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List of World Heritage Sites in Switzerland

Unesco in Switzerland

UNESCO or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized organization of the UN. UNESCO’s aim is “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information”. UNESCO pursue its objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programmes; international science programmes; the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press; regional and cultural history projects; the promotion of cultural diversity; translations of world literature; international cooperation agreements to secure the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites) and to preserve human rights, and attempts to bridge the worldwide digital divide. It is also a member of the United Nations Development Group.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 states parties which are elected by their General Assembly.The programme catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The programme was founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since then, 189 states parties have ratified the convention.

As of 2012, 962 sites are listed: 745 cultural, 188 natural, and 29 mixed properties,

Switzerland accepted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage on 17 September 1975, after which it could nominate properties on their territory to be considered for the World Heritage List. Currently, eleven properties in or partially in Switzerland are inscribed on the World Heritage List. Eight of these are cultural properties and three are natural properties. The first three were added to the list in 1983 and the latest in 2011. There is one site, Œuvre urbaine et architecturale de Le Corbusier, which has been on the tentative list since 2004.

UNESCO Sites

Saint John Abbey, Müstair

Saint John Abbey, Müstair was built around 780 by the bishop of Chur. The abbey has a well preserved heritage of Carolingian Art, and has therefore been classed as a World Heritage Sight. Many abbeys were built at this time including the local Cazis, Mistali, Pfäfers, and Disentis. The abbey was located along the Val Müstair pass over the Alps from Italy and was fortified to allow it to control the pass.

La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle

The site consists of two towns situated close to one another in a remote environment in the Swiss Jura mountains. Due to poor agricultural land, the watchmaking industry developed in the towns in the 19th century. After several devastating fires the towns were rebuilt to support this single industry. The town of La Chaux-de-Fonds was described by Karl Marx as a “huge factory-town” in Das Kapital where he analyzed the division of labour in the watchmaking industry of the Jura

Abbey of Saint Gall

The Abbey of Saint Gall in St Gallen is a religious complex which was erected in 719, and for a time in the 13th century was a principality. Founded by Saint Othmar on the spot where St Gall had erected his hermitage (Around 613 an Irish monk named Gallus, a disciple and companion of Saint Columbanus, established a hermitage on the site that would become the Abbey. He lived in his cell until his death in 646.). The abbey is also home to one of the richest medievel libraries in the world. The interior of the Cathedral is one of the most important baroque monuments in Switzerland

Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces

The Lavaux is a region in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland, in the district of Lavaux-Oron. Although there is some evidence that vines were grown in the area in Roman times, the actual vine terraces can be traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area. The Lavaux consist of 830 hectares of terraced wineyards that stretch for about 30 km along the south-facing northern shores of Lake Geneva. It benefits from a temperate climate, but the southern aspect of the terraces with the reflection of the sun in the lake and the stone walls gives a mediterranean character to the region. The main wine grape variety grown here is the Chasselas.

Monte San Giorgio

Monte San Giorgio is a wooded mountain (1,097 m above sea level) located between the south of canton Ticino in Switzerland and the region of Lombardy in Italy. Monte San Giorgio became a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2003, because it “is the single best known record of marine life in the Triassic period, and records important remains of life on land as well.” The Italian side of the mountain was added as an extension to the World Heritage Site in 2010.

Old City of Bern

The Old City of Bern is the medieval city center of Bern, Switzerland. Built on a narrow hill surrounded on three sides by the Aare River, its compact layout has remained essentially unchanged since its construction during the 12th to the 15th century. Despite a major fire in 1405, after which much of the city was rebuilt in sandstone, and substantial construction efforts in the 18th century, Bern’s old city has retained its medieval character. The Old City is home to Switzerland’s tallest cathedral as well as other churches, bridges and a large collection of Renaissance fountains

Prehistoric piles around the Alps

Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps is a series of prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlements in and around the Alps built from around 5000 to 500 B.C. on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands. 111 sites, located in Austria (5 sites), France (11), Germany (18), Italy (19), Slovenia (2), and Switzerland (56), were added to UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2011. Excavations, only conducted in some of the sites, have yielded evidence that provides insight into life in prehistoric times during the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

Rhaetian Railway

The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through those two passes. The railways provided a rapid and easy route into many formerly isolated alpine settlements. Building the railroads required overcoming a number of technical challenges with bridges and tunnels. In 2008 the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina area (the part from Thusis to Tirano, including St. Moritz) was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Jungfrau-Aletsch

The Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area (officially Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch) is located in south-western Switzerland between the cantons of Berne and Valais. It is a mountainous region in the easternmost side of the Bernese Alps, containing the northern wall of Jungfrau and Eiger, and the largest glaciated area in western Eurasia, comprising the Aletsch Glacier. The Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area is the first World Natural Heritage site in the Alps,

Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona

The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona in the north-eastern part of the country covers a mountainous area which features seven peaks that rise above 3,000 m (9,800 ft). The area displays an exceptional example of mountain building through continental collision and displays a clear example of tectonic thrust, i.e. the process whereby older, deeper rocks are carried onto younger, shallower rocks. The site has been a key site for the geological sciences since the 18th century.

Three Castles of Bellinzona

The Bellinzona site consists of a group of fortifications grouped around the castle of Castelgrande, which stands on a rocky peak looking out over the entire Ticino valley. Running from the castle, a series of fortified walls protect the ancient town and block the passage through the valley. A second castle (Montebello) forms an integral part of the fortifications, while a third but separate castle (Sasso Corbaro) was built on an isolated rocky promontory south-east of the other fortifications

Properties on the tentative list

Œuvre urbaine et architecturale de Le Corbusier

A collection of four buildings; Villa Jeanneret-Perret, Villa Schwob, Petite villa au bord du lac Léman and Immeuble Clarté, by the famed Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

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