15 Amazing Structures That Were Built To Last
There are now almost 7 billion people living on Earth. By 2050, UN estimates that the worldwide population will grow to 9 billion people. This means that more structures need to be built for shelter, to entertain and provide culture. Will this be a test against time – to build as much as possible in the shortest period of time or will it be a creative competition to construct inspiring buildings that will stand the test of time?
Here are 15 of the oldest buildings that were built by our predecessors, appreciated by us and to be cherished by our successors.
1. Keszthely Church – Keszthely, Hungary (620 years)
This Gothic parish church built in 1390 as a monument for Our Lady of Hungary is the signature building for one of Hungary’s oldest towns, Keszthely. In the 19th century, after the Turkish rule, the church was renovated in Baroque style, giving it an imposing neo-Gothic tower and rose windows. Some of the oldest frescoes dating from the 15th and 16th centuries were discovered at the Keszthely church in 1974 and are now available to the large audience for viewing.
2. Leaning Tower of Pisa – Pisa, Italy (638 years)
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of Duomo di Pisa (the main cathedral of the city). If it didn’t lean over time, it probably wouldn’t have gained a worldwide fame. The construction of the seven story high bell tower began 1172 AD and was fully completed 199 years later. The 58 meters (183 ft) high tower began sinking into the ground even since its construction. Due to the dangerous lean, between 1990 and 2001 the 5.5 degree angle that tower was at was reduced to 3.99 degrees. It is now a wonder of the Romanesque construction style and an inspiration for architects around the world.
3. Hohensalzburg Castle – Salzburg, Austria (548-933 years)
Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the biggest medieval castles of Europe. This massive castle is 820 ft (250) long and 492 ft (150 m) wide.
Construction began in 1077, during the rule of Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein. Although initially it was nothing more than a basic bailey surrounded by wooden walls, the castle was expanded in the next centuries to its current size. This is the first place in the world were a primitive funicular railway was implemented. It is now a top tourist destination in Salzburg and a must-see for those that enjoy visiting medieval attractions.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris, France (665 years)
Notre Dame is home to the Archbishop of Paris and is also considered to be the best example of French Gothic architecture in Europe. Despite suffering heavy damage at the hands of radicals during the French Revolution, it is still fully intact even after 600 years. Besides having a unique and sublime style, the cathedral hosts one of the biggest organs in the world – with more than 7,800 pipes. Notre Dame benefited from an extensive restoration in the 19th century and continues to be one of the best preserved Gothic cathedrals in Europe.
5. El Castillo – Chichen Itza, Yucatan (910-1209 years)
El Castillo (The Castle in Spanish) is the centrepiece of the Chichen Itza complex, which was built sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries AD. Like many Mayan step pyramids, it was built as a temple. El Castillo was dedicated to the Yucatec Maya Feathered Serpent deity. The astonishing building is 30m high, including the temple on the very top. There is also a hidden temple built within the pyramid which contains a Chac Mool Statue and a throne in the shape of a Jaguar. The pyramid was restored by the Mexican authorities in the 1920s and to preserve it better, was recently closed to public. This wonderful 9 level pyramid can now be admired just by walking around the edifice.
6. Cathedral of St. Nishan – Haghpat, Armenia (1019 years)
The Cathedral of St. Nishan is over 1000 years old and is still fully intact. Apart from two minor restorations carried out in the 11th and 12th centuries, it has been untouched for over a millennium. The Cathedral is located in Haghpat, Armenia and is acknowledged by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the religious architecture. The structure was built halfway up a hillside, to symbolize a monastic humility to God. It is dedicated to Saint Nishan and in 1996 it was listed as a World Heritage Site, to celebrate its long stamp on history. The church was hit by several major earthquakes, it has suffered numerous military attacks but it is still left standing.
7. Borobudur – Magelang, Indonesia (1210 years)
Borobudur is a Buddhist shrine built upon nine platforms with thousands of Buddha statues. It was completely built in 800 AD from stones taken from nearby rivers. The structure is one of the last standing wonders of the Srivijayan Empire. The exact purpose of the building remains unknown, but the temple became an extremely popular pilgrimage spot for Buddhists all over Asia. Archaeologists say that it was abandoned from the 14th century and it wasn’t re-discovered until the 19th century. A major restoration took place from 1975 to 1982, involving no less than 600 experts. The $7 million renovation project transformed Borobudur in one of the most popular landmarks in Indonesia.
8. Todaji – Nara, Japan (1250 years)
Todaji is one of the most famous temples in Japan and definitely a landmark for the city of Nara. The Great Eastern Temple (the translation from Japanese) was built in 752 and nowadays holds the record for the largest wooden building in the whole world. Legends say that 2.6 million people helped build the Buddhist temple. The Great Statue of Buddha sheltered in this temple consumed all of Japan’s bronze production and by 751 almost lead the country to bankruptcy. The temple was devastated by several fires and the version that stands today is almost two thirds of the original size.
9. Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey (1473 years)
This is definitely one of the greatest buildings of Turkey and a landmark of Istanbul. Construction at Hagia Sophia was completed in 537, after only five years of intensive working. Since then it was an Orthodox patriarchal Basilica, a mosque and nowadays it is a museum. The 180 ft (55 m) high structure is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. It is beautifully decorated with artistic mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. For over a millennium after its construction, Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world.
10. Euphrasian Basilica - Poreč, Croatia (1611-1709 years)
Accidents, fires and even earthquakes did not affect this amazing Basilica. The most striking mark of the Basilica is the 6th century mosaic, considered to be one of the greatest examples of Byzantine art around the world. The intricate wall mosaics were designed by Byzantine masters, while the floor mosaics were crafted by local experts. The Basilica is part of an amazing complex, including: a 16th century bell tower, a colonnaded atrium, an Episcopal 6th century residence and a trefoil-shaped memorial chapel. Due to its immense cultural value, the Euphrasian Basilica was added to World Heritage List in 1997.
11. Amphitheatre of El Djem El Djem, Tunisia (1711-1809 years)
The Amphitheatre is believed to be the third largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire and would have seated 30,000 people in its prime. It was built when El Djem was still under Roman occupation, then known as the city of Thysdrus. In 1904, a hidden basement area was discovered. This area is split into two vaults, which were used for hosting both the wild beasts and gladiators. 1800 years later, during World War II, the amphitheatre was used as a refuge for the German forces. Although the Southern galleries are damaged, the biggest part of the amphitheatre is still standing and is open to the public.
12. The Pantheon – Rome, Italy (1884 years)
The Pantheon was built 126 AD to honour all the gods of Ancient Rome. It is 190 ft (58 m) high and wide and 276 ft (85 m) long. The most impressive feature of the building is the 4,535 tons rotunda. This has a central opening (an oculus) throughout which the sunlight can get inside. The arched vault in the interior represents the vault of heavens, the oculus and the entrance in the dome being the only sources of light. This impressive and unique structure was also used as a Christian church in the 18th century. More than 34 buildings all over the world were inspired by this famous landmark and who knows how many are yet to come?
13. The Colosseum – Rome, Italy (1930 years)
Construction of the Great Coloseum (originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre) started in 70 AD under the Emperor Vespasian. It was finally finished in 80 AD and inaugurated by Vespasian’s son Titus. During the Inaugural Games over 9,000 animals were slaughtered to underline the importance of Rome and the grandeur of the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Empire. The structure wasn’t always used as an amphitheatre though, since in the 12th century it was fully fortified by the Frangipani family who used it as a castle. Although it still stands proudly in Rome as the top tourist attraction of the city, it suffered massive damage and nowadays only one fully built side is still standing.
14. The Great Wall Of China – China (2410 yeas)
It is fair to say that the Great Wall of China was more a long term project than a quick bodge job. Construction at this ambitious development started in the 5th century BC and it continued until the 16th century. With all its branches, the wall stretches on 5,500 miles (8,851 km) and still continues to be the largest defensive man-made project. The Great Wall protected the many different dynasties that have ruled China over the centuries, but nowadays is a top tourist destination in China. An urban legend says the wall is visible from outer space, but NASA proved that this wonder is barely visible from low Earth orbit (an altitude as little as 100 miles).
15. Great Pyramid of Giza – Cairo, Egypt (4570 years)
The Great Pyramid of Giza was built in 2560 BC. It stood the test of time for almost five millenniums and this is why nowadays is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The mass stone creation, built from approximately 2.3 million limestone blocks, is still largely intact. The pyramid took just 20 years to construct, a true record for that time and for its dimensions. Thousands of slave workers, intensive working and a technology yet unknown by the experts made this record possible. For 3,800 years, this was the tallest building in the world and represents another record of time. The Great Pyramid of Giza was built as an elaborate and extravagant tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. He was entombed in the King’s Chamber, one of the three known chambers within the Great Pyramid.