Speech by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering at the presentation of the certificate marking the inscription of Naumburg Cathedral on the UNESCO World Heritage List of cultural and natural sites

21.10.2018 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

One ought to be wary of making commitments that look likely to spawn further commitments – as a rule. But there are exceptions. One might bend the rule, for instance, when one meets people like Ms von Welck and District Commissioner Ulrich.

These two contacted me very shortly after I took office, to ask me and the Federal Foreign Office to continue its support for the Naumberg application for World Heritage status.

I was happy to commit myself back then to presenting the certificate of inscription in person if and when Naumburg Cathedral made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I was blown away by Naumburg Cathedral on one of my first ever trips to East Germany, when I came here just after sitting my final exams at school.

And now I’m back, and I am delighted to have the chance to fulfil my commitment. It is very clear to me that many people have worked hard to bring this about. Many of you helped the process, which was a long one, and had eagerly awaited the decision when it was finally taken in Bahrain.

We have just heard about this cathedral’s extraordinary significance to the history of architecture and art, as now recognised – I would say rightly – by the World Heritage Committee.

Your Excellencies, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to Naumburg today.

On behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, let me thank you for your support and for your decision.

I am glad to see that a number of experts from various delegations are here today as well – dialogue among experts is what nourishes and gives life to the World Heritage Convention. A very warm welcome to you all.

A moment ago, I was talking about rules and exceptions, and here’s another: it is surely permissible to use the phrase “historic moment” today. And it has been a long time coming.

History has now been made not only by Naumburg Cathedral but also by the UNESCO World Heritage nominations procedure.

You can read all about it in the Federal Foreign Office archives. Back in the day, Naumburg Cathedral was included on the first and only Tentative List drawn up by the GDR, which only joined the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1989.

That list never made it to recognition as World Heritage, however, as the two Germany’s Tentative Lists were amalgamated after reunification.

The palaces and parks of Potsdam and Berlin then became the tenth German site overall and the first to be inscribed post-reunification. Naumburg Cathedral did remain on the Tentative List, but it slipped further and further down as other nominations, such as Classical Modernism and the Bauhaus sites of Weimar and Dessau, overtook it.

And even though the nomination idea that combined Naumburg Cathedral with the cultural scene along the Saale and Umstrut rivers was initially rejected, the members of the World Heritage Committee were convinced of the cathedral’s extraordinary significance to architectural and art history right from the start.

That was a foundation on which to build, with the help of many supporters.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we celebrate the success of that endeavour.

You knew this, you believed in it and you worked for it: Vereinigte Domstifter, the Burgenlandkreis district, the patrons’ association and the Saxony-Anhalt Cultural Affairs Ministry working hand in hand with the Federal Foreign Office – as the FFO’s Ms Ringbeck can attest. It really was teamwork at its best.

For that, I thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen,

That story goes back further than you might think, for it was through teamwork that the cathedral became such an important site in the first place. It was the craftsmanship of the Naumburg master sculptor and his workshop that gave it its outstanding universal significance.

A vital part was played by what we would now call migrant workers, who came from northern France via Mainz. We are proud today of the beautiful Uta, and of the many works of art that were produced here.

And we value them not only as part of our national heritage but now also as part of the universal heritage of humankind.

Naumburg Cathedral impressively documents how important cultural exchange and artist mobility have been for societal and artistic developments in Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Preserving and perpetuating awareness of our own history and that of other cultures is a political and a socio-political task.

That is more relevant than ever.

It could not be otherwise at a time when historical and cultural heritage has become a military target. The destruction of cultural heritage is deployed deliberately as a weapon –

as a way of destroying people’s identity.

Cultural heritage is not just bricks and mortar; it also has an intangible value as a force for creating identity, and that is what terrorism seeks to attack.

In most such cases, we are talking about cultural property of immense cultural value falling victim to terrorism, war and illegal trade, as well as to climate change and environmental degradation.

We firmly believe that, if culture is lost, memory goes too – leaving us without the points of reference that might guide our future.

This is why we pursue our Cultural Preservation Programme and work with partners around the world, to help protect cultural property and preserve the memory of humankind in a very real way.

The Federal Foreign Office hosted a conference on this subject the week before last. Various project directors presented the work they are doing in every corner of the globe. I have to say, it is heartbreaking to see the scale of the destruction – but the work of conservationists is all about hope.

At the start of next year, the Catholic church in Havana will hear its old organ play again; children in Jordan are learning traditional techniques like making fire with flint. These are small examples, but they give us a glimpse of how international cultural-relations policy can help foster peace.

This is about respecting other people’s cultures and recognising cultural diversity, because peaceful coexistence depends on it. It is about preserving and perpetuating awareness of our own history and that of other cultures.

The fire at the national museum in Rio de Janeiro was another incident where irreplaceable cultural property was destroyed. We at the Federal Foreign Office immediately pledged support and started discussing practical measures with experts from federal and Land authorities as well as civil society.

This work is a quintessential part of our international cultural-relations and education policy.

We collaborate on it with our partners, chief among them UNESCO, the German Archaeological Institute and the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Here too, it is team work – cooperation and coproduction – that make success possible.

The presence of so many Committee members from around the world is a striking reminder of our shared responsibility to protect cultural heritage.

I am especially grateful that we can always rely on Saxony Anhalt when it comes to protecting cultural property internationally.

Its support in helping to secure endangered churches in Mexican World Heritage sites and draw up management plans in Armenia shows how seriously it takes the responsibilities that World Heritage status entails.

Saxony-Anhalt, which boasts a very high density of World Heritage compared to Germany as a whole, is certainly fulfilling the World Heritage Convention’s injunction about international assistance and cooperation.

Minister-President, it is a great pleasure to present you with this certificate marking the inscription of Naumburg Cathedral on the UNESCO World Heritage List of cultural and natural sites on behalf of UNESCO and of the Federal Republic of Germany as a State Party to the Convention.

This certificate recognises the work of many – and Naumburg Cathedral is an enrichment for us all.

Thank you for your attention.


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