United States.

A Transnational Working Group has been meeting monthly for several years preparing the necessary documentation for this transnational nomination, with representatives from Christiansfeld, Gracehill, Herrnhut and Bethlehem. On September 14 and 15, 2021, representatives from these historic Moravian communities met in Bethlehem to work on the nomination. On September 15 at Bethlehem’s Town Hall,
there was an official meeting of this Transnational Working Group to sign a Voluntary Association Agreement.

On February 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Interior authorized Historic Moravian Bethlehem National Landmark District to participate in a planned multi-country nomination to the World Heritage List of historic ‘Moravian Church Settlements’ in Europe and North America.

“The City of Bethlehem is extraordinarily honored for the support of our World Heritage nomination by the Department of Interior and the United States Government,” stated Mayor Reynolds. “We are excited for the next phase of the nomination process on our path to becoming a World Heritage Site.”

As a World Heritage List candidate, along with Gracehill and Herrnhut, Bethlehem preserves and advances the ageless values of education, equality, industry, integrity, and spirituality that have been part of this community since 1741.

The Bethlehem Site is designated as the Historic Moravian Bethlehem National Landmark District and is located in the heart of downtown Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. The site’s original architecture, along with its town planning across 10 acres, 8 structures, 4 ruins, and a cemetery, stands today as a reflection of and tribute to the resilience of a community built on universal human ideals that are essential and relevant to this day. The Bethlehem Area Moravians, City of Bethlehem, and Moravian University are property owners in the District, and Central Moravian Church and Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites are lessees of portions of the District.

Situated in the area of West Church Street are 1741 Gemeinhaus, 1744 Single Sisters’ House with two additions 1752 and 1772, 1746 Bell House with two additions 1748 and 1749, 1751 Old Chapel, 1768 Widows’ House with two additions 1794 and 1889, 1803-1806 Central Moravian Church and 1742 – 1911 God’s Acre Cemetery.

Located on the hillside below Central Moravian Church and stretching to the Monocacy Creek below, the 18th century industrial area known today as the Colonial Industrial Quarter was situated to take advantage of both the prodigious spring supplying potable water and the Monocacy Creek supplying waterpower for the mills, craftsmen and trades of early Bethlehem. Included are the 1761 Tannery, 1762 Waterworks and archeological sites of the 1749 Pottery, 1752 Butchery, 1765 Oil Mill, and 1771 Dye House.

With its core of original buildings, Bethlehem preserves some of the most important structures and sites relating to the Moravians in the New World and is significant as an outstanding example of Moravian architecture and town planning. The settlement played a key role in both the international and American Moravian Communities.

The endeavor to seek World Heritage List recognition for Historic Moravian Bethlehem began in 2002 when Christiansfeld, Denmark invited Bethlehem to join with representatives from other historic Moravian Church settlements in The Netherlands, South Africa, Germany and the UK. Since then Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, its predecessor organizations and Others have provided decades- long leadership. In 2017, former Mayor Robert Donchez established the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission to support and help with the actions necessary for Bethlehem to achieve World Heritage status. The Commission is composed of elected officials and leaders in education, business and non-profits.

In 2012, Historic Moravian Bethlehem was designated a National Historic Landmark District, one of 8 in Pennsylvania and about 200 in the United States.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem National Landmark District was added to the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List in 2017 as a potential “extension” to the 2015 inscription on the World Heritage List of the Moravian Church Settlement of Christiansfeld in Denmark.

The World Heritage List, which recognizes cultural and natural sites of universal importance, was established in 1972 to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding universal value to humanity.” There are 1,154 sites in 167 countries. There are currently 1,154 sites on the World Heritage List, two examples of which are the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt. There are only 24 World Heritage Sites in the United States, two of which are Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Statue of Liberty in New

The National Park Service is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention on behalf of the Department of the Interior and in cooperation with the Department of State. The National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs provides guidance on the development of the nomination and coordinates with other participating countries.

In the summer of 2024, the final decision on the inclusion on the World Heritage List will be made by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of representatives from 21 nations elected from the members of the World Heritage Convention, and advised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites.