Why World Heritage?

As part of the World Heritage Convention a number of criteria for inclusion of sites on the World Heritage List have been developed. Sites are considered of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ for UNESCO when the World Heritage Committee notes that they meet one or more of these criteria and also that their authenticity (historical genuineness/truthfulness at cultural heritage sites) or integrity can be demonstrated (in both natural and cultural sites).

The ‘Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar’ fulfil two of the ten UNESCO criteria; criteria (ii) and (iv):

Criteria ii)
... to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

As economically powerful and politically influential members of the Hanseatic League, the two towns played a significant role in the European exchange of cultural achievements, technical knowledge, and philosophical ideas which occurred as a result of extensive trade relations throughout the Baltic and North Sea area.

This exchange is particularly evident in the Gothic religious/church architecture...in Northern Europe. The group of six monumental brick churches of Stralsund and Wismar demonstrate a significant mixture of different cultural influences. Combining Italian brick technology/techniques with the representative cathedral building technique of northern France, a series of Gothic Basilicas were constructed in the ‘Wendish’ Hanseatic cities, and are today excellently exemplified by the six churches. This Wendish religious architecture was to extert a strong influence from Wismar up to the Baltic states and Scandinavia.

Besides the church buildings, the Stralsund town hall was one of the most important secular buildings of brick Gothic and had a decisive influence on many town halls in the Southern Baltic region. In the Swedish era a variety of cultural relations were established between the two cities and the mainland, especially in the field of architecture. This mutual architectural influence can today be seen in the cityscapes of Wismar and Stralsund as well as in Sweden.

Criterion iv)
... to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

With unchanged and preserved medieval city layouts, characteristic allotment building blocks inherited from the Middle Ages and a rich stock of Gothic brick architecture, Stralsund and Wismar are both outstanding examples of Hanseatic maritime trade harbours from the historical zenith of this confederation of merchant cities.

Of paramount importance is the preserved medieval harbour basin of Wismar, the essential cityscape element defining the original layout of maritime trading cities. Moreover, the Grube waterway bears testimony to being the last human-made/artificial medieval waterway of a Northern German historic city centre.

Stralsund boasts a unique island location which has remained unchanged since the 13th century; between the Strela Sound and landside ponds that were dammed up soon after the city was founded. This distinctive topography has given Stralsund its unmistakeable silhouette. The large number of outstanding buildings of Brick Gothic architecture, and especially the group of six churches, reflects the enormous wealth and political power of these rapidly economically strengthened young commercial maritime cities.

Besides the Stralsund Town Hall, a building of great architectural-historical significance, there are numerous medieval merchants' houses in both cities, which illustrate the characteristic development of deep, narrow allotments. The almost completely original streetscape of Wismar makes it a city centre of unparalleled unity. In both cities the archaeological subsoil is also an archaeological monument of outstanding importance.