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Newport World Heritage Commission

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Religious Freedom and Toleration in the 17th Century English Empire

The Case for World Heritage Status

On the morning of October 20th, 2014, the Governor of Rhode Island created a commission to prepare an updated application towards Newport and Providence becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site. The commission has brought together community leaders, academic experts, and representatives from local, regional, and state historical institutions to make the case for Rhode Island’s “lively experiment.”

This experiment in religious freedom and toleration represents the Atlantic world’s first society in which full religious freedom was legally guaranteed to all, a wall of separation was established between church and state, and religious freedom and toleration proved robust, persistent, and influential. Colonial Newport and Providence bear unique witness to the embrace of religious and cultural diversity as physically manifested in the configuration of public spaces and structures that were the armature of community life. The ensemble bears witness to the power of an idea of freedom and acceptance that emerged out of more than a century of religious strife.

Click here to see the Newport World Heritage Commission website and learn more about the Commission and its application to UNESCO.