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Seven Wonders of the Medieval World


Since before recorded history, humans have left their legacies on the Earth in the form of architectural structures. These have ranged in scope from mounds and simple markers to spectacular feats of construction. Many have been destroyed by war or natural disasters, but some survive as ruins, reconstructed replicas or meticulously-maintained structures.


While the list is typically only 7 wonders there are 4 others that are sometimes included and thus the list is regarded as "Wonders of the Middle Ages". I have included the occasional 4 in this list at the end of the list.

 

Leaning Tower of Pisa



"It is called the Leaning Tower or the Tower of Pisa but actually it was never used for defending the city; it is part of the religious complex in the Duomo Square and acts as its bell tower. It played an active role in both human and divine timekeeping with its seven bells – one for each musical note – the largest of which, cast in 1655, weighs a full three and a half tonnes! It is known throughout the world for the beauty of its architecture, for its extraordinary tilt, which makes it an authentic miracle of statics, and for the fact that it stands in the universally renowned Piazza dei Miracoli, of which it is certainly the prize jewel. And this is why it is one of the 7 Wonders of the World." from opapisa.it/en


A work of art that performed in three stages during 177 years, the construction of the first floor of the white marble campanile began on 1173, and is surrounded by pillars, classical capitals, leaning against blind arches. In 1178 the tower began to sink after construction of the third floor, the cause was a mere three-meter foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil. Later the construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, the Pisans still engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence, which allowed to the underlying soil to settle. In 1198 temporarily clocks was installed on the third floor of the unfinished construction. In an effort to compensate the tilt, the engineers built higher floors with one side taller than the other, but the tower start to lean in other direction and actually it’s curved. In 1284 the construction was halted again and in 1319 the seventh floor was completed and the bell-chamber was not added until 1372. Tommaso di Andrea Pisano built the bell-chamber with the Romanesque style of the tower. There are seven bells, one for each note of the musical scale, and the largest one was installed in 1655.

Benito Mussolini ordered that the tower be returned to a vertical position in 1934, so the concrete was poured into its foundation and the catastrophic result was that the tower actually sank further into the soil. In 1964, the government of Italy prevents the tower from toppling but was necessary considered to retain the current tilt due to the vital role in the tourism industry of Pisa. On the Azores islands a multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians and historians was assigned to discuss stabilization methods. The reason was the stonework expanding and contracting each day due to the heat of sunlight. Many methods were proposed but only after over two decades of work on the subject, the tower was closed to the public. The solution was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38 m3 of soil from underneath the raised end. It was straightened by 45 cm to the position that occupied in 1838, and after a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public in 2001, and it was declared stable for at least another 300 years.

 

Hagia Sopia

"The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque / Ayasofya-i Kebir Cami-i Şerifi, with its innovative architecture, rich history, religious significance and extraordinary characteristics has been fighting against time for centuries, is the largest Eastern Roman Church in Istanbul. Constructed three times in the same location, it is the world’s oldest and fastest-completed cathedral. With its breathtaking domes that look like hanging in the air, monolithic marble columns and unparalleled mosaics, is one of the wonders of world’s architecture history. Today's Hagia Sophia is the third building constructed in the same place with a different architectural understanding than its predecessors. By the order of Emperor Justinianos, it was built by Anthemios from Tralles (Aydin) and Isidoros from Miletos (Balat). The construction started in 532 and was completed in a period of five years and opened for worship in 537 with great ceremony. When Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror conquered the city, he converted it into his imperial mosque. It continued its existence with the addition of Ottoman architectural elements and turned into a museum in 1935. Known for its Imperial Gate, Beautiful Gate (Splendid Door) and Marble Gate, Hagia Sophia has 104 columns, some of which are brought from ancient cities. The "Omphalion” section where the emperors were crowned stands out with marble workmanship like these pillars." from https://muze.gen.tr/muze-detay/ayasofya

The church of Holy wisdom was constructed in 360 AD by the Constantine’s son. It remained until 404 AD as the “Great Church” when the fury of the mob did not let trace of the original structure. Rebuilt in larger dimensions by Thodosius II in 405 AD during the Nika revolt it was burnt down along with half of the city in 532 AD. The next reconstruction was made by Justinian who brought eight Corinthian columns from Baalbek to Constantinople. Time back it was the largest cathedral in the world but in 989 during the devastated earthquake its beautiful dome crumbled down along with many other parts. So “Trdat” the famous architect, was invited for the reconstruction by the Byzantine government. For years Hagia Sophia experimented diverse changes, it was converted in a mosque; Mehmud I established a “Kulliye” in the complex, which was a Koranic school, social kitchen and a library; Sultan Abdulla did extensive modification works; the father of Turkey, Mustaffa Kemal Pasha converted the monument in a museum so all are prominent names associated with its history “temple church mosque museum”. Sinan a Turkish architect was engaged for the restoration and strengthening of the structure. He completed the work with two minarets by the sides of the main structure which dampened the seismic energy of the earthquakes.

Thereby this theory has been approved by the modern seismologist and Sinan is considered as the first engineer in the world who built building that can combat a quake with architectural changes. The basilica represent a major revolution in church construction, it featured a huge dome which needed of new ideas in order to support its weight, a feat which had not been attempted before. In the days when there was no steel used in construction, large roofs and domes had to be supported by massive pillars and walls. The dome was supported by four piers each measuring about 118 square yards at the base. The church itself measures 260 x 270 feet; the dome rises 210 feet above the floor and it has a diameter of 110 feet. The nave is 135 feet wide, more than twice the width of the aisles which measure 62 feet. The Deesis mosaic was a later addition of the 12-13th centuries to the upper South Gallery of the Church. During Byzantine times this area of the church was reserved for members of the Imperial family and the court who viewed the liturgy from this easternmost bay of the church. Originally the vaults of the gallery were covered with mosaics of Pentecost and Seraphim, but this all came down in an earthquake in 1894. Many consider this mosaic among the greatest treasures of world art and culture. Among Christians it is often called the finest representation of Christ. It is a great tragedy that most of the mosaic has been lost but the survival of the beautiful faces of Christ, His Mother and St. John the Baptist is nothing short of miraculous. The amazing survival of Hagia Sophia is due to the love and care of centuries of believers who have made it a home of prayer, history and art.

 

Porcelain Tower of Nanjing

This amazing tower that radiated sunrays and functioned as a center of pilgrimage stands tall among world wonders. It was constructed by the Chinese Emperor Yung Le around 15th century. With 260 feet high octagonal in shape with 97 feet in diameter, the tower was the largest building in China at the time of its construction. It was existed up to the middle of the 19th century. This Buddhist Pagoda had two damages the first was a bolt of lightning that struck in 180, but the manmade disaster in the shape of Taiping Revolution was detrimental and marked its end. During the period 1840-1850 the rebels took control of the area when smashed the stairs to stop others from using it as a platform, then around 1856 the same destroyed the remaining parts of this marvel in vengeance. For years the remnants of the structure were lying uncared and recently Chinese Government has started to rebuild its rich ancestry. The Porcelain Tower in its golden times was covered with superior quality white and shining porcelain bricks interlaid with colored stones.

The entire area reflected sunrays in light during days and numerous lights were hung to illuminate the pictures of flowers, animals, landscapes and Buddhist images during nights. Possibly the spiral staircase had 140 steps that matched with the number of lamps that illuminated the outer wall. When the tower was built, it was one of the largest buildings in China rising up to a height of 260 ft; in addition its octagonal shape has a base of about 97ft in diameter. Originally the plan was added more storeys, in a sense only a few Chinese pagodas surpass its height, such as Liaodi Pagoda of 11th century in Hebei or the non-existent 330 ft tall of 7th century in Chang’an.Designed by the Chinese Emperor Yongle and first discovered by the Western world when European travelers visited it. Since it was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the tower has seen as a national treasure to both locals and other cultures around the world. A sublimely elegant example of Buddhist Architecture by those who have seen it in first person and during the early 19th century Le Compte a French mathematician has rightly written “The best contrived and the structure of all the east”, this remark contain all.

"More than 150 years after rebels destroyed it, Nanjing's famed "Porcelain Tower" -- one of the Seven Medieval Wonders of the World -- has been brought back to life. Sort of.

A modern, steel reconstruction of the pagoda now sits by the Yangtze River in the same area as the original, which was built in the early 15th century.

The new tower, reportedly funded by the richest man in China, Wang Jianlin, is surrounded by a futuristic, Buddhist-themed museum that opened late in 2015. The sites are collectively known as the Porcelain Tower Heritage Park." from a CNN Article

 

Great Wall of China


The construction of the Great Wall China began in the 7th century B.C., under the Dynasty Zhou. This wall was constructed along many hundreds of years. The first version of the wall was constructed to support invaders far from the villages that cultivate the land for the Chinese border. These walls were constructed in weak points in the natural landscape or where the threat was perceived like the major one. Some of these walls eventually became of greater strategic importance when the localised defences were gradually joined to form the Great Wall of China. At those times that the Chinese territory expanded northward, earlier walls became secondary defences when a more northerly wall was built. The Great Wall of China was built by soldiers, civilians, farmers and prisoners, primarily during three dynasties: the Qin, the Han and the Ming, although the Sui Dynasty and the Ten Kingdoms period also played a part.

The building styles of each dynasty added their own flavour and advanced the techniques learned from the previous. The first dynasty of China was the short lived Qin Dynasty. The first emperor, Qin ShiHuang, was a tyrannical emperor who unified China by force and set about constructing one Great Wall by joining. He even sent scholars to work on the Great Wall, anyone who was deemed unproductive. These workers faced arduous labor, and the constant danger of being attacked by bandits. Most of early Great Wall was composed of weak stone, but when the natural stone in an area was not sufficient did that the engineers were turning to another method, there had to be used a rectangular frame that was filled with loose soil. This soil was trampled for several hours by a team of workers until this was solid. This process of landfill and to trample would be repeated again and again until the wall was reaching the wished height. The second dynasty to add to the Great Wall was the Han Dynasty. The most notable contribution of the Han Dynasty is that they extended the Great Wall westwards through the Gobi Desert. Despite a lack of building materials, ingenious Chinese engineers found a solution. This method involved first laying down a layer of willow reeds, possibly woven.

Then a layer of gravel and a little water was applied and trampled solid. After the trampling, a new layer of reeds and gravel was added. This process would be repeated until the desired height was reached. Amazingly, some portions of this Great Wall are still standing, partly due to the dry conditions of the Gobi. The last dynasty to build a northern wall was the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This dynasty built the biggest, longest, strongest and most ornate Great Wall ever. These are the walls that we are familiar with today. Their methods of Great Wall building fused all that was learned by the two previous dynasties. First, a center of trampled earth was created. Then, around the firm center was applied a shell of stone and bricks. The bricks that were created by the Ming are so strong that they compare well with the ones we use today. The strong Ming wall was built across some of the most dangerous terrains in China, including steep mountains, sometimes on 75 degree inclines.

It has been said that every foot of the construction of this Great Wall cost one human life. The Ming Dynasty Great Wall starts on the eastern end at ShanHai Pass, near QinHuangDao, in Hebei Province, next to Bohai Sea. It once spanned 9 provinces and 100 counties, but the final 500 kilometers of the Great Wall to the west have all but turned to rubble. Along the Ming Great Wall of China there are many watchtowers, spaced from less than a kilometer to several kilometers or more apart. These were partly used to transmit military messages. Fire and smoke were the most efficient means for communication; fire was used at night and smoke during the day. Straw and dung was used for this. In 1468, a series of regulations set specific meanings to these signals: a single shot and a single fire or smoke signal implied about 100 enemies, two signals warned of 500, three warned of over a 1000 and so on. In this way, a message could be transmitted over more than 500 km of the Great Wall within a few hours.

 

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa


"The old Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are an extremely well preserved and fascinating mix of different ages with Pharaonic and Roman dedications to the dead. Found purely by an accident with a donkey falling through a hole in the ground in 1900, these sets of rock cut burial chambers and tombs." from Memphis Tours

Located in Rhakolis a fishing village in the old part of Alexandria City in Egypt; the catacombs survived due to its advantageous location to the historical turmoil taken place during the past centuries has either eliminated much of the rich monuments.The underground tunnels dates back to the 1st century AD and was used until the 4th century AD. On 28th September 1900, according to popular belief, a donkey cart fell into a pit which led to the discovery of the catacombs. But the reality is that Said Ali Jibarah, an Alexandrian man, was quarrying for stone when he broke open the vault of a subterranean tomb. Probably the catacombs were used for a single wealthy family as a private tomb and later converted to a public cemetery.

They are composed of a three levels:


1) The first level consists of a vestibule with a double exedra, a rotunda and a big dinning-table with chairs at three sides (triclinium), including a platform for funeral rituals; in an original state,


2) The second level was the main tomb with various surrounding corridors, magnificent statues, decorations on all proper places, images, ornate carvings and practically everything needed for a funeral hall;


3) The third level is submerged in ground water, also saturated with sand. The large number of grooves cut in the rock is known as “loculi”. The complex contained over one hundred loculi numerous rock-cut sarcophagus tombs, in its final stage.

Representing an integration of the cultures and traditions of the Egyptians, the cemetery is unique both for their plan and decoration. People seemed to have a talent for combining rather than destroying, so in this place we find decorations related to ancient an Egyptian theme which makes them quite unlike anything in the world. The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa may not be as famous or visible as the Pyramids but they are equally astonishing and perhaps more intriguing than the Pyramids. In olden days Christians of the Roman Empire this subterranean funeral halls were resorted to bury their dead and evade desecration by the oppressive regimes. Kom el Shoqafa structures were Pagan sects. The members of the Pharoah-Cult placed the intact dead bodies in this place because they believed in rebirths. Considered by archaeologist and all who love their heritage and history, a real treasure by its scripts written, the motif, the engravings, statues and even the coffins. In a sense catacombs were an escape to the oppressed and the hunted to preserve their rituals and heritage.

 

Colosseum

"The Flavian Amphitheater, more commonly known by the name of the Colosseum, rises in the archaeological heart of the city of Rome and welcomes a large number of visitors daily attracted by the charm of its history and its complex architecture.

The building, called the Colosseum because of a colossal statue that stood nearby, was built in the first century AD at the behest of the emperors of the Flavian dynasty, and hosted, until the end of the ancient age, shows of great popular appeal, such as the hunts and gladiator games. The building was, and still remains, a spectacle in itself. It is in fact the largest amphitheater in the world, able to offer surprising scenographic equipment, as well as services for spectators.

Symbol of the splendor of the empire, the Amphitheater has changed its face and function over the centuries, offering itself as a structured space but open to the Roman community." from ParcoClosseo

The construction began under the rule of Vespasian Emperor around 70-72. The site was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine hills, through which a canalized stream ran. Later the area was densely inhabited by the 2nd century. The Great Fire of Rome in AD 64 devastated it, in addition Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. To supply water to the area, the existing Aqua Claudia aqueduct was extended and the gigantic bronze Colossus of Nero was set up nearby at the entrance to the Domus Aurea. Although the Colossus was preserved much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Within the former grounds, gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby the Domus Area. The Coliseum can be thus interpreted as a great triumphal monument, in accord to a reconstructed inscription found on the site, “the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general’s share of the booty”. This is thought to refer to the vast quantity of treasure seized by the Romans following their victory in the Great Jewish Revolt.

The Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire around 217, possibly caused by the lightning which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheatre’s interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320. In 443 a possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake. The arena continued to be used for contests well into the 6th century with gladiatorial fights last mentioned around 435. Animal hunts continued until at least 523. During the medieval period, the Coliseum underwent several radical changes. The arena was converted into a cemetery. Around 1200 the Frangipani family used it as a castle, but the great earthquake of 1349 caused the outer south side to collapse. Much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. In 1749, the Pope Benedict XIV consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there. Due to the ruined state, the Coliseum cannot use to host large events so much of these larger concerts have been held just outside, using the building as a backdrop. The Colosseum was covered with an enormous awning known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes. A team of some 1,000 men was used to install the awning.

 

Stonehenge

"Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC. In the early Bronze Age many burial mounds were built nearby.

Today, together with Avebury, Stonehenge forms the heart of a World Heritage Site, with a unique concentration of prehistoric monuments." from English-Heritage.org.uk

The complex was built in several construction phases spanning at least 3000 years, although there is evidence for activity both before and afterwards on the side, perhaps extending 6500 years more. Before the monument, approximately 8000 BC forward some archaeologists found four large Mesolithic postholes beneath the modern tourist car-park. These held pine posts around 0.75 m were erected and left to rot in situ. At this time, Salisbury Plain was still wooed but four thousand years later, a cursus monument was built 600 m north of the site as the first farmers began to clear the forest and exploit the area. A circular bank and ditch enclosure measuring around 110 m in diameter with a large entrance to the north east and a smaller one to the south, was the first monument. Bones of deer and oxen in the bottom of the ditch was placed there by builders. In the second phase there is no longer visible, but the number of postholes increase with some form of timber structure, further standing of it were placed at the northeast entrance. At least 25 of the Aubrey Holes contained cremation burials dating to the two centuries after the monument’s inception, and 30 further cremations were placed in the enclosure’s ditch and other points within the monument.

Stonehenge is therefore interpreted as functioning as an enclosed cremation cemetery at this time.Around 2600 BC, the archaeological excavations have indicated that timber was abandoned in favor of stone and two concentric holes were dug in the centre of the site. The bluestones consisting in dolerite, a holocrystine igneous rock were brought from glacial deposits carried down from the northern side of the Preselis to southern England by the Irish Sea Glacier. The Altar Stone may have stood as a single large monolith. The widening of the north eastern entrance matched the direction of the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset of the period. The Heelstone tertiary sandstone cannot be securely dated and may have been erected outside the north eastern and may also have been installed at any time in phase 3. Other features loosely are the four Station Stones, two of which stood atop mounds. The mounds are known as “barrows” although they do not contain burials.

At the end of the 3rd millennium BC, 30 enormous Oligocene-Miocene sarsen stones brought from a quarry to the north of Stonehenge, on the Marlborough Downs. A total of 74 stones would have been needed to complete the circle, it would seem that the ring was left incomplete but some of the sarsens were removed from the site. In one of the sarsens, known as stone 53, images of a “dagger” and 14 “axe-heads” have been recorded carved on it. So it’s difficult to date the images but recent lasers scanning work on the carvings, indicates that apparently are similar to later Bronze Age weapons. Due to radiocarbon, a Stonehenge archer body was discovered in the outer ditch of the monument in 1978. The last known usage of Stonehenge was during the Iron Age. Roman coins and medieval artifacts were found in or around the monument but it is unknown if the monument was in continuous use throughout prehistory or beyond. The site was known by scholars during the middle Ages and since then it was been studied. Stonehenge was produced by a culture with no written language, many aspect of it remain subject to debate, but a numerous theories some of them very colorful explain the origin of this beautiful monument. In other words, we don’t know, but half the fun of Stonehenge is the speculation.

 

Now I will share with you the 4 sites that are sometimes included in the list of Wonders.

 

Cairo Citadel

"One of Cairo's most popular tourist attractions is the Citadel which houses a number of museums, ancient mosques and other sites, located on a spur of limestone that had been detached from its parent Moqattam Hills by quarrying. The Citadel is one of the world's greatest monuments to medieval warfare, as well as a highly visible landmark on Cairo's eastern skyline.Particularly when viewed from the back side (from the north), the Citadel reveals a very medieval character." from TourEgypt

Using the most advanced construction techniques Salah ad-Din and his successors built an impenetrable bastion in the Citadel around 12th century and for the next 700 years, Egypt was ruled from this hill. Under the ruled of a greatest Mamluk sultan, Al-Nasir Muhammad tore down most of the Ayyubid buildings to make room for his own needs, which included several palaces, a mosque and barracks for his army. The actual appearance of the Citadel, particularly the mosque that bears his name is the vision of Muhammad Ali. A legend around this city said that Salah ad-Din hung pieces of meat up all around Cairo, but everywhere the meat spoilt within a day, a exception of the Citadel area where it remained fresh for several days.

No doubt this location provides a strategic advantage both to dominate Cairo and to defend of outside attackers. He carries this custom from Syria where each town had some sort of fortress to act as a stronghold for the local ruler. Salah ad-Din used the most modern fortress building techniques of that time to construct the original Citadel. The round towers built protruding from the walls so that defenders could direct flanking fire on those who might scale the walls with 10 m high and 3 m thick. The Bir Yusuf, the well that supplied the fortress with drinking water. Now it’s closed to the tourists. Most of the fortification was built after Sala ad-Din’s rule, the British destroyed much of what existed before there.

Al-Kamil, the nephew of Salah ad-Din reinforced the Citadel by enlarging several of the towers. He made the Blacksmith’s Tower (Burg al-Haddad) and the Sand Tower (Burgar-Ramlab) three times larger, which controlled the narrow pass between the Citadel and the Muqattam hills. Also he built a number of towers (great keeps) around the perimeter of the walls, three of which can still be seen overlooking the Citadel parking area. Nothing remains of the original fortress except a part of the walls and the well. The Ayyubid walls and their towers were built with the experience from the Crusader wars, and the walls that circle the northern enclosure are 33ft and 10 ft thick. For more than 150 years the Muhammad ‘Ali Mosque has dominated the skyline and it is the most noticeable in all of Cairo.

The mosque has two minarets although Ottoman law prohibited it. Behind gilded mosque, a far more elegant one stands the Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad, a Mamluk artwork with a beautifully crafted masonry of elegant proportions. Its supporting columns around the courtyard were collected from various sources including ancient Egypt structures. The conquering Ottomans carried much of the original interior decoration off to Istanbul. Today the Citadel is one of the main attractions in Egypt. Many other wonderful Islamic structures are nearby and a walk from the Citadel to the Khan el-Khalili is a delightful experience.

 

Cluny Abbey

"Independent and powerful.  William the Pious founded the abbey in 910, directly placed under the protection of Rome. Its abbot plays the role of mediator between the political powers and the Pope. Cluny is the parent company of 1,400 outbuildings. Sold as national property in 1798, the abbey was dismantled, and its church, almost destroyed." from AbbayedeCluny

Entrance arches at the ruins at Cluny Abbey was founded in 910 and was built on a forested hunting preserve donated by William I the Pious, duke of Aquitaine and count of Auvergne. He relieved the monks of Cluny of all obligations to him except for their prayers for his soul but it was much more common for patrons to retain some proprietary interest in the abbey and they usually expected to install their relatives as abbots. It was founded by Benedictine monks who offered perpetual prayer, emphasising liturgy and spiritual pursuits over labour and other monastic activities. When monasteries were founded in the Cluniac tradition, these were designated “priores” not abbeys, and were accordingly overseen by a prior who reported to the abbot of Cluny, before the most monasteries were autonomous and associated with others only informally. This system worked well and around 1016 the Pope decreed that the privileges of Cluny also extended to subordinate houses. In 1088 the construction of third abbey church began and its one that still stands in part today. For centuries it was the largest church in Christendom. In the 12th century at the top of its influence, Cluny became in the head of a monastic empire with 10000 monks. Four of popes were abbots of Cluny, and the Pope Urban II declared to Cluny as “the light of the world”.

The success of it abbey was due to its abbots who are educated drawn from the highest aristocratic circles, two of whom were canonized: Odo of Cluny, the second abbot (died 942) and Hugh of Cluny (died 1109). Odilo, the fifth abbot (died 1049) was a third great leader. However the order began to lose momentum under poor government, but subsequently it was revitalized under Abbot Peter the Venerable; its monks became bishops, legates and cardinals throughout France and the Holy Roman Empire. But soon, new austere orders such as the Cistercians were generating the next wave of ecclesiastical reform. At the same time, the rise of English and French nationalism created a climate unfavourable to the existence of monasteries autocratically ruled by a head residing in Burgundy. The Papal Schism (1378-1409) further divided loyalties: France recognized the pope at Avignon and England that at Rome, interfering with the relations between Cluny and its dependent houses in England. Under the strain, some English houses, such as Lenton Priory, Nottingham, became officially English, weakening the Cluniac structure. By the time of the French Revolution, the monks of Cluny were so thoroughly identified with the Ancien Régime that the order was suppressed in France and the monastery at Cluny was partly demolished. The abbey was sold as national property and was used as a stone quarry. It was systematically dismantled until 1823.

Most of the great Abbey of Cluny stands in ruins, but it still suggest the size and glory of the abbey at its zenith, and imagining it as it once was is part of the attraction. The Porte d’Honneur is the best place to start, which is the entrance to the abbey from the village. The pilasters and Corinthian columns of the Clocher de l’Eau-Bénite that is a majestic bell tower, reflects its classical architecture. A national horse-breeding center on one side of the transept was founded by Napoleon in 1806 and constructed with materials from the destroyed abbey. The other side is an elegant pavilion built as monastic cloisters in the 18th century. Once ago the gardens contained an ancient lime tree which was destroyed by a storm around 1982, named Abelard as the controversial French philosopher who sheltered at the abbey in 1142. The 13th century flour store is on the right, with its fine oak and chestnut roof and collection of exquisite Romanesque capitals from the vanished choir. The Musée Ochier contains masterpieces of Romanesque sculptures. Remains of both the abbey and the village constructed around it are conserved here, as well as part of the Monk’s Library.

 

Ely Cathedral

"People often ask why such a vast church was built in such a small town......

..... In fact the Cathedral came first. When it was built Ely was only a small settlement, the town grew up around the Cathedral.

The Benedictine monks only concern was to glorify God, and nothing less than a building on a majestic scale would do." from Ely Cathedral

The story about Ely Cathedral begins with the St. Etheldreda’s life in Saxon Times. Daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, she was born probably in Exning, near Newmarket in Suffolk. Around 652 she was married at an early age with Tondberht, ealdorman of the South Gyrwas but in 655 he died and she remained virgin. After that she retired to her dowry, the Isle of Ely. Five years later for political reasons she was married with Egfrith, the young king of Northumbria who was several years younger than her. At the beginning he accepted that she going to remain a virgin, but 12 years later he wished their marital relationship was normal. Etheldreda refused to her young husband with the advice and aid of Wilfred, bishop of Northumbria. In spite of the bribes in vain offered by Egfrith, she left him and became in a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe and also she founded a double monastery at Ely in 673.

An old church at Ely destroyed by Penda, pagan king of the Mercians was restored by Etheldreda and on the site she built a monastery which became the richest abbey in England. The monastery flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes and it was refunded as a Benedictine community in 970. The result of the plague which also killed several of her nuns, killed to Etheldreda around 680 with a tumour on the neck. 17 years after her death her body was found to be incorrupt and the linen cloths in which her body was wrapped were as fresh as the day she had been buried. So the body was placed in a stone sarcophagus of Roman origin found at Grantchester and reburied. For centuries, the shrine was the focus for vast numbers of medieval pilgrims, but it was destroyed in 1541 in spite of that, a slate in the Cathedral marks the spot where it stood.A third major restoration project, the most extensive to date, was begun in 1986 and was completed in the year 2000. The Etheldreda Banner was made by Miss Yams of Bayswater in 1910 and is still used today during great processions at Ely Cathedral. It depicts Saint Etheldreda with a crosier as first Abbess of Ely, and around her, are the coats of arms of the See (top left), the University of Cambridge (bottom left), the Dean and Chapter of Ely (top right), and the Borough (now City) of Cambridge (bottom right); the arms at the top are those of Frederick Henry Chase, Bishop of Ely 1905-1924.

The cathedral looks out over an amazing green space. Its great window is visible on the north as well. The south side contains one of the largest surviving collections of medieval monastic buildings in England. Inside of it, the fine Norman nave built from east to west begins in 1100 and completed around 1139. Some architectural development over those four decades is visible: the shape in the arches is square until the sixth bay and rounded in subsequent bays. The floor and ceiling are Victorian, around 1869 the pavement replaced rough stones, the wooden ceiling was painted by Henry Styleman le Strange and his friend Thomas Gambier Parry, two gifted amateurs. Off the south aisle of the nave is the Prior’s Door, which has a magnificent example of 12th century Romanesque carvings. Near to the Prior’s Door is Ovin’s stone, the oldest artefact in the cathedral. The inscription reads “To Ovin – give your light, O Lord and rest. Amen.” The lantern’s construction took 14 years to finish it. By 1340 the roof was covered in lead and the ceiling was carved and painted. The wooden stalls in the octagon area were designed by George Pace in 1978. Above the pulpit is a modern sculpture of Christ in Majesty by Peter Eugene Ball. The choir consists of two different periods of construction due to its styles. The first three bays are in decorated style of Gothic architecture. The six remaining bays are in the simpler Early English Gothic style. The choir stalls include many fascinating medieval carvings on the misericords. The canopies depict Old Testament biblical scenes on the south and New Testament biblical scenes on the north.

The Bishop Alcock’s chantry chapel is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England, with ornate stonework carved from chalky Cambridgeshire stone and a fan-vaulted ceiling. The statues which once filled the niches were destroyed at the Reformation. The Lady Chapel was built from 1321 to 1349, it once looked much different than it does today. The walls were bursting with colourful paintings, the windows were filled with the finest medieval stained glass, and the niches were home to exquisite statues. But all was destroyed, but even the badly damaged state it provides an idea of what it must have looked like. The chapel became a parish church after the Reformation, but was returned to the cathedral in 1938. The unusual sculpture of the Virgin Mary that stands above the altar is by David Wynne (2000). Housed in the south triforium near the main entrance at the west end is a Stained Glass Museum, which displays examples of stained glass from 1240 to the present day.

 

Taj Mahal

"The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."

The Taj! An awe-inspiring poetry in marble stands high and serene by the banks of the River Yamuna is an inspiring result of the application of architectural and scientific research." from Taj Mahal Official Website

Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658), grandson of Akbar the great, in the memory of his queen Arjumand Bano Begum, entitled Mumtaz Mahal a Muslim Persian princess. The queen’s real name was Arjumand Banu. In the tradition of the Mughals, important ladies of the royal family were given another name at their marriage or at some other significant event in their lives, and that new name was commonly used by the public. She died while accompanying her husband in Burhanpur in a campaign to crush a rebellion after giving birth to their 14th child. When Mumtaz Mahal was still alive, she extracted four promises from the emperor: first, that he build the Taj; second, that he should marry again; third, that he be kind to their children; and fourth, that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary. But this has not been proven to be true, till date.

According to legend, after his wife’s death, Shah Jahan reportedly locked himself in his rooms and refused food for eight days, when the emperor emerged from his seclusion, his black beard visible in many Mughal miniature paintings had turned completely white. For the monument to his wife, Shah Jahan chose a site occupied by sprawling gardens on a bend in the left bank of the Yamuna River. Six months later, her body was transferred to Agra to be finally enshrined in the crypt of the main tomb of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is the mausoleum of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan. The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631 and it took approximately 22 years to build it. It made use of the services of 22,000 labourers and 1,000 elephants for the transportation of the construction materials. The materials used in the Taj Mahal complex are bricks, sandstone and white marble. Brick sizes varied between 18-19 x 11-12.5 x 2.3 cm, a standard size since Akbar’s rule. These bricks were baked in kilns on the outskirts of Agra. The sandstone used in the complex has a colour varying from soft red to red with a yellow tint. White marble came from the quarries of Makrana in Rajasthan, approx. 400 kms southeast of Agra. The marble used in the complex was a white one with black and grey streaks.

The greatest technical problem in the construction of the Taj Mahal was its heavy superstructures near the riverfront. This was accomplished using wells cased in wood and filled with rubble and iron, spaced at 3.75 meters on center. Precious and semi-precious stones are used in the decoration of the mausoleum than elsewhere in the complex. These stones include lapis lazuli, sapphire, cornelian, jasper, chrysolite and heliotrope. A strict discipline in colours and decoration is visible in the detailed ornamentation of the Taj Mahal. Floral relief carvings are found on the marble and sandstone walls; these carvings are stylistically related to the pietra dura work, yet are worked according to the material of the building they adorn. The Taj Mahal architecture is a kind of fusion of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture. Specific design credit is uncertain, and is given by different sources to Istad Usa, Ustad Ahmad Lahori, Isa Muhammad Effendi or Geronimo Veroneo. But construction documents show that its master architect was Istad Usa, the renowned Islamic architect of his time. The documents contain names of those employed and the inventory of construction materials and their origin. And how the entire complex is designed in such a way that the apparent organic unity of the whole does not obscure the individuality of any part, nor does it detract from the prominence of the Taj Mahal proper. It was completed in 1648 at a cost of 32 Million Rupees (more than 750 000 dollars).

 

Why are they worth preserving?


Now this can be a rather loaded question for people. Do you really want to spend the time and money required to preserve these places. In my opinion these places should be preserved and saved. I would rather have the option of visiting these places rather than learning about them from a book and that being the only option.


I believe that it is the obligation of governments to make sure that these important places are preserved for generations to come whether that is through government funds or having private funding from donations. This is just my opinion and obviously not a opinion that will be shared with everyone.

 

I hope that you enjoyed today's post. Had you heard of every one of these places. I had heard of most but it was fun to learn more about them.

 

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