ith 38 heritage sites, Germany is one of the countries with the most inscriptions in the UNESCO list.
Many see it as a competition. Germany’s 38 World Heritage sites make it one of the countries with the most entries on the UNESCO World Heritage list, after China, Italy, France and Spain. Given the size of the country, the sheer number seems extraordinary, but is related to the history of this central European country which, like Italy, only became a nation in the late 19th century.
As late as 1800 what is today the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany was made up of hundreds of small sovereign states. On top of which there were 51 free imperial cities. These princedoms rarely formed coherent territorial units.
Each ruler laid down laws, had coins minted, levied taxes and determined measurements, weights and the time. Each ruler had family ties with other rulers throughout Europe and established political and economic alliances as he saw fit.
In terms of culture, there was stiff competition.
Individual aristocratic patrons supported the arts in order to enhance their own glory, taking their cue from the cultural achievements of the other courts of Europe.
Landgrave Carl von Hessen-Kassel, who had Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe planned in 1689, was a typical ruler of such a small princedom.
Margravine Wilhelmine von Bayreuth, the sister of Frederick II of Prussia, was another passionate patron with a vision for her fiefdom: she had a new opera house built to mark her daughter’s wedding in 1748; it was designed by the then world-famous architect and theatrical designer Giuseppe Galli Bibiena. This wooden gem in a remote little town in Franconia, the prototype for all later stand­alone downtown opera houses, was described by the World
Heritage Committee at its 2012 annual convention as having “outstanding universal value”.
Germany’s polycentric history also explains why today all 16 states have sovereignty over their own cultural affairs – and they include the three city-states of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin.
Each of the states has its own monument preservation laws and each devises its own proposals for the World Heritage list, whereby the Standing Conference of Cultural Ministers decides which are forwarded to UNESCO. Needless to say, each state wants to have at least one item in its territory on the World Heritage list, and this is a matter not only of prestige, but of creating tourist magnets.

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