The water displays and Hercules Monument in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel are now part of the world heritage of mankind
The Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is the 38th World Heritage site in Germany, and part of the universal cultural heritage of mankind. At its meeting in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on 23rd June, 2013, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe the Bergpark’s Hercules Monument and water displays on the list of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
The Committee acknowledged the property as a unique cultural landscape. It confirmed that the park’s water displays are an outstanding and unique example of the art of monumental water engineering practiced in the era of European Absolutism. There could be no doubt that the Hercules statue represents the finest monumental sculpture of Early Modern times both technically and artistically. Nowhere else in the world has there ever been a hillside park layout like this, of comparable size and featuring a “water architecture” as accomplished as the one created under Landgrave Karl in the years since 1691.
„With this, Kassel really has reached the top of the world now“, commented a delighted Eva Kühne-Hörmann, Minister of Science and Art of the State of Hesse. „The distinction awarded to the Bergpark as an outstanding part of the world heritage of mankind is the highest reward for all those who have been preparing and supporting the nomination over many years. My heartfelt thanks must go not only to the staff in agencies and institutions but also to all the citizens who adopted our cause, and furthered it with a huge amount of passion and dedication. The inscription of the “citizens’ park” of Bergpark on the World Heritage list is a special honour for the Federal State of Hesse, for the region, and for my home city of Kassel. I am happier than I could possibly say about this wonderful result, which will provide major impulses for the future”, Kühne-Hörmann added. The Bergpark is now officially in a league with Aachen Cathedral, the Berlin Museumsinsel, the Tower of London, the Palace and Park of Versailles, the Acropolis of Athens, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Great Wall of China.
Gerd Weiß, President of the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments of Hesse and World Heritage commissioner for the State Government of Hesse, has been present at the vote in Phnom Penh as a member of the Foreign Office’s German delegation. “During the discussions, it became quite evident that the Bergpark has earned this distinction. The historical water displays with the Hercules towering above them are an architectural masterpiece of the first order. There is no other park anywhere in the world displaying such a monumental water theatre – over a distance of about two kilometres, over five major structures, each with its own distinct stage setting.”
One exceptional feature of the nomination process has been the degree of citizens’ involvement and the broad support for the World Heritage project among the citizens of Kassel. “It has been a long road from the nomination for inscription to this decision. And it could in no way be taken for granted that the public would back our work towards international acknowledgement in the manner that we have seen here at Kassel. Without the active support of our citizens, the cultural organisations, the societies founded for that specific purpose such as, for example, “Bürger für das Welterbe e. V.”, we would not have succeeded”, states Bernd Küster, director of Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, adding: “The favourable decision on the part of the World Heritage Committee will strengthen the resolve of everyone involved to protect and preserve the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe for future generations as the unique, universally important cultural landscape it is.”
The mayor of Kassel, Bertram Hilgen, is delighted as well. “The inhabitants of Kassel have always been proud of the Bergpark and its water displays, and the Hercules towering above it all has become the city’s landmark. The history of the Wilhelmshöhe is closely interwoven with the city and its people. It is an especially happy coincidence that Kassel should have joined the league of World Heritage sites in the year it also celebrates its 1100th anniversary. As the mayor of Kassel, I am very proud of the broad support from our citizens that has contributed to the success of this nomination. In a fine effort of inter-disciplinary collaboration that involved town and traffic planning, monument protection and landscape maintenance, the city of Kassel has provided the prerequisites that have led to this distinction; for example, it has created the core and buffer zones to make sure that the Bergpark will be maintained in its outstanding value in the years to come. We are aiming to continue this close interconnection of responsibilities between the State of Hesse and the city of Kassel in the future as well.”
The World Heritage nomination „Water displays and Hercules in Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe“ has been under preparation since 2007. It was developed by a working group including representatives of the Hessian State Ministry for Science and Art, the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, and the city of Kassel as well as members of the “Bürger für das Welterbe e. V.” society. As the Minister for Science and Art, Kühne-Hörmann signed it in October 2010 at Wilhelmshöhe Palace. After preliminary evaluation by the Kultusministerkonferenz (the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs) it was translated into English and forwarded to the Standing Conference by the Hessian Ministry for Science and Art. It was then passed on to the Foreign Office, which submitted the documents to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 18th January, 2012.
The nomination has grown from the process of restructuring the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel. The reorganisation of this “museum landscape” – a unique ensemble of eight art-historical and culture-historical collections spread over five musum locations, and museum palaces with historical gardens at Kassel and Calden-Wilhelmsthal – currently constitutes the most ambitious project of cultural investment in Hesse, as well as one of the largest in Germany. The implementation of this key project of urban and state development is financed by the State of Hesse to the amount of 200 million euros, with the city of Kassel contributing the sum of 20 million euros.
The restructuring aims to establish Kassel as one of the foremost locations of museums, palaces and historical parks in Germany, positioning the city both nationally and internationally. At the same time, the undertaking will also serve to maintain and protect the heritage of art and fashioned nature created by the Kassel princes over the course of several centuries. In this way, Kassel will experience an upward revaluation as a cultural centre in the heart of Germany that will go far beyond the already important event of documenta. The ongoing measures include, among others, stabilisation and restoration work on the Hercules statue and Octagon, the Löwenburg castle, the Neue Galerie and the Hessisches Landesmuseum.
Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is open to visitors all the year round and free of charge. There are guided tours for those wishing to visit specific features such as the Hercules Monument or the water displays, conducted by guides from Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel or Kassel Marketing. Specialist tours offer looks behind the scenes of the Bergpark and its water features, providing visitors with detailed information about the technology and historical peculiarities of the new World Heritage property.
Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel and Kassel Marketing would like to extend an invitation to all friends of the Park and everybody interested in it, to join us for the third Bergparkfest on 29th June 2013 where we are going to celebrate the decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Two years ago, this event was celebrated under the motto „Auf dem Weg zum Welterbe” (“Towards World Heritage”). This year, it will be „Welt Kultur Kassel“.
The World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Cambodia will last until 26th June. The Committee consists of 21 members from the State Parties and meets annually for its Conference to discuss new nominations to the World Heritage list, and endangered World Heritage properties.
With the inscription of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe on the UNESCO list, Germany now has 38 World Heritage sites, with six of them situated in Hesse: the Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch with the famous gatehouse, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley between Rüdesheim/Bingen and Koblenz (as a cultural landscape), the Frontiers of the Roman Empire – Upper German-Raetian Limes, the Messel Pit Fossil Site (the first World Natural Heritage site in Germany), and the national park of Kellerwald-Edersee as part of the World Natural Heritage site “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”.
As of July 2013, the UNESCO World Heritage list comprises a total of 962 sites in 157 states. 745 of them are listed as cultural heritage, 188 as natural heritage, and another 29 as both cultural and natural heritage properties.