In April 2015, the European Heritage Label has been awarded to the Town Halls of Münster and Osnabrück as the ‚Sites of the Peace of Westphalia‘ by the European Commission. The European Heritage Label is an initiative of the European Union to improve knowledge of European history, as well as the role and values of the EU.
The European Heritage Label
The labeled sites are milestones in the creation of today’s Europe. To walk through one of these sites is to experience European values and civilization in the making. These sites are carefully selected for their symbolic value, the role they have played in the European history and the activities they offer in order to bring the European Union and its citizens closer together.
European Heritage sites bring to life the European narrative and the history behind it. They are about much more than just aesthetics. The focus is on the promotion of the European dimension of the sites and providing access to them. This includes organising a wide range of educational activities, especially for young people. European Heritage sites can be enjoyed singly or as part of a network. Visitors can get a real feel for the breadth and scale of what Europe has to offer and what it has achieved.
The sites of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) reflect a historical event of outstanding significance for the European history and culture: a devastating war was ended by diplomatic negotiations instead of military force. During the peace negotiations the Rathaus (Town Hall) of Münster played host to prestigious social events. In the Friedenssaal (Hall of Peace) of Münster Rathaus the peace treaty between Spain and the Netherlands was ceremoniously enacted and proclaimed on 15th May 1648. The Rathaus as a historic site therefore stands symbolically for the Peace of Westphalia and represents the places in the city that are connected with it.
The Peace of Westphalia is the name given to the totality of the peace treaties that were agreed and signed in Münster and Osnabrück between 15th May and 24th October 1648, which brought an end to the Thirty Years‘ War in Germany and the eighty-year Dutch War of Independence. The Peace of Westphalia is at the same time a ‘confessional peace’, a German ‘constitutional peace’ and a ‘peace between states’ in Europe. The Peace of Westphalia brought an end to the era of religious confession wars in Central Europe and created the conditions for religious tolerance that had an effect on the whole of Europe.
Osnabrück and Münster are known throughout the world as the Cities of the Peace of Westphalia and are associated with the new European order‘s principle of tolerance through dialogue. The Rathaus is both a central location in the lives of the city‘s residents and a main touristic attraction and symbol. It is closely associated, in the minds of the city‘s inhabitants and of visitors alike, with the Peace of Westphalia. Representing the events of the Peace of Westphalia, it simultaneously symbolizes the mission of keeping alive the tradition as the City of the Peace of Westphalia and the task of transposing the historical heritage into the present and the future.