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Cultural and natural heritage of Croatia inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List


 The founding principle of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage asserts that some monuments and sites are of outstanding universal value that can teach us about beauty, wisdom, culture, history or a particular civilization in a manner comprehensible to peoples of all creeds and nationalities. When inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, these monuments and sites become a part of the world heritage that everyone should help preserve and protect while the international community acquires certain rights in assisting a country preserve its past. In the light of recent war destruction of cultural and natural sites in places like the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Georgia or Iraq, the current debate at the 32nd UNESCO conference focused on detailing a draft of a Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage, a non-binding instrument that would encourage States to take necessary measures to prevent and prohibit intentional destruction of cultural heritage (and, when linked, natural heritage) in time of peace and in the event of armed conflict. Stepping back from the passive, dialectic and academic approach of establishing and recording sites of particular cultural and natural value, the Convention States are acquiring a more pro-active role in preserving the world heritage.

The Convention is especially valuable and far-reaching in its premise of interlinking cultural and natural heritage and in enlarging the scope of criteria for the inclusion on the World Heritage list. Thus, new categories of sites have emerged: since 1992 outstanding interactions between people and their environment have been recognized as cultural landscapes while the so-called mixed sites contain both extraordinary examples of human creativity and knowledge and of natural beauty and rarity. Although strict rules still apply, the international debate is shifting towards recognizing, promoting and preserving diversity in cultural and natural spheres.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee compiles and approves a list of monuments or sites after they meet certain criteria. The criteria for the inclusion are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention that is, in addition to the Convention, the main working document on world heritage. So far, 754 properties have become a part of world heritage (582 cultural, 149 natural and 23 mixed properties in 129 States Parties). The process of accession is strictly defined: two independent advisory bodies - the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and/or the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) - write a report on proposed cultural and natural sites. A third advisory body, the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), provides expert advice on restoring monuments and organizes training courses. After the World Heritage Bureau gives the final recommendation, nominations are examined and voted at the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee. (The current UNESCO World Heritage list will be updated following the next meeting of the Committee in July 2004).

Ever since Croatia signed the Convention in 1992, UNESCO has been active in preserving cultural and natural sites in Croatia through its Participation Programme. In addition to providing technical co-operation under the World Heritage Fund for the safeguarding of World Heritage properties, UNESCO granted financial and expert assistance to projects of restoring the old city of Dubrovnik and its environs and Plitvice Lakes as well as a project entitled War Damage: damage to museums and galleries in Croatia completed by the Museum Documentation Center in Zagreb, totaling over $300,000.

While the Plitvice Lakes, the natural site of Croatia on the UNESCO list, are located in the mountain range between the sea and the northern plains, the five cultural sites in Croatia are concentrated along the coast of the Adriatic sea, showing outstanding examples of integrating various cultural, architectural, esthetic and social influences from the Antiquity to the present day. With the exception of the Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik, they are all complex urban entities incorporating sacral and secular elements marking Croatia as a crossroads of civilizations.

The following are monuments and sites in Croatia inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list:





DUBROVNIK

Inscribed :1979, 1994 Criteria: C (i) (iii) (iv)

Often referred to as the «Pearl of the Adriatic», Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century A.D. as Raguse. The city became a forceful and important sea power of the Mediterranean from the 13th century onwards and translated its power and riches into an outstanding example of Renaissance urban landscape conceived as a work of art.

The city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 and 1994 as an architectural landscape of outstanding merit considered without equal elsewhere for the homogeneity in the quality of the built form (i) and for presenting a unique testimony to the civilization of the Republic of Raguse. (iii) Encircled by 2-kilometer long, 25-meter high and 6-meter thick ramparts, Dubrovnik has been recognized as an example of «a remarkable effort to adapt its urban medieval enclosure to progress in the field of artillery and constitute one of the great references for 15th-century fortification history»1

Throughout its history, Dubrovnik has suffered severe damages to its urban landscape. In 1667, an earthquake destroyed much of the city but beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque palaces, fountains, churches and monasteries survived. In the early 1990s, Dubrovnik suffered further destruction during the armed conflict of the former Yugoslavia and has now been included in a major restoration scheme co-ordinated by Unesco. As a result it became possible to remove the city from the List of World Heritage in Danger in December 1998.

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 3rd Session of the Committee 
Report of the 18th Session of the Committee 
1998 State of Conservation Report


SPLIT

Inscribed :1979 Criteria: C (ii) (iii) (iv)

Between the late 3rd and the early 4th centuries A.D. a luxurious palace (38,500 m2) was built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian to spend the declining years near his birthplace Aspalthos in Dalmatia. As a model of imperial residence, it exerted architectural influence reaching as far as the city of Trier and Charlemagne"s palatial complex of Aix-la-Chapelle.

The palace, conceived as a combination of a villa and a fortified castle, was not destroyed after Diocletian"s death but formed the nucleus of the urban fabric of what came to be known as the city of Split. In the 19th century, the palace housed 2,600 people. As such, the Diocletian palace is the only Roman imperial residence to be occupied continuously and remains one of the living testimonies to Roman civilization. (iii) The ancient structures of the palace further influenced the development of the city intra-muros and extra-muros and are thus one of the most continuous references of urban history.2 Its architectural merit consists in combining vestiges of various historic periods: the original architectural structure of the Roman foundations, walls, the peristyle, the colonnades, Jupiter"s temple and Diocletian"s mausoleum, was blended with early Romanesque churches and fortifications, Gothic palaces, Renaissance and Baroque dwellings and mansions, in a way that managed to preserve original structures and elements and to influence the subsequent building. Certain vestiges of the palace served, in the 18th century, as important models for Neoclassical architecture. (ii)

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 3rd Session of the Committee 


PLITVICE

Inscribed:1979, 2000 Criteria: N (ii) (iii)

In the course of thousands of years, the waters of the River Korana, flowing across the limestone and chalk of the mountains of Kapela and Plješivica, have formed a cascade of 16 beautiful lakes and waterfalls punctuated by barriers created by travertine sedimentation. The effect of such continuous geological processes is an architectural phenomenon of nature in constant change and motion forming. The lakes exhibit a dramatic contrast between clear, green waters whose transparency at places surpasses 8 meters, and white, peak-studded rocks.

The environs of the lakes is a refuge for wolves, bears and many rare birds and hosts rich forests.

In the war conflict of the early 1990s, the infrastructure of the Plitvice National Park suffered serious material damage and were part of a reconstruction project by UNESCO.

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 3rd Session of the Committee
Report of the 24th Session of the Committee
1998 State of Conservation Report


POREČ

Inscribed :1997 Criteria: C (ii) (iii) (iv)

The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Center of Poreč was inscribed in 1997 on the basis of the consideration that the complex is «an outstanding example of an early episcopal ensemble that is exceptional by virtue of its completeness and its unique Basilican cathedral.» (from: World Heritage Committee, Twenty-first session, Naples, Italy, 1-6 December 1997). Furthermore, it bears witness to a significant exchange of human assets during historical periods and of the development of architecture and monumental art (ii). The complex contains unique testimony about a living and long-gone cultural tradition as it has been used for its initial purpose until the present day (iii) and is considered an extraordinary example of urban landscape that illustrates important periods in the history of mankind (iv).

Christianity took roots in Poreč as early as the 4th century A.D. and a complex of Christian monuments was erected in the 6th century during the time of Bishop Euphrasius. It is the most complete surviving complex of its type comprising outstanding examples of early sacral Christian architecture such as the Basilica, atrium, baptistery and episcopal palace. The Basilica was built on the foundations of a much earlier church but added onto in the 13th and 15th centuries and, as such, combines classical and Byzantine elements. The triple-naved apse bears an outstanding example of figural mosaics that – according to many written sources – stand out together with the mosaics of San Vitale in Ravenna as among the finest examples of mosaic art in Europe.

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 21st Session of the Committee


TROGIR

Inscribed :1997 Criteria: C (ii) (iv)

Founded by the Greek colonists from the Island of Vis in the 3rd century B.C., Trogir is a remarkable example of an urban landscape clearly demonstrating the history of its social and cultural development (criteria ii and iv). The World Heritage Committee considered Trogir an excellent example of a medieval town built on and conforming with the layout of a Hellenistic and Roman city that has conserved its urban fabric to an exceptional degree and with the minimum of modern interventions, in which the trajectory of social and cultural development is clearly visible in every aspect of the townscape. (from: World Heritage Committee, Twenty-first session, Naples, Italy, 1-6 December 1997). Embellished by its successive rulers, the city displays examples of beautiful Romanesque churches as well as Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.3

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 21st Session of the Committee


ŠIBENIK

Inscribed :2000 Criteria: C (i) (ii) (iv)

The Cathedral of St James in Šibenik in Dalmatia, built between 1431 and 1535, is the most significant example of Renaissance art and architecture in Croatia. A unique blend of the work of three architects - Francesco di Giacomo, Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus and Niccola di Giovanni Fiorentino, the Cathedral bears witness to considerable interchanges of influences between the three culturally different regions of Northern Italy, Dalmatia, and Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries. These interchanges created the conditions for unique and outstanding solutions to the technical and structural problems of constructing the cathedral vaulting and dome (ii). The ingenious building method used tailor-carved stone for the entire church and the vaulting technique developed by Georgius Mathei Dalmaticus avoided masonry and made us of a method similar to the cabinet-making technique of dove-and-tail. It is an outstanding example in which Gothic and Renaissance forms have been successfully blended (i) and a unique testimony to the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance period in church architecture (iv) and its successful fusion, as is the case with a wonderful frieze with 71 sculpted faces of men, women and children.

Justification for Inscription:
Report of the 24th Session of the Committee

by C. Enquist

(D.H., 09.01.2009)


 



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