The complex on Matilda Hill became a part of UNESCO World Heritage List

The complex on Matilda Hill became a part of UNESCO World Heritage List

The complex on Matilda Hill within Darmstadt is a truly unique building. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This amazing Art Nouveau monument holds many secrets. Thousands of tourists visit it every year. Today it is a veritable attraction in the state of Hesse.

How did it begin?

The Darmstadt site was built on the initiative of Duke E. L. of Hesse. He strongly supported this project and sponsored the construction in every possible way. The grand duke was the brother of the last empress of Russia and the grandson of Queen Victoria, who ruled England. At the time, the city was the capital center of the Hesse southern district. In the center was the aristocrat’s personal residence. To build the colony, he set aside an area on the outskirts of Darmstadt, where the Matildenhöhe vineyard used to be. Toward the end of the 19th century, sycamore trees sprouted here, and land was allocated for the Russian church.

The Matilda Hill Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - Photo 2

How did it begin?

The Duke was inspired to realize the project by certain factors :

  • The fashion of the time. For example, in Bavaria at that time there were several camps for artists and sculptors. A similar association operated in Vienna and Munich.
  • The love of English arts and crafts. It was this factor that played a major role in the character and purpose of Matildenhöhe.

Today, many tourists find it hard to imagine that the small town of Darmstadt was once of equal status to Munich. To realize the project, the Hessian invited Joseph Olbrich to work on it. Although he lived a relatively short life, Olbrich left behind a valuable legacy that has become famous worldwide. His most important work is considered to be the Secession House in Vienna. It was built as a place for artists under the motto : “To every thinker and artist his time. Every art has its freedom”.

Olbrich’s last work in Darmstadt was the Wedding Tower and the Exhibition Hall. The main difference between the tower and other similar structures is that its roof is made in the form of a hand. The architect wanted to create in this way a kind of the Hand of God, which would protect the entire city. After his death he was called the Apostle of Modern Art and Architecture. He and eleven other great architects helped usher in a new history by paving the way for a new community of architects.

The complex on Matilda Hill became a part of the World Heritage List - photo 3

How did it begin?

What is the complex on the hill?

The “Artists’ Colony” is the main attraction of the provincial town of Darmstadt, which was once the capital city. The significance of this site in Germany is so high that it has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, not many tourists when they arrive in the country are aware of its existence and do not fully understand the uniqueness of this complex.

The main value of the place is that it was created by the most famous personalities . “The Colony” existed between 1899 and 1914. It includes:

  • an exhibition hall with a Wedding Tower;
  • the sycamore garden, where the sculptural compositions are collected;
  • the building where the art workshops were located, which today houses the museum of the complex;
  • the houses where the members of the colony lived. They were built according to an unusual design, which was created by famous architects of that era.
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The complex on Matilda Hill is part of UNESCO World Heritage Site - Photo 4

What is the complex on the hill?

There is also a Russian church on the territory of the complex, but it is not part of it. It was built a few years earlier.

The roof of the building, which covers the artistic colony, is striking for its originality . It is decorated with a statue called “Equilibrium”. The creator of this work of art was the German sculptor Hubernus von der Goltz.

Every tourist that comes here to see the famous sight in Germany in person, immediately pays attention to the “Wedding Tower” . The brick building was officially completed in 1908. The height of the “tower” was about 50 meters. The creator was Olbrich himself. This creation was a gift to commemorate the wedding of the patron duke and Princess Eleonora, who belonged to the Ducal family of Solms. The wedding took place in 1905.

The territory of the complex is decorated by the works of the famous German sculptor B. Hötger. One of the most famous sculptures is considered to be the work “Stinginess”, which is also located in the “colony”. The composition “Man and Woman” decorates the entrance to one of the buildings where artists used to work. Its author is L. Habich.

The complex on Matilda Hill became part of UNESCO World Heritage Site - Photo 5

Another remarkable object of the hill is the plane-tree grove. It was laid out here long before the construction of a small settlement for artists. However, it happened in the same century.

Not so long ago, the Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene was also included in the complex of unique objects placed on the hill of Matilda. The temple was built with funds allocated by the Russian imperial family. It was consecrated at the end of the 19th century. It was the birthplace of the wife of Nicholas II, who was a princess of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The complex on Matilda Hill was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List - Photo 6

Initially the church was used as a house church. Members of the ruling family came here when they came to this region. Today it stands proudly on this land, having become an integral part of local history and culture.

The architectural complex for artists was at one time an important European and world center of art and architecture. It was a real breakthrough, because here no one was judged for the style of work, not controlled, given full freedom for creativity. Today it is a witness of how a new style in architecture and construction came into the world. So it is not surprising that a unique place has come under the protection of UNESCO.

A visit to Matilda Hill is worthwhile for every visitor to the country . This place is full of mysteries, as well as a special atmosphere that inspires new beginnings.

17 architectural masterpieces of Russia included in the UNESCO list

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Every year UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) adds more to the World Heritage List [1]. It includes both natural unique objects and man-made monuments that have historical and cultural value.

The organization considers these structures or natural phenomena to be so significant that it works to protect, preserve and promote them. Their significance can be both historical and humanitarian, as well as ecological. The list was started in 1978. At first it included only cultural objects, then the list was expanded to include natural masterpieces.

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Criteria for inscription on the UNESCO list

There are several evaluation criteria for man-made buildings, and if one or more of them are met, the property can be protected by UNESCO. A building or complex of structures must meet the following conditions:

  • be a masterpiece of creative genius;
  • bear witness to a considerable influence of human values at the time of its creation;
  • be unique in the culture and civilization that created it;
  • represent a significant period in history in its design, architecture or technology;
  • be a traditional structure for a locality and civilization, demonstrating man’s connection with nature and the use of its resources;
  • be related to the traditions and culture of a particular period; represent exceptional world importance.

In total on the list of the organization by 2021 there are 1121 objects, 29 of which are in Russia. Architectural monuments of culture are represented by 17 objects.

1. the architectural ensemble of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra

The monastery and its cloisters are the center of Christian culture, attracting thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. The ensemble appeared on the UNESCO list because of a combination of traditional for such buildings architecture and elements of Eastern European influence. The Lavra became a model Orthodox structure for the Western European world.

Photo: Shutterstock

The constructive methods used in building this monastery were later reflected in other architectural masterpieces all over the world. In addition, the Trinity-Sergius Lavra is a rare example of a religious site with defensive and military functions functioning in the 15th-18th centuries.

2. The Assumption Cathedral and Monastery of the island-town of Sviyazhsk

The complex, founded in 1551 by Ivan the Terrible on a small island at the confluence of three rivers, had the honor to be included on the UNESCO list a few years ago. Grozny founded this city as a base during the siege of Kazan against the khanate. The organization considered the island itself a testament to the Russian ruler’s ambitions to capture the east.

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At the end of the 16th century Orthodox and Muslim cultures naturally interpenetrated each other, which was reflected in the architecture of the island buildings and in the wall paintings. The frescoes of the cathedral are a unique example of the Orthodox Eastern European painting.

Bulgarsky Historical and Archaeological Complex

On the bank of the Volga, not far from Kazan, there is a Bulgarian settlement site – an early settlement of Bulgar people. In the XIII century it became the largest city of the Bulgarian ulus of the Golden Horde and its capital. The place was destroyed many times, and the inhabitants finally left it in 1431.

Photo: Shutterstock

The architecture of the settlement demonstrates the mutual influence of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, Slavic and other traditions. In particular, it features wooden structures typical of a region with dense forests, steppe influence of Turkic tribes, eastern elements from peoples who converted to Islam, and the Russian-European style which later began to prevail throughout Russia. The Bulgarian fortress remains the starting point of the Tatar-Muslim period. To this day, the site has spiritual value for Muslims and attracts pilgrims.

4. Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye

The religious monument was built in 1532 in honor of the birth of the heir to the throne, whom the world later recognized as Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible.

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This object got on the list because of its unique, innovative for that time architectural style, which later had a great influence on Orthodox constructions in Eastern Europe.

5. Temples of the Pskov architectural school

A whole group of structures located in the center of Pskov, north of the capital, entered the UNESCO list in 2019. Pskov churches are famous for their unique architectural style, embedded in the natural landscape. Churches, towers and other buildings with their facades, roofs, domes echo each other and blend in harmony with the nature around them.

The Cathedral of the Nativity of John the Baptist

The Pskov school of architecture combined the Byzantine and Novgorod traditions and reached its heyday by the 15th century. Although the Pskov style subsequently spread to many structures throughout Russia, it is the center of Pskov that is considered the earliest and most complete example of this unique cultural phenomenon.

6. The citadel, the old town and the fortifications of Derbent

Only two walls, in which the old town was enclosed, remain from a serious fortress construction. The fortress was part of the defensive structures built by the Sassanid Persians in the 5th century.

Photo: Shutterstock

Derbent was an important trading route from the northern cities to the south for fifteen centuries, until it was occupied by the Russians in the 19th century. From the UNESCO point of view, it is important for the world heritage to preserve the unique fortress architecture, which served successfully for several generations of rulers in protecting the city borders.

7. Cultural and historical ensemble “Solovetsky Islands

People began to actively inhabit the six islands in the White Sea back in the V century B.C. There is also some evidence, confirming that a man had set his foot here several millenniums before Christ. In the XV century A.D. the archipelago began to be actively built up with religious constructions.

Photo:Alexei Zadonsky

Solovetsky monastery and ensemble of buildings are notable for the fact that they were built in the northern climate. Considering how difficult it is to survive in such conditions, the very creation of the monastery in this place speaks of the astonishing courage of Christians. The area was the site of the first Soviet Union penal labor camp, which was opened and operated until 1933.

8. The ensemble of Therapontov Monastery

The St. Therapontus Monastery is a perfectly preserved ensemble of religious buildings, built in the XIV century on the territory of modern Vologda region. The ensemble of the monastery is designed so that each element tells the story of the Incarnation of God. The gem of the place is the frescos by Dionysius that decorate the walls of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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The monastery complex is one of the most complete examples of the Orthodox life of the community in the XV-XVII centuries.

9. Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent

The monastery, west of Moscow, began to be built by Tsar Vasily III in 1524 as part of a defensive complex. The construction of the entire ensemble took nearly two centuries. The Novodevichy Monastery is also famous for the fact that more than once it became in fact a prison for queens, who against their will were tonsured into nuns and imprisoned within the walls of the monastery for many years.

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Architecturally, the monastery is similar to the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin and its style is called the Moscow Baroque, which eventually became a popular trend in urban planning. The buildings are well preserved, although it is known that the original walls stood a little closer to the buildings and the entire ensemble occupied a smaller area than it does today. On the territory of the monastery there is now a cemetery where members of the political, scientific and artistic elite of Russia from different historical periods are buried.

10. Historical and architectural complex “Kazan Kremlin

The Kremlin building passed to Russia after the conquest of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible in 1552. The exact date when the Tatars created this fortification is unknown, but it is assumed that it was in the 10th century. After the conquest, practically the only ruins remained of the original buildings, which were of importance to the Horde. The Terrible ordered to build on this place a white-stone building on the model of the Kremlin in Moscow. At the end of the 20th century the Kul Sharif Mosque was erected on the territory of the Kazan Kremlin as a tribute to the existing Muslim tradition of the Tatar people.

Photo: Shutterstock

Thus the Kazan Kremlin has absorbed a lot of significant historical events, which was reflected in its architecture and ensemble composition. It is an outstanding construction of the khanate period and the only Tatar fortress that has survived to this day in any way.

11. the historical center of saint-Petersburg

It is difficult to count outstanding monuments of architecture in the heart of St. Petersburg, so UNESCO included the entire city center in its list. Here are the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and other buildings that are inextricably linked with important events in the history of the country.

Church of the Resurrection on Spilled Blood, or the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

All these buildings are recognized as unique architectural constructions. Valuable from the point of view of UNESCO is also the history of the creation of the city – how quickly it was planned, thought out and brilliantly implemented the entire plan of the Northern capital.

12. historical monuments of Novgorod and its environs

Novgorod can also be proud of the great number of historical monuments on its territory. Of particular interest to UNESCO are the Dovgoretsky Cathedral, Yaroslav’s Court, Znamensky Cathedral, monasteries and churches, the Pervynsky Skete.

The city is situated on a historical trade route from the north to the south and east. In the Middle Ages its influence on the political life of Russia was enormous.

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Novgorod is considered the birthplace of the national style of ancient stone architecture and the oldest school of painting. The sites, beautifully preserved within the city limits, show the development of medieval and later Russian architectural thought.

13. Historical center of Yaroslavl

The city was founded in the 11th century as a trading center. But it has preserved little of its ancient history. In the 18th century, by order of Catherine the Great, the city was rebuilt in the style of classicism. Thus, the historic center combines the echoes of medieval Russian architecture and the classic imperial style.

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An important criterion for the inclusion of Yaroslavl in the list was how slender the urban plan was implemented: houses in the center do not exceed three stories, wide streets lead to squares, and historical sites are preserved so as to remain compositional centers.

14. Architectural Ensemble of Kizhi Pogost

Another representative of island construction. In the middle of Onega Lake on Kizhi Island two churches were built in the 18th century, which are today considered examples of wooden architecture. Subsequently a bell tower was added to them.

Wooden buildings with their exterior blend in perfectly with the surrounding nature of the region. In the severe conditions of the Russian north this architectural monument is one of the five pogosts (so called administrative units with a church and a cemetery) that have survived.

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Kizhi is a striking example of traditional wooden architecture in Karelia and the Northern region. People of Karelia themselves call Kizhi the eighth wonder of the world.

15. Moscow Kremlin and Red Square

The UNESCO list includes Red Square and the Kremlin, which is called the heart of Russia for a reason. The Kremlin ensemble includes several outstanding objects of architecture and plastic arts, of religious value as well. It is impossible not to take into account that Italian Renaissance masters worked on the construction of the Assumption Cathedral, the Faceted Chamber, the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin. Thus Kremlin has become a part not only of Russian, but also world heritage.

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In its architecture the Kremlin keeps the memory of wooden defensive structures, erected on this site as early as Yury Dolgoruky. The Moscow Kremlin became a prototype of similar structures in old Russian towns – such as Pskov, Tula, Kazan, Smolensk.

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From the 13th century until the founding of St. Petersburg, the Kremlin was the site of Russia’s major events, and after a 200-year hiatus the government returned to it. The Kremlin is also home to later historical monuments, such as the Lenin Mausoleum and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

16. The Struve Geodetic Arc

In the 19th century, the eminent astronomer Basil Struve was the first to reliably measure a large segment of the Earth’s meridian. To do this, he laid out an arc consisting of geodesic polygons with triangulation points, which by creating a network of triangles allow to measure angles and lengths of different objects.

Old Tartu Observatory, first arc point

Struve wanted to measure the planet accurately. He had to negotiate with several countries to place this chain of scientific facilities. In this way he was able to determine the size and shape of our Earth. In Russia, in the Leningrad region, there are two points of this arc, which is a small structure made of stones.

17. White stone monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal

The UNESCO list includes eight monuments at once, which have historical, spiritual and architectural significance. Among them are the structures in Vladimir, Suzdal, and Bogolyubov, which date back to the XII-XIII centuries.

Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir

The Assumption and Dmitrov cathedrals especially stand out. Buildings made of white stone are recognized all over the world as a magnificent example of monumental construction. It is believed that these buildings gave rise to a unique architectural school. An important feature of white stone buildings is how organically they are combined with the surrounding nature.

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