The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has added Jewish sites in Germany to its famous World Heritage list.
Committee members recognised the German cathedral cities of Mainz, Speyer and Worms for their role as centres of European Jewish culture in the Middle Ages. It is the first UNESCO recognition of Jewish cultural heritage in Germany.
Jewish communities in the three cities, which form part of what was once known as “Jerusalem on the Rhine”, made significant contributions to Jewish language, religious studies, and religious architecture, the committee said.
Researchers and historians have shown that the Jewish communities living here in the early Middle Ages also had direct links to the Crusades.
The Jewish sites comprise the Speyer Jewry-Court, with the structures of the synagogue and women’s shul, the archaeological vestiges of the yeshiva, the courtyard and the intact underground mikveh, which is noted of being of “high architectural and building quality”.
The property also comprises the Worms Synagogue Compound, with its in-situ post-war reconstruction of the 12th century synagogue and 13th century women’s shul, the community hall Rashi House, and the monumental 12th century mikveh.
The series also includes the Old Jewish Cemetery in Worms and the Old Jewish Cemetery in Mainz.
UNESCO said the four component sites “tangibly reflect the early emergence of distinctive Ashkenazi customs and the development and settlement pattern of the communities, particularly between the 11th and the 14th centuries”.
The buildings served as prototypes for later Jewish communities across Europe, in particular their religious buildings and cemeteries.
The UNESCO list now counts more than 1,000 sites in 167 countries, with Germany boasting 51, the third highest of any nation after Italy (58) and China (56).
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