Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, Minister of Culture, welcomes the inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List of the sites "Cordouan Lighthouse" and "Europe’s big water cities". This decision was taken on 24 July 2021 unanimously by the members of the World Heritage Committee meeting for its 44e session in Fuzhou (China).
Cordouan Lighthouse, built in the open sea on a rocky plateau located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary of the Gironde, has served since the 16th century as a signal for ships trading between Bordeaux and the world. Officially in service in 1611, the lighthouse has been guiding sailors at the entrance to the estuary for over 400 years. It represents a masterpiece of human creative genius through its unique architecture, resulting from the desire to design a maritime signage work as much as a monument worthy of the ancient Wonders of the World. It testifies to the ingenuity of men to erect a building of the highest artistic ambition within an inhospitable maritime environment. Attracted by the prestige of the «lighthouse of kings», listed as a historic monument in 1862, the best engineers in France experimented with their innovations. Thus, in 1823, Augustin Fresnel tested his scaled lens, which revolutionized the lighting system and is still used around the world today.
The inscription of the Cordouan Lighthouse on the World Heritage List is the result of close cooperation between the Ministries of Culture, Ecological and Solidarity Transition and the Ministry of the Sea, the local actors gathered within the joint union for the sustainable development of the Gironde estuary (SMIDDEST), all the elected representatives of the territory and the associative world.
Europe’s big water cities, Their application was submitted jointly by Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. The Czech Republic oversaw and coordinated the entire project.
This new World Heritage site is made up of the most important spa resorts in Europe: Baden bei Wien in Austria, Spa in Belgium, Vichy in France, Baden-Baden, Bad Ems and Bad Kissingen in Germany, Montecatini Terme in Italy, Bath in the UK and Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně in the Czech Republic. The large spa towns of Europe, founded mostly around natural mineral springs, together offer an exceptional testimony of the phenomenon of European balneology, which flourished mainly from the beginning of the 18th century to the first third of the 20th century. A characteristic feature is the combination of indoor and outdoor spa treatments and therapeutic procedures associated with a wide range of leisure activities, reflected in a specific form of spa towns and their architecture. These cities competed culturally with major cities and became a source of intellectual, artistic, social and political inspiration, thus contributing to the democratization of European society.
This listing of Europe’s major spa towns is an excellent example of international cooperation between ministries and institutions, experts and representatives of municipalities from seven European countries.
The inscription on the World Heritage List will bring to the big spa cities of Europe not only the confirmation of their exceptional values, but also better protection and enhanced cooperation in the fields of conservation and valorization of this heritage.
These new inscriptions bring to 47 the number of French cultural and natural properties inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin wishes to warmly greet the teams who submitted these applications, to the greatest benefit of these territories and their inhabitants.