Many people are familiar with UNESCO and their World Heritage Sites. But did you know they also have a list of “intangibles?” These are cultural traditions of a country that are slowly dying out. UNESCO doesn’t want to recognize and protect only monuments, buildings or other “tangibles,” but also living traditions and expressions that have been passed from generation to generation, like performing arts, festive events and oral traditions. The UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity cultural body recently added 47 new items to their list; two of which are Czech. These are cultural heritages that UNESCO feels are being lost in modern society.
In the Czech Republic, Shrovetide masks and falconry made the list. In the Hlinsko region in eastern Bohemia, Shrovetide processions are still popular, with men and boys donning traditional masks and going door-to-door in the villages, accompanied by a brass band. At each home, a ritual dance is performed to ensure a rich harvest and prosperity for the family. The event is a community and family building one, with children and parents designing the masks together.
Along with ten other countries, falconry in the Czech Republic was also named to the list. Falconry is the traditional activity of keeping and training falcons and other raptors to capture prey in its natural state. Originally it was a way of obtaining food, but now falconry is more identified with camaraderie and sharing rather than subsistence. The heritage of falconry is passed between generations and often includes traditional dress, food, music and dance.
In 2005, “verbunk” was named a UNESCO listed intangible. This is a folk dance done by military recruits from Slovacko in southeast Moravia that originated in the 18th century. The Czech Republic as a whole is a culturally rich country – there are 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They include: The Gardens and Castle in Kroměříž; the Historic Centre of Český Krumlov; the Historic Centre of Prague; the Historic Centre of Telč; Holašovice Historical Village Reservation; the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc; the Jewish Quarter and St Procopius’ Basilica in Třebíč; Kutná Hora: the Historic Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec; the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape; Litomyšl Castle; the Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora and Tugendhat Villa in Brno.
Photo courtesy of CzechTourism