French properties inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List
France has 49 World Heritage properties: 42 cultural properties, 6 natural properties and one mixed asset.
The inscription of a property on the World Heritage List and its obligations derive from an international convention of UNESCO, the 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, ratified by France in 1975.
This convention only covers elements built by man or constituting a natural landscape. It is therefore distinct from the UNESCO Convention for the intangible cultural heritage 2003.
Within the Ministry of Culture, the Directorate-General for Heritage and Architecture is responsible for implementing the convention as regards cultural property. The Ministry of Ecological Transition is responsible for natural goods.
Property Nomination and Inscription on the World Heritage List
The procedure for the application and inscription of a property on the World Heritage List falls under the mission of the World Heritage of the Directorate General for Heritage and Architecture.
The World Heritage Mission, France’s focal point at the World Heritage Centre, is the interlocutor of the Permanent Delegation of France to UNESCO, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the World Heritage Centre.
Protection and management of World Heritage properties
The Sub-Directorate for Historical Monuments and Heritage Sites coordinates the protection and management of French cultural property inscribed in the World Heritage List, whether it is composed of a single monument or, for the most recent properties, extensive territories or elements scattered over several territories.
It shall in particular ensure the development and modification of the registration scopes, the adequacy of the protection measures with the limits of the goods and their buffer zones, and the monitoring of projects and developments likely to have an impact on the exceptional universal value of assets. In liaison with a network of correspondents in each Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC), it endeavours to find, in liaison with the managers and local authorities concerned, all solutions to ensure the maintenance of the outstanding universal value of each registered property.
Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay (1981)
Basilica and hill of Vézelay (1979)
Belfry of Belgium and France (1999)
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon (2007)
Canal du Midi (1996)
Amiens Cathedral (1981)
Bourges Cathedral (1992)
Chartres Cathedral (1979)
Episcopal city of Albi (2010)
Fortifications of Vauban (2008)
Cordouan Lighthouse (2021)
Europe’s big water cities (2021)
Paris, banks of the Seine (1991)
Pont du Gard (1985)
Provins, medieval fair town (2001)
Historic site of Lyon (1998)
Outstanding Universal Value
All properties inscribed on the World Heritage List must have outstanding universal value: it means that the good has such exceptional cultural and/or natural importance that it transcends national boundaries and is equally invaluable to present and future generations of humanity as a whole. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is not the sole responsibility of the State Party or the manager of the property, but of humanity as a whole.
To meet this condition, the property must have specific characteristics of authenticity and integrity. It must also be the subject of a comparative study with the goods already inscribed around the world to demonstrate its uniqueness.
It must also meet at least one of the ten criteria defined in the Guidelines to guide the implementation of World Heritage.
The property and its perimeter, the buffer zone
Any property inscribed on the World Heritage List includes a perimeter materialized by a precise map (see property list above). It may also include a buffer zone which, according to UNESCO, constitutes additional protection of a regulatory or customary nature.