The Czech Republic, which ranks among top central European countries when it comes to the number of sites included on the UNESCO heritage list, may soon get an even better ranking. The Great Moravian Empire settlement in Mikulčice could make it to the prestigious list.
A UNESCO commissioner, who is the main authority in the decision-making process, recently visited the archaeological site. “The documentation was all right. He was satisfied overall,” said the site’s director František Synek. He will know the final decision in June next year.
If approved, Mikulčice, where an elaborately decorated crypt thought to belong to prince Svatopluk was excavated, for instance, would then become the 13th local site on the UNESCO list. The most recent Czech sites on the list are the Jewish quarter and the basilica of St. Prokop in Třebíč, added five years ago.
The likelihood of Mikulčice becoming part of the UNESCO’s heritage list is supported by the fact that the application also includes the nearby Kopčany in Slovakia, where another part of the ancient settlement was located.
“There aren’t many of such two-sided applications,” said Michal Beneš of the Culture Ministry. Furthermore, UNESCO is highly interested in heritage sites connected to extinct empires, experts say.
An argument against enlisting Mikulčice is the high concentration of UNESCO-registered sites in the Czech Republic. “States with many registrations have difficulties getting more,” said Beneš.
The Valy settlement, which once stood where Mikulčice is now, was one of the key areas of the Great Moravian Empire. The archaeological site consists of the main settlement area, as well as the area in front of the castle and relics of the surrounding dwellings.
The main castle is almost 7 metres high, and some sources say it was the seat of the missionaries Cyril and Methodius.
The nearby church of St. Margit of Antioch in Slovakia’s Kopčany is also unique. Built in the 9th century, the church is most likely the oldest preserved church construction in central Europe. Both locations, divided by the Morava river, are to be connected by a bridge.
“Besides the current state of the site, the UNESCO commissioner was most interested in further alterations,” says Synek.
The planned changes will not be small. The second pavilion of the Slavic settlement exhibition, designed to remind of the old Great Moravian churches, will open already next year. It is a popular visitors’ destination. Even the season had to be extended until November.