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Welcome to Rigomagus : Remagen on the way to become World Heritage Site

Welcome to Rigomagus : Remagen on the way to become World Heritage Site

Situated on the Lower Germanic Limes (the Niedergermanischen Limes), Remagen is well on its way to being included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the summer of 2021, a decision will be made as to whether "Rigomagus" – the name of the Roman fort from which the later town of Remagen emerged – will be afforded special protection.

Remagen is on its way to becoming a world heritage site. The town was drawn up by the former inhabitants of a world empire – the Romans. At the beginning of the year, the town where countless finds with legacies from the Roman Empire were brought to light, made an application for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The decision will be made in the summer of next year.

Specifically, it concerns the section of the Lower Germanic Limes, which begins in Remagen and stretches over 400 kilometres northwards via Utrecht to the North Sea. Remagen separated Upper Germania and Lower Germania, although the neighbouring town of Bad Breisig also claims this for itself and justifiably refers to a demarcation at the Vinxtbach.

THE ROMAN EMPIRE

The Rhine offered a natural border

The Roman Empire – with only one currency in all affiliated countries – stretched from the English–Scottish border to North Africa, encompassing Spain, Romania and the Middle East and right in the centre of it all was Remagen on the Rhine. In addition to the fort, there were numerous civil buildings, towers and moats. Because of the Rhine's location as a natural border, there were fewer towers with battlements and defences; nevertheless: it must have been an imposing complex. The Romans left their mark on the Lower Germanic Limes in the form of Legion camps, training camps, forts, harbours, watchtowers, bridgeheads, civil settlements, cemeteries, sanctuaries and supply facilities.

On the opposite right bank of the Rhine, the small fort Rheinbrohl marks the beginning of the Upper Germanic Limes, which was equipped with numerous fortifications and watchtowers as far as Regensburg and the Danube and represented a controlled economic and military border to the non-Roman area. The southern Limes has long since been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Unesco status now for the Lower Germanic Limes

Now, it is attempted to achieve this for the Lower German Limes, according to the managing director of the Limes Information Centre Römer-Welt, Frank Wiesenberg, who reported on the status of the application procedure in the Roman town. There was an information event about this a year ago, but now an interim balance should be drawn in the application procedure.

As is well known, Remagen itself was not only home to the Roman fort Rigomagus, but also a considerable number of civil buildings. Only a few years ago, in the course of building a hotel in the town centre, the remains of striphouses and longhouses were uncovered, which contained many Romans traces.

The Lower Germanic Limes was not a continuous structure; it separated the part of the Rhineland on the left bank of the Rhine and the low countries, which was part of the Roman Empire, from the right bank of the Rhine, which was only partly controlled. It was not a structure fortified with ramparts, ditches, palisades or watchtowers, but a river border, which was secured with a chain of forts for auxiliary troops. With a more than 450 years of use, the Limes is one of the very special monuments of human history. "All elements of the Roman border are represented here", says Wiesenberg, who spoke of its "exceptionally high cultural value".

Application for inscription on the World Heritage list filed

After a long period of preparatory work, the Netherlands and the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate submitted an application to UNESCO at the beginning of the year for inscription in the World Heritage Site that is outlined in four volumes of 1,022 pages. Rhineland-Palatinate is represented in the application because of the parts of the military fortifications from Roman times that have been preserved there.

The Rhineland-Palatinate's share of the 400-kilometre-long Lower Germanic Limes only extends for 20 kilometres. All archaeological monuments are listed in the application, and their actual condition is described and catalogued. The aim is to highlight the outstanding universal value of the Roman heritage.

The hoped-for recognition would be accompanied by an obligation to protect and care for the monuments even more; the restoration of the visible remains from Roman times would be more than just an ethical duty. Furthermore, Remagen would have to revise its museum concept, because UNESCO status would offer the chance for greatly expanded tourist marketing.

"It is also a matter of giving history a greater value. Here in Remagen, history should also be made tangible and able to be experienced by others", said Wiesenberg. He hopes that Remagen will soon be able to say: "Welcome to the Roman World".

After all, it would be nice for Remagen to be mentioned in the list of World Cultural Sites alongside the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis, the Oracle of Delphi, Cologne Cathedral or the Pyramids of Giza and to be placed under special protection.

And Bad Breisig? If, contrary to expectations, finds are made there at some point, the list could be extended, says Wiesenberg.

(Original text: Victor Francke; Translation: John Chandler)