World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



Forum: Start | Profile | Search |         Website: Start | The List | Community |
General discussions about WHS www.worldheritagesite.org Forum / General discussions about WHS /  
 

Belfries of Belgium and France...and The Netherlands?

 
Author EnsignYoshi
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 7 Nov 2008 22:58 | Edited by: EnsignYoshi 
I'm actually suprised that the Belfry of the city of Sluis (The Netherlands, near the Belgian border) isn't included on the world heritage list. It's the only Belfry in the Netherlands. And I think it should be included along with the others (I'm pretty sure if it wasn't in the Netherlands it would already have been on the list). OK, the belfry has been destroyed in the war, and has been rebuild in the 1950-1960ies. But the belfry of Charleroi is also fairly recent and included as being a continuation of the tradition. I mailed the dutch site responsible for world heritage once and they told me the reason the belfry isn't on the list is because the dutch government wants to focus on other themes (like "the fight against water") for world heritage inscription. I'm suprised the Dutch government lets an opportunity to get the prestigious world heritage label pass up.

What are all your thoughts on this?

Author m_m
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 00:33 
The Dutch government has been noted for the theme that it follows in its nomination (i.e. man and water) since it is part of their identity. I think with the exception of Willemstad, all the state party's WHS fit this theme. But they mentioned in a certain report that they would like to expand this, to also include more traditional themes and others.

As for the belfries WHS, I'm not sure if it's the Committee or the Advisory Body, but after the extension of the site to the belfries in France, they noted that the nomination is closed. I'm not sure what "close" means, but I believe that we may not have any extensions or new nominations related to belfries exhibiting the same values any time soon.

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#3 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 07:43 | Edited by: Solivagant 
I couldn't see any justification for an NL Belfries site – 56 is already a ridiculously large number when they should have chosen just the "best" 2 or 3 as representative – I suspect that the addition of the French belfries was more to do with riding on UNESCO enthusiasm for Trans-national sites than any great additional merit among the new inscriptions. As m_m has pointed out, ICOMOS sounded so fed-up about the length of the list that they felt it necessary to "draw a line" to prevent any more being nominated!

Perhaps also we should consider to what extent countries "want" to get more sites inscribed. It isn't self evident that all countries do!! As the scheme has captured the World's imagination the motivation for many inscriptions has taken on some unfortunate dimensions. For some, gaining a WHS inscription is a chance to demonstrate their country's place in the world (eg China). For other smaller states it is a chance obtain some international recognition e.g. the outpouring of national pride following the inscription of Melaka etc and for Aapravasi Ghat. For many (e.g. Spain and Mexico) it is a political matter to share out the spoils among a country's provinces. Italy and France may still be using the rules to get as many inscriptions as possible (for tourism reasons?) but there are others who, I suspect, would not subscribe to EnsignYoshi's comment about NL "not passing up" a chance to get another "prestigious" WH label and do not seem to want to maximise their inscribed lists. The response by NL doesn't seem to indicate a country too bothered about increasing its "Inscribed count" (We have already had discussions on this forum about why Amsterdam isn't inscribed).

And I see this in the UK approach too. I recently wrote to the UK Department of Culture about why it seemed intent on "flogging the dead horse" nomination of "Darwin at Downe". This site may fit within the main UK theme but has already cost UK one "blank year" and seems likely to do so again if its nomination is pursued for 2010. I also asked why they stated on their Web site that countries could only nominate 1 site pa when, as we know, this is not the case. I have seen this incorrect statement carried forward to the Web sites of a number of UK "hopefuls" and wondered if, as a piece of "misinformation", it helped the UK government for potential sites to believe it since it dampened their expectations of rapid progression! The answer I received was to accept that the statement was erroneous but that "The Government will continue to exercise its discretion on the type and number of nominations put forward to UNESCO for World Heritage status". The Web site has since been corrected but it is clear that UK isn't trying to maximize its nominations – just enough to demonstrate conservation and cultural credentials but no more!

Could the reality be that a growing number of "developed countries" do not see that much benefit in having many more WHS inscribed? Also that they may genuinely believe that they should no longer "hog" the limelight but rather give other less well-represented countries a chance within the annual limit of 45 nominations? After all - their main sites are already on the list and many other potential sites would be "me too" inscriptions which duplicated those in other countries. And inscription brings with it a host of unwanted interferences and attention from outside bodies and pressure groups. In the UK, UNESCO is currently carrying out its "inspection" of Bath and Edinburgh. The Tower of London is under scrutiny also. I note that Bordeaux has joined Dresden in having plans for a bridge which UNESCO opposes –perhaps soon even France might see some downsides in inscription! A realization of these downsides is becoming more widespread and is no longer confined to the more extremist "anti-UNESCO" "pro freedom" groups in USA! The UK's "Independent" recently ran an even-handed piece about the pros and cons of inscription http://www.independent.co.uk:80/news/world/politics/the-big-question-what-is-a-world- heritage-site-and-does-the-accolade-make-a-difference-997955.html

As listed in the forum "Aspiring to be on the T List" there are plenty of potential sites in UK "clamoring" for inscription but governmental support for them is around the "lukewarm" level and with 1 (or fewer) nominations p.a. it won't have to reveal its cards for a long time yet! Letting them have the "hope" of ultimate inscription might even have its plus points in generating a bit of local pride and in helping to beef up preservation and site management but that is a long way short of the cost and effort for a full nomination. Around the World a significant local driver for nomination is the prospect of tourist $$$$$$. But I wonder how real even that is in many cases. Indeed it probably favours the more mediocre sites and this must be a worry for the overall quality of the "List" – to take 2 sites from the UK "Aspiring" list. Cambridge has declined to pursue inscription but would it get much more tourist gold and could/would it want to face much extra tourist load anyway..... On the other hand Bury St Edmunds might well do so. Now Bury St Edmunds is a pleasant town but pales in comparison to Cambridge - the prospect of the List becoming full of such sites is not a great one.

As the N Hemisphere winter nights are drawing in our thoughts might return to developing our "Top 50 missing" sites! My concern for the future of the List would be that relatively few of them will actually make it whereas those nominated largely for national pride, politics and tourist volumes will.

Author elsslots
Admin
#4 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 08:15 
Solivagant:
Perhaps also we should consider to what extent countries "want" to get more sites inscribed.

I also note some real enthusiasm in the more developed Asian countries, especially when the sites are within reach of the city dwellers. High media attention probably leads to an increase in national (or regional) tourism in that case.

We had Melaka/Georgetown this year. There also was a report about the overflow of tourists to the Iwami Ginzan mine in Japan after it became a WHS. And China too, like you already mentioned: there it is both a case of national pride and a boost for local tourism (catering to visiting Chinese tourists, not to the odd westerner). This is very visible in a site like the Kaiping Diaolou. It's really a minor site, but close enough to the prosperous city of Guangzhou to draw lots of daytrippers.

Author EnsignYoshi
Partaker
#5 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 08:48 
I agree that the list shouldn't get diluded with an overamount of (less-quality-full) sites, and I recognize many sites are nominated purely for financial and tourism gain, which I regret. That being said, if the belfry hadn't been in The Netherlands, and just a few kilometers away in belgium, I'm pretty sure it would have been world heritage. If the belfries in belgium and france are considered world heritage (I think pretty much all of them are one the list), this one should be also. Take an extreme example, if a countryborder ran true the pyramid fields in egypt, you don't just take the pyramids of just Egypt as a world heritage site?

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#6 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 10:56 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Hi EnsignYoshi - I wasn't suggesting that the NL Belfry was any less deserving than the additional French and Belgian ones. Merely that 56 was already too many.
Among the contributors to this Forum there are those who appear to have "inside information" about the history of some of the nominations. Does anyone know if NL was given the chance to get its site added at the same time as the extension in 2005? Although ICOMOS has "closed the door" now one might have thought that UNESCO would have looked kindly on a tripartite transboundary nomination at the time! If they DID have a chance then it appears even clearer that NL didn't want to go through the process (which would have been pretty minimal for it with only 1 site and wouldn't even have counted against its annual nomination). Perhaps it was because it had made the "self denying ordinance" of NOT proposing sites whilst it was on the WHC (which it was in 2005)?? If it was solely because of that then we have an e.g of an inscription which NL deprived itself of by taking that principled stand!

As regards the hypothesis of "shared sites" divided by a national boundary - well there have been a number of examples in the past of what should have been homogenous (and even contiguous) sites being divided "unnaturally". The Sundarbans is perhaps the best example -In 1987 India then in 1997 Bangladesh inscribed this single ecosystem separately. But also Rome got divided up between Vatican and Italy and is still 2 sites even though the "gap" was filled later.

PS Does NL operate any sort of "sharing it out" policy for its provinces - as between south of the river and north for instance! Perhaps it wasn't the "south's" turn and/or it didn't want to use up its turn on another Belfry!

Author elsslots
Admin
#7 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 12:18 
Solivagant:
Does NL operate any sort of "sharing it out" policy for its provinces - as between south of the river and north for instance!

None of the Dutch WHS is south of the great rivers (Rhine etc)! So there's no such policy.

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#8 | Posted: 9 Nov 2008 13:56 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Interesting - as I remember it when I worked in industry in NL careful consideration had to be given to "cultural sensitivities" when dealing with peoples and areas of the country which had been part of the Spanish Netherlands to ensure that "fairness" was done and "seen to be done" (A bit along the lines of Flemish and Walloon Belgium). But, as you point out, there are no WHS there so it certainly hasn't happened in that case -a bit surprising in itself really for such a relatively "large" part of the country. In UK there is a carefully worked out ratio of nomination rotas for the various elements of the "United" Kingdom" taking into account population to ensure "Inclusiveness"!

Author EnsignYoshi
Partaker
#9 | Posted: 11 Nov 2008 14:53 | Edited by: EnsignYoshi 
Belgium is a bit complex when it comes to nominating world heritage sites. The regions are responsible for monuments and culture. Thus each region nominates it's own world heritage. For example: Flanders nominates the historical centre of antwerp,...
Wallonia nominates the city of Spa and the region of Brussels nominates Palais Stoclet.

When the belfries were nominated, only flemish belfries were on the list and icomos send it back saying it doesn't work with regions alone but with countries, and so walloon belfries were added as well.

It's amazing this country works somethimes :)

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#10 | Posted: 12 Nov 2008 02:55 
It had never really hit me before but I note that the title of another Belgian WHS is "Flemish Beguinages" - a very up front and, on reflection, not obviously necessary additonal cultural description unless a "point" is being made! After all the institution of "Beguinages" wasn't limited to that area and they exist in Wallonia and France too (as well as NL and even UK). Also it is a bit strange/illogical that the French word "Béguinage" is used rather than the Dutch "Beginhof" which you might have expected given the geographiic limitation of the chosen sites.

On looking back at the original inscription documentation for the Belgian "Belfries" I note that they were also very clearly titled "Flemish Belfries" in the 1999 documentation as late as the Bureau meeting in July when they were "referred back". By the time of the WHC in November they had rapidly acquired 8 additional belfries from Wallonia and a new title "Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia" (though the old title lives on in the evaluation documentation!)

So it appears that ICOMOS didn't take this stand regarding the Beguinages a year earlier (though it was rather stricter on the number of sites than it has been with the Belfries and required a reduction from the original nomination list's 26 to 13!). In its evaluation it does address the issue but concluded that the proposed Beguinages constituted "the most representative architectural ensembles associated with the Beguine movement" since others beyond Flanders were not of the same "large enclosed ensemble" type. I have certainly only visited "Flemish" Beguinages (and attractive, even impressive, they are) - would Ensignyoshi agree that ICOMOS was correct to let Belgium "get away" with only having Flemish sites inscribed in contrast to the approach it took a year later with regard to the Belfries?

Author EnsignYoshi
Partaker
#11 | Posted: 12 Nov 2008 08:08 
I noticed that most Flemish/Walloon nomination dossiers are made up in French. I assume this is done because English and French are the working languages of UNESCO and Flanders has some experience with French correspondance (in dealings with Wallonia and so on). I assume the name Béguinages originated here (as I have no idea what the English word is, or if there even exists one)

That being said, I always based myself on this map I found once. I believe it was made by an university student and shows all the beguinages in belgium. There are indeed beguinages in Wallonia, but they are incomplete, partly preserved, not intact as an ensemble. I know that Hasselt and Antwerpen for instance have beguinages, but they are incomplete and therefore deferred as world heritage. I assume this is what happened to the wallonian beguinages, I always assumed there weren't any fully preserved ones in Wallonia.
If there is an intact one, naturally it should be included. Plus the movement started in Wallonia.

There are also as far as I know 2 intact beguinages in Holland: Breda and Amsterdam. I wonder why those weren't included (though it could have something to do with the thematic choices of the dutch government, and maybe religion as the movement has catholic roots)

However I suspect the Flemish region wanting to have a world heritage site exclusive to Flanders, something typically Flemish, a way to showcase Flemish culture. Flanders always has had an underdogfeeling about it's own culture and I think they were very glad to have something of which they could say "something you can only find in Flanders". "Something Flemish is world heritage worthy". I must admit as a Flemish I always liked this sentiment of having a world heritage site typical to the region, so I might be a bit partisan to not extending the list. But putting my heart aside, logic dictates that other worthy beguinages should be included.

I also just read the criterion on the unesco site and one of it lists:

"Criterion ii: The Flemish béguinages demonstrate outstanding physical characteristics of urban and rural planning and a combination of religious and traditional architecture in styles specific to the Flemish cultural region."

Notice the last line. Maybe one of the reasons also why the site never got extended.

Author EnsignYoshi
Partaker
#12 | Posted: 12 Nov 2008 08:21 | Edited by: EnsignYoshi 
I just read the Advisory Body Evaluation and it states:

"Although the Beguine movement developed throughout north-western Europe (what is now Belgium, Holland, northern France, the Rhine valley, and eastern England), the founding of the béguinages, large enclosed ensembles designed to meet the spiritual and material needs of the Beguine communities were confined to the Flemish regions.

Comparative analysis

Although traces remain of béguinages in other regions of Belgium (Church of Saint-Christophe in the Béguinage of Liège, the Béguinage Chapel in Mons, several houses in Enghien and Anderlecht, the church of the Grand Béguinage of Brussels), in France (a handful of houses in the Béguinage of Saint-Vaast in Cambrai), England (the Elm Hill houses in Norwich),and the Béguinages of Amsterdam and Breda in the Netherlands, the Flemish béguinages proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List constitute the most representative architectural ensembles associated with the Beguine movement."

Author meltwaterfalls
Partaker
#13 | Posted: 13 Nov 2008 08:53 
I would guess the term Beguinages is used, as that is what the word is in English. As ever the 'Magpie' language that English is, has just appropriated another languages word, even if it is not the most relevant.
English translations of Belgian places are a little erratic but tend to favour the local language. But a few Flemish places are known better by their French name e.g. Bruges not Brugge, where as no Walloon places are known by their Dutch name e.g. Liege not Luik.

In terms of the sites being limited to Flanders I think this makes a lot of sense, as there are no particularly complete examples outside of the region. A few of those that were originally proposed in Flanders were excluded as they had been significantly altered the great Begijnhof in Gent and the smaller one in Leuven for example. I would guess the two in the Netherlands were excluded due to the Dutch authorities not wanting to pursue the potential of a shared site.

I visited Elm Hill in Norwich a few weeks back, it is actually very nice (as was Norwich itself) and you can certainly see the link to the Flemish sites. But again it has been significantly altered so would not really be a viable addition.

Quite how Belgium functions is something that fascinates me, it has forces pulling in several directions and an identity that is basically routed in a negative concept i.e. we are not Dutch/ French thus we are Belgian.

N.B. I use the term negative not as a lesser concept, but in relation to positive ideas of identify i.e. I am English because I like queuing.

Author EnsignYoshi
Partaker
#14 | Posted: 13 Nov 2008 16:21 
Well I'm from Belgium, If you have any questions always feel free to ask :)

General discussions about WHS www.worldheritagesite.org Forum / General discussions about WHS /
 Belfries of Belgium and France...and The Netherlands?

Your Reply Click this icon to move up to the quoted message


 ?
Only registered users are allowed to post here. Please, enter your username/password details upon posting a message, or register first.

 
 
www.worldheritagesite.org Forum Powered by Chat Forum Software miniBB ®
 ⇑