For the first time in the history of heritage protection in the Federal State of North Rhine - Westphalia, in 1991 the municipality of Hennef decided to put a cultural landscape at the list of protected monuments. The wide area which the Rhenisch regional authority for monument preservation qualified as a rare example of a historically grown landscape, contains the ca. 850 years old town centre of Blankenberg, the Marienberg Hill, crowned with the medieval Bödingen Abbey on the other side of the Sieg River as well as the complete Sieg Valley between Blankenberg and Bödingen.
The obvious aim of the listing procedure it is to demonstrate the scientific value of a cultural landscape including numerous monuments like the Blankenberg Castle or the Auel Manor and other significant traces of the regional history, such as historical mills, old coal mines or authentic medieval pathes which the pilgrims used, in order to arrive at the Bödingen Abbey.
Acknowledging the importance of this ambitious project, we can hardly ignore that the present legislation concerning heritige protection is mainly focused on the preservation of historical buildings and ensembles and does not explicitly include the issue of protection of cultural landscapes. Especially, the legal definition of a "protected area" usualy means a protection of a groups of historical buildings and their necessary environment.
Thus, the question the local and regional authorities are confronted with, is whether it is possible to protect the Sieg Valley according to the present legislation which might be therefor extensively construed or it is a straighter way to innovate the law.
Blankenberg Castle - castrum quod blankenberg dicitur - is a medieval foundation of the counts of Sayn. (Photo: Dimitrij Davydov 2007)
Constructed in the 12. century the castle served as a residence of the Sayn dynasty and the administrative centre of the Blankenberg district, till it was destroyed during the Thirty Years' War. (Photo: Dimitrij Davydov 2007)
The Sieg Valley, viewed from the castle rock. (Photo: Dimitrij Davydov 2007)