Struve Geodetic Arc


Brief Description

The Struve Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries and over 2,820 km. These are points of a survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause. The original arc consisted of 258 main triangles with 265 main station points. The listed site includes 34 of the original station points, with different markings, i.e. a drilled hole in rock, iron cross, cairns, or built obelisks.

Justification for Inscription

Criterion (ii): The first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian, helping in the establishment of the exact size and shape of the world exhibits an important step in the development of earth sciences. It is also an extraordinary example for interchange of human values in the form of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries. It is at the same time an example for collaboration between monarchs of different powers, for a scientific cause.

Criterion (iv): The Struve Geodetic Arc is undoubtedly an outstanding example of technological ensemble – presenting the triangulation points of the measuring of the meridian, being the non movable and non tangible part of the measuring technology.

Criterion (vi): The measuring of the arc and its results are directly associated with men wondering about his world, its shape and size. It is linked with Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that the world is not an exact sphere.

Long Description

The first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian, helping to establish the exact size and shape of the world, exhibits an important step in the development of earth sciences. Since around 500 BC it had been known that the Earth was not flat, but of some spherical shape. In the 3rd century BC, the surveying technique and theory for determining the size of the Earth was developed by Eratosthenes. This theory remained in use until the era of satellite geodesy. Eratosthenes’s theory, using length measurement and angles determined by star observations, made it possible to determine the size of the Earth, while the measurements themselves were still not accurate, mainly owing to inadequate methods and equipment.

In the 17th century better measuring equipment was developed, together with a new method using triangulations. According to this method, a much shorter line could be measured accurately, while the long distances were covered by a chain of triangles. These triangles each spanned several hundred kilometres, with each of their sides (base lines) as long as 100 km and each triangle in the chain having one common base line with at least one other triangle and two common corners (station points) with another triangle.

The triangulation method helped to establish in the 1730s and 1740s the true shape of the Earth, by means of long arcs in Peru and Lapland. The problem of the size of the Earth remained unsolved and had become even more complex, as it was known that it was not a perfect sphere. The different early arcs in France, Peru, Lapland, Italy, South Africa and Austria had various shortcomings that did not allow for an accurate solution of this issue. The defeat of Napoleon, followed by the Congress of Vienna and the decision in 1815 to establish agreed international boundaries in Europe, required accurate mapping. These needs were strongly felt in Russia, where Tsar Alexander I provided the astronomer Wilhelm Struve with all the resources for his project for a new long geodetic arc. This can be seen as the first step for the development of modern geodetic framework and topographic mapping.

A very long arc, completed in 1840, had been measured in India by Lambton and Everest, and a shorter arc in Lithuania by Carl Tenner. Struve, who was working at the Dorpat University in modern Estonia, decided that the arc he would establish would follow a line of longitude (meridian) passing through the observatory of the university. The new long arc, later to be known as the Struve Arc, was finally createded by connecting earlier, shorter arcs to the southern one measured by Tenner, and their extension to the north and south. The arc covered thus a line connecting Fuglenæs near Hammerfest in the far north, along 2,800 km, with Staro-Nekrasowka, near Ismail, on the Black Sea shores.

The World Heritage site consists of 34 of the original station points established by Struve and his colleagues between 1816 and 1851 – four points in Norway, four in Sweden, six in Finland, one in Russia, three in Estonia, two in Latvia, three in Lithuania, five in Belarus, one in Moldova and four in Ukraine. These marks take different forms: small holes drilled in rock surfaces, and sometimes filled with lead; cross-shaped engraved marks on rock surfaces; solid stone or brick with a marker inset; rock structures (cairns), with a central stone or brick, marked by a drilled hole; single bricks; and specially constructed ‘monuments’ to commemorate the point and the arc.

The Struve Geodetic Arc is an extraordinary example of interchange of human values in the form of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, as well as an outstanding example of a technological ensemble.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh


Brief Description

The Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh is located in central Belarus. The Radziwill dynasty, who built and kept the ensemble from the 16th century until 1939, gave birth to some of the most important personalities in European history and culture. Due to their efforts, the town of Nesvizh came to exercise great influence in the sciences, arts, crafts and architecture. The complex consists of the residential castle and the mausoleum Church of Corpus Christi with their setting. The castle has ten interconnected buildings, which developed as an architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard. The palaces and church became important prototypes marking the development of architecture throughout Central Europe and Russia.

Overview in morning light. Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh. © © OUR PLACE THE WORLD HERITAGE COLLECTION More pictures …

Justification for Inscription

Criterion (ii): The architectural, residential and cultural complex of the Radziwill family at Nesvizh was the cradle for inoculation of new concepts based on the synthesis of the Western traditions, leading to the establishment of a new architectural school in Central Europe.

Criterion (iv): The Radziwill complex represents an important stage in the development of building typology in the history of architecture of the Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. This concerned particularly the Corpus Christi Church with its typology related to cross-cupola basilica.

Criterion (vi): The Radziwill family was particularly significant for being associated with the interpretation of the influences from Southern and Western Europe and the transmission of the ideas in the Central and Eastern Europe.

Long Description

The architectural, residential and cultural complex of the Radziwill family at Nesvizh was the cradle for inoculation of new concepts based on the synthesis of Western traditions, leading to the establishment of a new architectural school in Central Europe. It represents an important stage in the development of building typology in the history of architecture of the Central Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular the Corpus Christij Church, typologically related to the cross-cupola basilica.

Built and occupied by the Radziwill family from the 16th to 20th centuries, the ensemble is located in the town of Nesvizh, in the Province of Minsk, in central Belarus. It consists of the castle-residence and the mausoleum church of Corpus Christij with their setting. The castle has ten interconnected buildings, including the palace, the galleries, the residence and the arsenal, which developed as one architectural whole around a six-sided courtyard. The buildings are set within the remains of the 16th-century fortifications that comprise four bastions and four curtain walls in a rectangular plan, surrounded by a ditch. Via a dam, the castle is connected to the Corpus Christij Church, which forms a block of the urban area of Nesvizh. The ensemble is in the middle of a cultural landscape that has various design components. The boundaries of the area cover an elongated territory with the main axe parallel to the Usha riverbed and waterfront.

The castle is oriented from west to east. The entrance is from the west through the gate building, the lower part of which is embedded in the rampart. It has an octagonal two-storey gate tower, topped with a helm. The original structure dates from the 16th century. The first floor and the tower were added in the 18th century. The principal building of the complex is the palace, which occupies the centre of the east side of the inner yard. It also dates from the 16th century, and was enlarged in the 18th century. This is a three-storey building on an almost square floor plan.

The corners are strengthened by four octagonal towers with alcoves. The facade is decorated by stucco work by Antoni Zaleski. The ground floor, originally used as a treasury, has preserved the 16th-century vaults. The main staircase is decorated by the 18th-century representation of ‘Aurora’ Francisezek Smuglewicz. On the first floor the interiors date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The south side of the court has the three-storey Residence building, built in the 16th century, with a tower. The north side has a corresponding Arsenal building, which also used to house a chapel. These are connected to the palace via gallery structures, which cut the corners of the court. The court is then closed by annexes that connect these buildings to the gate structure.

Corpus Christij Church lies in the eastern part of the town of Nesvizh, next to the street leading to the castle. The plan of the building is based on a Latin cross, with an elongated rectangular body from which project two lateral chapels with five sides and an apsidal chancel. At the crossing of the nave and the transept there is dome. The side chapels are roofed with domes without lanterns.

Among the most valuable fittings are the tomb of Krzysztof Radziwill (1607) and the altar of Holy Cross (1583) by the Venetian sculptors Girolamo Campagna and Cesare Franco. The vaults of the church have frescoes by Ksawery D. Heski from 1852-53. The two-storey facade is divided by a prominent entablature, slightly offset on the axes of the pilasters and topped with a triangular gable. Under the church there is a crypt with the coffins of 72 members of the Radziwill family, dating from the 16th-20th centuries. The church is surrounded by an 18th-century boundary wall.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

Historically, Belarus is a trans-boundary place in the European context. Its territory was consecutively part of: the Kievan Russia and Russian Mediaeval Principalities (10th – 13th c.); the Great Duchy of Lithuania (14th c.); the united Polish-Lithuanian state, Republic of Rzeczpopolita (1569-1795); the Russian Empire (1772/1795 – 1917); Poland (for Western Byelorussia, 1921-1939); USSR as Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (from 1922); and the Republic of Belarus (from 1991). Due to these circumstances the territory of Belarus was at historical, cultural, artistic, political, military and religious (Calvinism, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Uniat church, Judaism) crossroads between the East and West.

The Radziwill dynasty, to whom the Nesvizh residence belonged from 1523 to 1939, represents some of the most notable personalities in the European history and culture since the 15th century. The Radziwill landlords governed the territory of the former Rzeczpopolita (now Belarus) and they were the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire since 1518.

The first confirmed records of Nesvizh date from the 15th century. From 1513, it belonged to the Radziwills, who lived here until 1939. Before the castle, there was a manor house, inhabited by Duke Mikolaj Radziwill, the chancellor of Lithuania and voivoda of Vilnius. The duke was protestant, which made Nesvizh an important centre of the Reformation. The first catechism in Belarusian language was printed in the ducal press.

The first phase of the Castle dates from 1582-1604, when Mikolaj Radziwill started the construction of a new seat. It is shown with bastioned fortifications in a drawing of 1604 by T. Makowski (“Nesvisium”). The Residence has survived practically in the original form until the present, while the other parts have been altered or added to later. The galleries were constructed in 1650.

In 1706, the Castle was occupied by the Swedes, who destroyed the fortifications. After their departure, the Castle was renovated by Michal Radziwill in 1732-58, who used architects from Germany, Italy, Poland and Belarus.

In the 19th century, the castle remained uninhabited until the ownership passed to Antoni Radziwill and his French wife Maria de Castellane, who renovated the interiors in 1881-86. They also added a terrace with Neo-Gothic turrets against the palace. They also designed and built the romantic landscape park around the castle complex (1878- 1911). After 1939, it was first taken over by the Soviet army, and subsequently the Germans used it as military hospital. From 1945 to 2001, it was used as a sanatorium. Since then it has been subject to restoration and adaptation to use as museum and as a cultural and visitor centre. In 2002, a fire destroyed the upper part of the residence and a part of the gallery, which were rebuilt in 2003.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation

Mir Castle Complex


Brief Description

The construction of this castle began at the end of the 15th century, in Gothic style. It was subsequently extended and reconstructed, first in the Renaissance and then in the Baroque style. After being abandoned for nearly a century and suffering severe damage during the Napoleonic period, the castle was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a number of other elements and the landscaping of the surrounding area as a park. Its present form is graphic testimony to its often turbulent history.

Mir Castle Complex © Public Domain More pictures …

Justification for Inscription

Criterion ii: Mir Castle is an exceptional example of a central European castle, reflecting in its design and layout successive cultural influences (Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance) that blend harmoniously to create an impressive monument to the history of this region.

Criterion iv: The region in which Mir Castle stands has a long history of political and cultural confrontation and coalescence, which is graphically represented in the form and appearance of the ensemble.

Long Description

The region in which Mir Castle stands has a long history of political and cultural confrontation and coalescence, which is graphically represented in the form and appearance of the ensemble. This is a fertile region in the geographical centre of Europe, at the crossroads of the most important trade routes, and at the same time at the epicentre of crucial European and global military conflicts between neighbouring powers with different religious and cultural traditions. The short period of history starting in the late 15th century was marked by a combination of unprecedented changes in the religious, humanitarian and economic spheres. The Mir Castle complex in its setting vividly symbolizes the history of Belarus and, as such, it is one of the major national symbols of the country.

Construction of the castle by the Ilyinichi family began at the end of the 15th century, in Gothic style; it was subsequently extended and reconstructed. The initial work consisted of building the walls and towers in Gothic style, but work came to an end for some unknown reason. Building had been completed by the beginning of the 17th century with the addition of palatial accommodation, with some Renaissance features, after it had passed to the Radzivill family. Following sieges in 1655 and 1706 reconstruction work involved the addition of some Baroque features. After being abandoned for almost a century and suffering severe damage during the Napoleonic period, the castle was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a number of other elements and the landscaping of the surrounding area as a park. Its present form is graphic testimony to an often turbulent history. The old castle survived as a romantic ruin.

The Mir Castle complex is situated on the bank of a small lake at the confluence of the Miryanka river and a small tributary. The fortified walls of the castle form an irregular quadrilateral; there are four exterior corner towers with hipped roofs rising to five storeys and a six-storey external gate tower on the western side. The facades are in brick, with recessed painted plasterwork, and the window and door frames and the balconies are sandstone. The roofs are tiled, some of the tiling being glazed.

Near the castle is the Chapel-Crypt of the Dukes of Svyatopolk-Mirsky. Its facade is decorated with a mosaic panel depicting the image of Christ, made from multicoloured tesserae. Other features are the watchman’s house, close to the north of chapel crypt; the palace annex built in the late 19th century, which is located in the landscape park area with stuccoed and decorated facades. The ruins of the main palace building are situated at the eastern outskirts of the complex and are not currently in use. The 19th-century chapel is a tiny stone stuccoed building. The memorial on the site of the massacre of the Mir ghetto prisoners lies in the northern part of the complex, to the east of the former Italian garden.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

The castle was built in the late 15th or early 16th century (the first reference to it dates from 1531) by the Ilyinichi family. The initial work consisted of building the walls and towers in Gothic style, but work came to an end for some unknown reason. Building had been completed by the beginning of the 17th century with the addition of palatial accommodation, with some Renaissance features (including an Italian-style garden and a system of ponds), after it had passed to the Radzivill family in 1569. This work was probably supervised by the Italian architect Gian Maria Bernardoni.

Following sieges in 1655 and 1706 reconstruction work involved the addition of some Baroque features. It was badly damaged during the Napoleonic period, in 1794 and again in 1812, and it remained in a state of ruinous abandon until the late 19th century, when the complex was purchased by the Duke of Svyatopolk-Mirsky, who began laying out a landscape park with a lake. A new palace (destroyed in 1914) and other structures (chapel, watchman’s house, etc) were erected within the grounds. The old castle survived as a romantic ruin. Some restoration work was carried out in the 1920s and 1930s, as a result of which some Secession and Romantic elements were added. During World War II it served as a prison camp and a ghetto. Restoration did not start in earnest again until 1982.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation

Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest


Brief Description

Situated on the watershed of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, this immense forest range, consisting of evergreens and broad-leaved trees, is home to some remarkable animal life, including rare mammals such as the wolf, the lynx and the otter, as well as some 300 European Bison, a species which has been reintroduced into the park.

Long Description

The Białowieża Primeval Forest is the last remaining primary deciduous and mixed forest of the European lowlands. Located on the watershed of the Baltic and Black seas, this immense forest range consisting of evergreens and broadleaved trees is the home of some remarkable animal life, including rare and interesting mammals. The park comprises about one-tenth of the entire Białowieża Primeval Forest, which has a wide range of flora and fauna typical of both Western and Eastern Europe.

The park protects a part of the last and one of the largest surviving areas of European primeval lowland mixed forest: pine, beech, oak, alder and spruce. The forest dates back to 8000 BC and is the only remaining example of the original forests, which once covered much of Europe.

These wilderness areas are inhabited by European bison, a species reintroduced into the park in 1929, elk, stag, roe deer, wild boar, lynx, wolf, fox, marten, badger, otter, ermine, beaver and numerous bats. It is also a showplace reserve for tarpan (Polish wild forest horse). The avifauna includes corncrake, white-tailed eagle, white stork, peregrine falcon and eagle owl.

Situated in the transition between the boreal and temperate zone in south-west Belarus, on the border with central Poland, the site contains elements of northern and southern flora. Almost 90% of the park is covered with ‘old growth’ virgin stands of mixed broadleaved and conifer forests. Over 900 vascular plant species have been recorded, including 26 tree and 138 shrub species. Almost two-thirds are indigenous with the remainder being anthropogenic introductions.

Białowieski National Park is the oldest national park in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded as ‘Reserve’ forestry in 1921 but officially established as a National Park in Białowieża in 1932. In 1947 it was restored as the Białowieski National Park. At one time the property of Polish kings, the Białowieski Forests have survived in an almost unaltered form. It is without doubt the most valuable natural area in the European lowlands.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

The Sundarbans


Brief Description

The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world (140,000 ha), lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans World Heritage site inscribed in 1987. The site is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, and presents an excellent example of ongoing ecological processes. The area is known for its wide range of fauna, including 260 bird species, the Bengal tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python.

The Sundarbans © Peter Andersen More pictures …

Justification for Inscription

The Committee inscribed the site under criteria (ix) and (x) as one of the largest remaining areas of mangroves in the world, which supports an exceptional biodiversity with a wide range of flora and fauna, including the Bengal Tiger and provides a significant example of on-going ecological processes (monsoon rains, flooding, delta formation, tidal influence and plant colonisation).

Long Description

The Sundarbans consist of three wildlife sanctuaries (Sundarbans West, East and South) lying on disjunct deltaic islands just west of the main outflow of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, close to the border with India.

The sanctuaries are intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mud flats and small islands of salt tolerant mangrove forests. The area is flooded with brackish water during high tides which mix with freshwater from inland rivers.

The larger channels are often a kilometre or two wide and generally run in a north-south direction. Rivers tend to be long and straight, a consequence of the strong tidal forces and the easily eroded clay and silt deposits. But apart from Baleswar River the waterways carry little freshwater as they are cut off from the Ganges, the outflow of which has shifted from the Hooghly-Bhagirathi channels in India progressively eastwards since the 17th century. They are kept open largely by the diurnal tidal flow.

Alluvial deposits are geologically very recent and deep. The soil is a clay loam with alternate layers of clay, silt and sand. The surface is clay except on the seaward side of islands in the coastal limits, where sandy beaches occur. The monsoon rains, flooding, delta formation, and tidal influence combine in the Sundarbans to for a dynamic landscape that is constantly changing.

Sands collect at the river mouths and form banks and chars, which are blown into dunes by the strong south-west monsoon winds. Finer silts are washed out into the Bay of Bengal where they form mud flats in the lee of the dunes. These become overlain with sand from the dunes and develop into grassy middens.

Because of the dominance of saline conditions, the forest flora in the western Sundarbans is not as diverse as in the east. Forest areas are dominated by a few species mostly Sundri and Gewu and patches of Nypa palm and several other of the 27 species of mangrove that are found in the Sundarbans.

The property is the only remaining habitat in the lower Bengal Basin for a variety of faunal species. The presence of 49 mammal species has been documented. Of these, no less than five spectacular species, Javan rhinoceros, water buffalo, swamp deer, gaur and probably hog deer have become locally extirpated since the beginning of the 21st century.

The Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India support one of the largest populations of Royal Bengal Tiger with an estimated 350 individuals. Other mammals include spotted deer and wild boar, three species of wild cat and Ganges River dolphin, which occurs in some of the larger waterways. Of the three species of otter, smooth-coated otter is domesticated by fishermen and used to drive fish into their nets.

Some 53 reptile species and eight amphibian species have been recorded of these mugger crocodile is now extinct, probably as a result of past over-exploitation, although it still occurs in at least one location nearby. Estuarine crocodile still survives but its numbers have been greatly depleted through hunting and trapping for skins. Four species of marine turtle have been recorded from the area. The varied and colourful bird-life to be seen along its waterways is one of the Sundarbans’ greatest attractions. There are some 315 species of waterfowl, raptors and forest birds including nine species of kingfisher and the magnificent white-bellied sea eagle.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historical Description

All three wildlife sanctuaries were established in 1977 under the Bangladesh Wildlife (Preservation) (Amendment) Act, 1974, having first been gazetted as forest reserves in 1878. The total area of wildlife sanctuaries was extended in 1996. The entire Sundarbans is reserved forest, established under the Indian Forest Act, 1878.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation

Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur


Brief Description

Evidence of the rise of Mahayana Buddhism in Bengal from the 7th century onwards, Somapura Mahavira, or the Great Monastery, was a renowned intellectual centre until the 12th century. Its layout perfectly adapted to its religious function, this monastery-city represents a unique artistic achievement. With its simple, harmonious lines and its profusion of carved decoration, it influenced Buddhist architecture as far away as Cambodia.

Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur © Syed Touhid Hassan More pictures …

Long Description

Paharpur is a small village 5 km west of Jamalganj in the Greater Rajshahi District where the remains of the most important and largest known monastery south of the Himalayas have been excavated.

The Paharpur Vihara, known as Somapura Mahavira, was built by the Pala Emperor Dharmapala (AD 770-810). The monastery is quadrangular in form, with a colossal temple of a cross-shaped floor plan in the centre of the courtyard and with an elaborate gateway complex on the north. There are 45 cells on the north and 44 in each of the other three side, making a total number of 177 monastic cells along the enclosure walls on the four sides. This layout, and the decoration of carved stones and terracotta plaques, reflect the building’s religious function, which is greatly influenced by Buddhist architecture from Cambodia and Java (Indonesia).

This 7th-century archaeological find covers an area of about 11 ha. The entire establishment, which occupies a quadrangular court measuring more than 275 m, externally on each side, has high enclosure-walls about 5 m thick and 3-5 m high.

Evidence of the rise of Mahayana Buddhism in Bengal from the 7th century onwards, Somapura Mahavira (Great Monastery) was a renowned intellectual centre until the 12th century. Its layout perfectly adapted to its religious function, this monastery-city represents a unique artistic achievement. With its simple, harmonious lines and its profusion of carved decoration, it influenced Buddhist architecture as far away as Cambodia.

A small site-museum built in 1956-57 houses the representative collection of objects recovered from the area. The excavated finds have also been preserved at the Varendra Research Museum at Rajshahi. The antiquities of the Museum include terracotta plaques, images of different gods and goddesses, pottery, coins, inscriptions, ornamental bricks, and other minor clay objects.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat


Brief Description

Situated in the suburbs of Bagerhat, at the meeting-point of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, this ancient city, formerly known as Khalifatabad, was founded by the Turkish general Ulugh Khan Jahan in the 15th century. The city’s infrastructure reveals considerable technical skill and an exceptional number of mosques and early Islamic monuments, many built of brick, can be seen there.

Long Description

The historic city of Khalifatabad is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble which illustrates a significant stage in human history. Situated in the suburbs of Bagerhat, at the meeting point of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, this ancient city was founded by the Turkish general Ulugh Khan Jahan in the 15th century. In this local capital of 50 km2 along the Bhairab River, 360 mosques, public buildings, mausoleums, bridges, roads, water tanks and other public buildings were built from baked brick. Shait Gumbad Mosque and Khan Jahan’s Mausoleum are just two examples of these historic buildings.

Today this old city, created within a few years and swallowed up by the jungle after the death of its founder in 1459, is striking because of certain uncommon features. The density of Islamic religious monuments is explained by the piety of Khan Jahan, which is evidenced by the engraved inscription on his tomb. The lack of fortifications is attributable to the possibilities of retreat into the impenetrable swamps of the Sunderbans. The quality of the infrastructures – the supply and evacuation of water, the cisterns and reservoirs, the roads and bridges – all reveal a perfect mastery of the techniques of planning and a will towards spatial organization.

Today, the monuments, which have been partially disengaged from the vegetation, may be divided in two principal zones: to the west around the Mosque of Shait Gumbad and to the east around the Mausoleum of Khan Jahan.

More than 50 monuments have been catalogued. These include the Mosque of Shait Gumbad renowned for its large prayer room, divided into seven longitudinal naves; the mosques of Singar, Bibi Begni and Chunakkola; the mosques of Reza Khoda, Zindavir and Ranvijoypur. All these monuments are threatened, owing to the extreme salinity of the soil and the atmosphere, made especially vulnerable because brick architecture predominates.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC

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