Spa declared World Heritage Site, another location in Belgium expected to be added
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Spa declared World Heritage Site, another location in Belgium expected to be added

Spa in Belgium. Credit: Iain Cameron/ Creative Commons

The health resort Spa in Wallonia has been declared a World Heritage Site, whilst one cultural site in Antwerp is expected to be added on Sunday.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) committee, which makes up the list of locations recognised for having cultural, historical, scientific or another form of significance, announced that the health resort Spa in Wallonia will be added to the list.

Spa, which was recently affected by the deadly flooding in Belgium, was added to the list alongside ten other European spas, including the English city of Bath and the French city of Vichy.

It earned its place on the list as Tsar Peter the Great came to the health resort in 1717 and since, European princes, aristocrats and the upper middle classes followed him, whilst the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II called Spa “the café of Europe”.

The decision on the second dossier for Belgium, the Wortel Colony, a “charity farming colony” which is part of the Koloniën van Weldadigheid (Colonies of Benevolence), will be discussed on Sunday.

Earlier this year, Icomos – the scientific body that watches over the international heritage and advisory body to Unesco – already confirmed that the site would become world heritage, and normally, the committee doesn’t deviate from this suggestion.

The dossier is a transnational file of various locations both in Belgium and the Netherlands, including the Dutch Frederiksoord-Wilhelminaoord and Veenhuizen and the site in Belgium’s Wortel.

The colonies were created in 1818-1825 as an integral solution to reduce poverty by putting people in poverty to work at the inland agricultural colonies.

Second chance

In 2018, this particular dossier was already assessed a first time after being put forward by the former Minister for Immovable Heritage Geert Bourgeois, but at the time, it was not added to the list.

However, “thanks to an intensive cooperation process with Icomos, the nomination dossier of the Colonies of Weldedom was adapted and we were able to present an adapted dossier to UNESCO for decision in January 2020,” said Flemish Minister for Immovable Heritage Matthias Diependaele.

Both cultural sites are organising an event for their supporters to watch the streamed conference session together and then to toast the outcome. Both sites being added to the list will take the number of such sites in the country from 13 to 15.

The committee is meeting this weekend in the eastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, and is set to give its opinion on an extra-large number of dossiers as last year’s congress could not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The original article was updated on Saturday afternoon to include the announcement that Spa was officially declared a World Heritage Site.