Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution


World Heritage Site Progress

Historic Moravian Bethlehem Officially Partners with Historic Moravian Communities in Northern Ireland, UK, Denmark, and Germany

Highlights from the Transnational Signing

Speaker 1: Robert Donchez, Mayor of Bethlehem

Speaker 2: Stephen Morris, Chief, Office of International Affairs, National Park Service

Speaker 3: Barry Gamble, Coordinator, Moravian Church Settlements Working Group

On September 15, 2021 representatives from Germany, Northern Ireland and Denmark were in Bethlehem to sign a joint application to be World Heritage sites. The Bethlehem World Heritage Commission announced that the 14.7-acre settlement preserved in the heart of Bethlehem was authorized by the U.S. Department of the Interior to participate in a multi-country nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List of historic Moravian Church settlements in Europe and North America. The settlement had been on UNESCO’s Tentative List since December of 2016 after a 14-year campaign for a spot.

“There are only a little over 1,000 World Heritage sites in the whole world,” said Charlene Donchez Mowers, president of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. “All of us working together with our colleagues is just fabulous.”

See photos from this historic event in the slideshow above, and watch highlights in the video clips to the left.

What is a World Heritage Site?

Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites is part of an effort to bring World Heritage Site status to Historic Moravian Bethlehem. As a World Heritage List candidate, Historic Moravian Bethlehem preserves and advances the ageless values of education, equality, industry, integrity and spirituality that have been part of the community since 1741.

The site’s original architecture along with its town planning across 14.7 acres, 10 structures, several 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.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem is on a prestigious list of U.S. sites poised to be nominated to the World Heritage List in the coming years, which would place it alongside national treasures including Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty and the Grand Canyon and globally iconic sites such as the Great Wall of China, Pyramids at Giza, Acropolis in Athens and Sydney Opera House. Learn more about World Heritage sites with this clip from CBS News to the right.

We're on the cusp of World Heritage Site status

Historic Moravian Bethlehem is one only 19 sites on the US Tentative List, working toward nomination to the World Heritage List.

There are only 24 World Heritage Sites in the entire U.S. Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Fallingwater outside of Pittsburgh are the only two sites in Pennsylvania. There are just over 1,100 World Heritage sites in the entire world, two examples of which are the Great Wall of China and the pyramids in Egypt.

This endeavor has been underway since 2002 and has taken much effort led by Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites. In 2012, Historic Moravian Bethlehem was designated a National Historic Landmark District, one of 8 in Pennsylvania and about 200 in the United States.

World Heritage Timeline

  • On Friday, December 9, 2016, Historic Moravian Bethlehem was honored with placement on the US Tentative List for eventual nomination to the World Heritage List. This happened just two weeks before the 275th anniversary of the naming of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 1741. Official documentation of the nomination was made through the Federal Register through the Department of the Interior.
  • In 2017, the Mayor of Bethlehem established the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission (BWHC) made up of the five property owners of Historic Moravian Bethlehem and representatives of the cultural, academic, and corporate communities to raise funds for the preparation of the dossier and fulfill the nomination process requirements.
  • In the summer of 2020, BWHC engaged the services of an international World Heritage consultant to help guide the complex process of preparing a transnational serial nomination to the World Heritage List.  This will be one of the first transboundary, transnational serial nominations by the United States to the World Heritage Committee.
  • In January, 2021 the Federal Register Announcement requested public comment on the next site to be put forward in nomination by the United States.  We are very pleased to report that many letters in support of Historic Moravian Bethlehem were submitted and all were strongly in favor of our being the next site chosen.
  • In 2015, the historic Moravian community of Christiansfeld, Denmark was inscribed on the World Heritage list. In spring of 2021, we are so delighted to be continuing on the path started by Christiansfeld. In May 2021 the first official working meeting was held with representatives of two historic Moravian settlements: Herrnhut, Germany founded in 1722 and Gracehill, Northern Ireland, founded in 1765. We will be preparing a joint serial nomination to the World Heritage List with a detailed dossier and statement of the Outstanding Universal Value of our three sites as an extension of the Christiansfeld nomination.

World Heritage Commission Officers

Mayor Robert Donchez, Chair
Curtis H. Barnette, Vice-Chair
Charlene Donchez Mowers, President
Don Cunningham, Treasurer
Daniel McCarthy, Secretary

World Heritage Commission Members

Phillips Armstrong, Curtis Barnette, Pastor Hopeton Clennon, Former Congressman Charles Dent, Jean-Claude Dubacher, Tim Fallon, Dr. Bryon Grigsby, Bruce Haines, Cynthia Kosso, Tony Iannelli, Alex Michaels, Lamont McClure, Michael Perrucci, Dr. Joseph Roy, David Shaffer, Dr. John Simon, Dan Soos, and Congresswoman Susan Wild.

Global Recognition for Moravian Heritage and Ideals

With its intact core of original buildings, this National Historic Landmark District 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 Moravian settlement of Christiansfeld, Denmark—founded 30 years after Bethlehem—was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem’s footprint is 14.7 acres of the original 18th-century Moravian settlement which served as the center of Moravian Church activities in America. The settlement played a key role in both the international and American Moravian communities.

Today, visitors can experience some of the finest 18th century colonial Germanic architecture in the nation and explore some of the artifacts that speak to the Moravian community.

In the News

Learn more about Historic Moravian Bethlehem's nomination to the US Tentative List.

“The Moravian District is a source of pride for the city of Bethlehem and the surrounding Lehigh Valley, as it has provided a unique, historically rich, and culturally significant way of life for over 300 years. The United States is filled with a number of important historical sites, so to even be considered is an honor.” - Former US Congressman Charlie Dent


Thousands of people have walked these streets, farmed these lands, built these buildings and industries. Thousands of stories, thousands of lives to cherish.

Join a community of people who share our mission to preserve:

  • 20 historic structures
  • 60,000+ collections and artifacts
  • 3 centuries of rich history

Historic Moravian Bethlehem’s Bid for World Heritage Status

The world is watching us.

That’s because Historic Moravian Bethlehem is poised to become a World Heritage Site. That’s big. Very audacious. Being named a World Heritage Site puts us in the same league as national treasures like Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, and the Grand Canyon, and globally iconic sites such as the Great Wall of China, Acropolis, and Pyramids of Egypt.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem is a masterpiece of human creative genius with culture, architecture, and design that are exceptional and have universal value to humankind. That is what the team that evaluates potential World Heritage Sites looks for, and we’ve had it for centuries here in Bethlehem.



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