Monday, April 13, 2009

Seven Wonders of the Medieval World

The seven representative sites in this list are the Stonehenge, Colosseum, Catacombs of Kom el Shoqfa, the Great Wall of China, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, Hagia Sophia, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Interestingly, many sites in this list were built much earlier than the Medieval Ages.
Stonehenge in Salisbury, England is a UNESCO Heritage site since 1986. This famous prehistoric monument has earthworks surrounding circular standing stones believed to have been erected around 2500 BC. The Stonehenge is owned and managed by the English Heritage. Professor Mike Parker Pearson, head of Stonehenge Riverside Project believes that the Stonhenge was a burial ground maybe from 3000 BC and might have continued so for the next 500 years when the giant stones were erected.

The Colosseum or Roman Coliseum (photo, left), a marvel of Roman architecture and engineering and one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions is an amphitheaterin the heart of the city of Rome. It is elliptical in design. With a seating capacity of 50,000, this served as a gladiatorial games, mock sea bottles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous bottles, and dramas from Classical mythology. Interestingly, the Colosseum is also depicted on the Italy's five-cent euro coin.

The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is a historical archeological site. historical archaeological site located in Alexandria, Egypt consisting of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues as well as objects of the Pharonic funeral, but with the passage of time, the Roman, Greek and Egyptian cultures had impacted these Catacombs as evidenced by the Roman clothes and the hair styles. A circular staircase was used to carry the deceased bodes leads down to the tombs. A very gruesome feature of this site is the Hall of Caracalla used for mass burial of humans and animals killed by the Emperor Caracalla.

The Great Wall of China (photo, right) was built between the 5th and the 16th century BC to protect the northern borders from Xiongnu attacks. This consists of a series of stone and earthen fortifications built by various dynasties during this long period of about 11 centuries. This UNESCO Heritage site stretches over 6700 km in total and was guarded by over one million men. An estimated 2 to 3 million Chinese had died during its construction extending over 11 centuries. The Great Wall concept was revived again during the Ming Dynasty following the Ming army's defeat by the Oirats in the Battle of Tumu in 1449. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper-hand over the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic tribes out by constructing walls along the northern border of China. Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert, the wall followed the desert's southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the Huang He. While some efforts are being made to preserve this Great Wall, urgent repair is needed at many places along this wall though no comprehensive survey has even been carried out. It is feared that about 60 km of the wall in the Gansu province may collapse very soon due to damage from sandstorms.

Next, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing also known as Bao'ensi (meaning "Temple of Gratitude") on the south bank of the Yangtze river. A 15th century monument designed by the Chinese emperor Yongle, this pagoda was built with white porcelain bricks that reflected the sun’s rays during the day. Glazes and stones worked into the porcelain produced a mixture of green, yellow, brown and white designs of animals, flowers and landscapes on the sides of the tower. Several images of Buddha decorated the tower. Originally built on an octagonal base, this tower had a height of 260 feet with nine stories with a staircase of 130 steps. A golden sphere marked the top of the roof. It was destroyed 400 hundred years later during the Taiping rebellion. The tower lost its top three stories due to lightening in 1801, but was subsequently restored. The tower is under reconstruction now.

Turkey’s Hagia Sophia was a patriarchal basilica, then a mosque and now a museum in Istanbul. Its massive dome reflects the Byzantine architecture. In 1453 after the capture of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II converted the building into a mosque. Various items such as the bells, altar, iconnostasis, and sacrificial vessels from the erstwhile Church were removed and various Islamic features were added by the Ottomans. For almost 500 years, this served as a mosque, and was converted into a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral of the city of Pisa. Although intended to be a vertical structure, it began leaning to the southwest shortly after the construction reached the third floor due to flawed designs. It is 186 feet in height and has 294 steps. The seventh floor was constructed in 1319. Each floor has a bell. The largest one was installed in 1655. The tower is now undergoing surface restoration to repair damages due to corrosion and blackening due to aging.

Source: Wikipedia
Images: Wikipedia

1 comments on "Seven Wonders of the Medieval World"

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