Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution


World Heritage Site Progress

A World Heritage Timeline

2002 - The Journey to international recognition begins

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

2015 - The Moravian settlement of Christiansfeld, Denmark, founded 30 years after Bethlehem, was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

2016 - Historic Moravian Bethlehem was honored with placement on the US Tentative List for eventual nomination to the World Heritage List.

2017 - The U.S. Tentative List was reviewed and approved by the World Heritage Committee and Historic Moravian Bethlehem is now listed along with the other U.S. sites on the World Heritage website for nomination to the World Heritage List.

2021 - Historic Moravian Bethlehem works with representatives of Gracehill, Northern Ireland/UK and Herrnhut, Germany to prepare a transnational, serial nomination to the World Heritage List. This is the first multi-country nomination for the U.S.

September: Representatives from Gracehill, Herrnhut, Christiansfeld and Bethlehem gathered in Bethlehem to sign the Voluntary Association Agreement to jointly prepare the nomination dossier.

October: German Minister Müntefering visits Bethlehem. The four countries agree to work together with the U.S. as the lead on the nomination.

November: A Transnational Working Group meeting of the four historic Moravian communities was held in Herrnhut.

2022 - The multi-country Tentative List Form which includes Bethlehem, Gracehill, and Herrnhut was submitted and is now officially on the World Heritage website.

Transnational Working Group meetings will be held in Northern Ireland in March and Denmark in July.

February 1, 2023: United States submits multi-national nomination to World Heritage List 

County of Northampton, Pennsylvania

Thank you to Northampton County for their support of this initiative
through their Northampton County Hotel Tax Grant program.

World Heritage Commission Officers

J. William Reynolds, Chair
Curtis H. Barnette, Vice-Chair
Charlene Donchez Mowers, Senior Advisor and  Historian
Don Cunningham, Treasurer
Daniel McCarthy, Secretary

World Heritage Commission Members

Phillips Armstrong, Curtis Barnette,  Bishop Hopeton Clennon, Don Cunningham, Charles Dent, Charlene Donchez Mowers, Jean-Claude Dubacher, Tim Fallon, Dr. Byron Grigsby, Bruce Haines, Dr. John Helble, Tony Iannelli, Dr. Cynthia Kosso, Dan McCarthy, Lamont McClure, Alex Michaels, Michael Perrucci, Dr. Joseph Roy, David Shaffer, Dan Soos, J. William Reynolds, Susan Wild, and LoriAnn Wukitsch

Historic Bethlehem’s two-decade initiative to move closer to World Heritage nomination realized

Aerial of Moravian Museum, Old Chapel, Bell House and Single SIster's House in in Historic Bethlehem.
Aerial of Moravian Museum, Old Chapel, Bell House and Single SIster's House in in Historic Bethlehem.

It started 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. From this initial visit and on, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites with others have provided the leadership in this initiative including getting National Historic Landmark District status for Historic Moravian Bethlehem in 2012 and placement on the U.S. Tentative list in 2015, both requirements for a potential World Heritage nomination.

• READ MORE: Celebrating a giant step forward: Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites honors World Heritage milestone

After Historic Moravian Bethlehem was placed on the U. S. Tentative List, Mayor Robert Donchez established the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission. Representatives included Bethlehem Area Moravians, Central Moravian Church, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Moravian University, County of Northampton and representatives of academic institutions, elected government officials, and local business leaders to help fulfill the World Heritage nomination process requirements.

In mid-September 2021, representatives from Historic Moravian Bethlehem and from historic Moravian communities of Herrnhut (Germany), Gracehill (Northern Ireland), and Christiansfeld met in Bethlehem to work on the nomination and signed a Voluntary Association Agreement. This Transnational Working Group has been meeting monthly for several years preparing the necessary documentation for this World Heritage Nomination.

On the occasion of the Annual Congress-Bundestag Seminar on September 12, 2022, members of the German Bundestag traveled to Bethlehem to better understand the culture, history, and people of the Lehigh Valley. 

1761 Tannery at Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem
1761 Tannery at Colonial Industrial Quarter in Bethlehem. PHOTO BY PAUL BARTHOLOMEW

Jürgen Trittin, Chairman of the PG USA: "Historic Moravian Bethlehem is an extraordinary site given its exceptional cultural and architectural value. It is also monument to how a verfolgte community maintained their traditions even though their members spread over several countries."

Delegates from the German Bundestag asked questions of the Bethlehem World Heritage Council Representatives. Representatives fielded questions about commonalities among Moravian settlements worldwide. 

They were also asked about Bethlehem’s early establishment as a model city, and how early Bethlehem Moravians governed within the closed economy of the settlement. Representatives also answered questions about the architecture of the buildings, and the low number of cultural World Heritage sites located in the US compared to natural sites. They acknowledged that there are currently only two Cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The German Bundestag concluded their visit with a walk through the Old Chapel and God’s Acre.

After a busy 2022, it is with great pride that we share Mayor J. William Reynolds’s press release today acknowledging the U.S. Department of Interior has submitted the multi-country nomination to the World Heritage List of historic “Moravian Church Settlements” in North America and Europe

LING TO NEWS RELEASE: http://www.prweb.com/releases/moravian_church_settlement_site_submitted_as_first_multi_national_nomination_to_world_heritage_list/prweb19145196.htm 

2. The 1762 Waterworks located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter is a Civil Engineering Landmark, an American Water Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark.
The 1762 Waterworks located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter is a Civil Engineering Landmark, an American Water Landmark, and a National Historic Landmark. PHOTO BY PAUL BARTHOLOMEW

After two decades of passion, dedication, and steadfast focus, Charlene Donchez Mowers is one step closer to realizing a lifelong dream. Her humble thoughts are, “this is such an incredible honor for Historic Moravian Bethlehem, located in the heart of our city, and I am thrilled to be a part of this endeavor. We still have several more hurdles, however, this will bring lasting recognition and economic impact to our region.”

Board Chair Joel Rosenfeld is excited about submitting the dossier to the World Heritage Center in Paris. “This brings us another step closer to the culmination of this badge of honor for Bethlehem and the region. Under the leadership of LoriAnn Wukitsch, President & CEO, we will work in the next several months to prepare our historic sites for international review.”

HBMS President Visits Herrnhut, Germany

While visiting Herrnhut, Germany, HBMS President and CEO, LoriAnn Wukitsch posed the question: "Is the Trombone Choir an integral part of community in Herrnhut?" The answer was a resounding "Absolutely!" Thank you, Peter and Jill Vogt, for sharing with us the importance of the Trombone Choir in Hernnhut Germany.

Transnational Partner Gracehill Moravian Settlement Featured on RTE

A feature of Ireland's only Moravian village seeking UNESCO status from RTE, state broadcaster for the Republic of Ireland. The settlement of Gracehill was founded in 1759. Gracehill is part of the Transnational bid with Moravian congregations in Denmark, Germany, and the United States seeking to have Gracehill and others added to the World Heritage list. You can read the article and see the video on RTE's website.

U.S. Park Services Shares World Heritage Site Updates

The July-December 2021 U.S. National Park Service International Programs Bulletin featured World Heritage nomination updates. Our very own Moravian Bethlehem district's nomination authorization was profiled in this edition of the bulletin.

Deputy Foreign Minister of International Cultural Policies for Germany Visit

German diplomat Michelle Munterfering, presented an agreement to Bethlehem Mayor, Bob Donchez, as part of the nations’ application to designate their Moravian settlements as a World Heritage site on October 18, 2021.

Photographs courtesy Matthew Blum.

© Deutsche Welle

Video, Courtesy of DW

German Bundestag travels to Bethlehem for Update on World Heritage Nomination

Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites hosted the German Bundestag to visit Historic Moravian Bethlehem on Monday, September 12 at 2:15 PM. President and CEO, LoriAnn Wukitsch welcomed the group to the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, the oldest building in Bethlehem, and introduced them to the Bethlehem World Heritage Council Representatives from Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, Bethlehem Area Moravians, The City of Bethlehem, Moravian University, and Central Moravian Church

Read the press release

Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites receives RACP Grant

HBMS received $753,397 for restoration and preservation work on the 1782 & 1834 Grist Miller’s House.

Thank you to Senator Lisa Boscola and Representative Steve Samuelson for their support on this project!

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 10.88 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. See the listing for Moravian Church Settlements on the UNESCO site.

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.

Global Recognition for Moravian Heritage and Ideals

Waterworks part of Moravian settlement in winter

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 10.88 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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Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Registration and financial information about Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Inc. may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999, or on the web at www.dos.state.pa.us. Registration does not imply endorsement.