Following their latest session, UNESCO has added several new sites to its famous World Heritage List. In Germany, the ShUM (Hebrew initials of the three cities) Sites of Speyer, Worms and Mainz gained a place on the prestigious list.
Speyer, Worms and Mainz are former Imperial cathedral cities in the Upper Rhine Valley in Germany, and the sites have various structures all with important cultural and architectural Jewish heritage. Included in the site is Speyer Jewry-Court, with the structures of the synagogue and women’s shul (Yiddish for synagogue), the archaeological vestiges of the yeshiva (religious school), the courtyard and the still intact underground mikveh (ritual bath), which has retained its high architectural and building quality.
Worms Synagogue Compound, with its in situ post-war reconstruction of the 12th century synagogue and 13th century women’s shul, the community hall (Rashi House), and the monumental 12th-century mikveh also forms part of the site, as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery in Worms and the Old Jewish Cemetery in Mainz.
In adding the site to the World Heritage List, UNESCO has recognised its importance, stating “The four component sites tangibly reflect the early emergence of distinctive Ashkenaz customs and the development and settlement pattern of the ShUM communities, particularly between the 11th and the 14th centuries.” The organisation also highlighted that the collection of buildings served as prototypes for later Jewish community and religious buildings as well as cemeteries in Europe.