March 31 is the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. To mark that, we offer a brief history lesson on other iconic monuments around the world.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, designed by Gustave Eiffel, was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. The 1,063-foot-tall tower — an antenna tacks on an additional 17 feet — is the most-visited paid monument in the world, receiving nearly 300 million visitors over 125 years.
The Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The 240-foot-tall palace was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India." It welcomes some 2 to 3 million visitors every year.
Leaning Tower of PisaThe Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower in Pisa, Italy. The tower's unintended tilt began during construction, which occurred in three stages between 1173 and 1372. The ground was too soft on one side to support the structure's weight, so it steadily began to lean. The tilt became gradually more prominent through the years, to a peak angle of 5.5 degrees, before the tower was stabilized in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It now leans at 3.99 degrees.
Mount RushmoreThe Mount Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone, S.D., is one of the most iconic monuments in the world. The sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore depicts 60-foot-tall images of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose these four because of their roles in preserving the country and expanding its territory. Borglum and 400 workers spent 14 years (1927 to 1941) sculpting the images at a cost just south of $1 million.
The Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with a lion's body and human head, located on the west bank of the Nile River in Giza, Egypt. The Sphinx, 241 feet long by 66 feet high, is believed to have been built by ancient Egyptians during the reign of Pharoah Khafra (circa 2558-2532 BC). Other wild theories suggest that the Sphinx, and the nearby Great Pyramids, were built 10,000 years before the ancient Egyptians, possibly by aliens.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. Archaeologists believe the double ring of standing stones — 130 remain today — was built in various stages between 3100 BC and 1500 BC. It has been estimated that the three phases of construction required an astonishing 30 million hours of labor. Theories on the purpose of Stonehenge's existence range from human sacrifice to astronomy.
The Colosseum, or Coliseum, is an elliptical amphitheatre in the heart of Rome, used for gladiatorial contests, executions and other public spectacles. Dating to 80 AD, the Colosseum is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. The partially ruined structure was damaged by earthquakes and stone-robbers over the years yet remains one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions.
Christ the RedeemerChrist the Redeemer, standing on the peak of Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world until 2010, when it was topped by Christ the King in Poland. The statue of Jesus Christ measures 98 feet tall, not including the 26-foot pedestal, and its arms stretch 92 feet wide. The symbol of Brazilian Christianity was dedicated on Oct. 12, 1931.
The Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, completed in 1481, is renowned for the frescos that decorate the interior, with Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling serving as the centerpiece. Besides being a major tourist attraction, one of the functions of the Sistine Chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive pope in a conclave of the College of Cardinals. If white smoke appears from a recently installed chimney, a new pope has been elected.
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture in New York City. The statue, designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886, depicts a robed Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. With chains lying at her feet, a torch in her right hand and a tabula ansata (tablet evoking the law) in her left, Lady Liberty is an icon of freedom.
Big Ben is the nickname for the bell inside the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. The 315-foot tower, now officially called Elizabeth Tower after being renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, contains the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. The tower is often in the establishing shot of movies set in London.
St. Basil's Cathedral
The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, more commonly known as St. Basil's Cathedral, is a former church in Red Square in Moscow. The building, constructed to resemble a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, was built from 1555 to 1561 on orders from Ivan the Terrible. Now a museum, it commemorates the capture of Kazan, which signaled the end of the Russo-Kazan Wars, and Astrakhan.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is a famous monument in Paris that honors soldiers who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The dense arch — 164 feet tall, 148 feet wide and 72 feet deep — at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle and along the path of Axe historique was designed by Jen Chalgrin and completed in 1836. Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honors the dead from World Wars I and II.
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel, the best-known of several Acropolises spread all over Greece. An acropolis (meaning "The Sacred Rock, the high city") is a settlement constructed upon a piece of elevated ground for purposes of defense. The Acropolis of Athens, thought to have been inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, contains the remains of several historically significant buildings, including the famous Parthenon.
The Great Buddha (Kōtoku-in)
The Great Buddha of Kamakura is an outdoor bronze statue of Amitabha Buddha at the Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The 44-foot-tall statue, weighing 267,000 pounds, was cast in 1252 and housed inside a wooden temple. But a tsunami washed away the structure, and the statue has sat out in nature since. The central teaching is that through devotion to Buddha, one will go to the Pure Land or "Western Paradise" after death.
The Washington Monument is the tallest true obelisk in the world, soaring 555 feet, 5 5/8 inches above the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The structure was built to commemorate the first president of the United States, George Washington. Approximately a quarter of the way up, there is a difference in the shading of the marble, showing where construction was halted in 1854. After 23 years of no activity, building resumed in 1877 and was finished in 1884.
Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza
The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, known as "El Castillo" (the castle), is believed to have been built by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization sometime between the 6th and 9th centuries AD. El Castillo served as a temple to the god Kukulkan. Each of the pyramid's four sides has 91 steps, which, when added together plus the temple platform as the final step, produces 365 total steps (the number of days of the Haab' year).
Machu Picchu is an estate situated in the Andes mountains above the Sacred Valley in Peru. Built at the height of the Incan Empire around 1450, archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built for Inca emperor Pachacuti, who reigned from 1438 to 1472. The Incas abandoned the site about 100 years later, at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Centuries later, Machu Picchu is a tourist site, and restoration work continues to this day.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications originally designed to protect the Chinese Empire against various intrusions. Several walls were built as early as the 7th century BC, and bigger strongholds were built to complete the chain now collectively referred to as the Great Wall. Archaeological surveys have put the total distance of the Great Wall, stretching from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Lake in the west, at anywhere from 5,500 miles to 13,171 miles.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles on the inside walls, is a historic place of worship in Istanbul, Turkey. In the wake of a brutal war with Persia, Sultan Ahmet decided to build a big mosque to calm God. Completed in 1616, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still used as a mosque today.
The Gateway Arch
At 630-feet high, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is the tallest man-made monument in the United States and the world's tallest arch. Situated on the shore of the Mississippi River, the stainless-steel arch was built as a gateway to the westward expansion of the United States. The concept and early funding began three decades before the arch was completed in 1965. The arch is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world with more than 4 million annually.