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A woman in pink dancing in front of the Taj Mahal

Monuments to love: Impressive structures built to remember lost loves

The Taj Mahal would've cost over $1 billion in today's money | Image: Shutterstock

‘'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ - Alfred Lord Tennyson

It is one of the greatest poems of all time. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H is a requiem for a friend who passed away suddenly in the 1830s. It might be the best poem ever written about mourning and grief, and it took him 17 years to complete.

The heart of history beats with stories such as this. Whilst Tennyson chose the medium of poetry to remember and honour his beloved friend, others have built monuments, buildings and even entire cities in memory of a deceased loved one.

Here are six examples of when love has known no bounds and has led to heaven and earth quite literally being moved in dedication.

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognisable buildings on this planet and its image has been shared across the globe. It is the ultimate monument dedicated to love and deserves its place as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The ivory-white mausoleum was constructed around 1653 at a cost estimated to be over $1 billion in today’s money.

Sitting on the bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra, the mausoleum was constructed on the orders of Emperor Shah Jahan. It housed the body of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal, who’d died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. Around 20,000 workers were required to complete the complex, which not only included the mausoleum, but also an impressive garden adorned with an iconic reflecting pool.

Kōdai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Some 3,500 miles to the east of the Taj Mahal in Kyoto, Japan, lies another outstanding monument dedicated to lost love. Established in 1606, the Kōdai-ji Temple was built in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a samurai and one of Japan’s greatest historical figures who passed away in 1598. The Buddhist temple was constructed on the wishes of Hideyoshi’s widowed wife, Kōdai-in, who wanted a place to pray for her soulmate.

She moved into the temple as a priestess upon its completion, residing there until her own death in 1624. She was also buried in the temple. The lavish and richly decorated interiors of the building are complemented and surrounded by immensely beautiful Zen gardens. The site has been designated as a Cultural Property by the Japanese government.

The Albert Memorial, London, United Kingdom

Unveiled in 1872, The Albert Memorial was built to commemorate the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s beloved husband. Albert had died in 1861 of typhoid fever, at the age of just 42.

The 176ft tall memorial was constructed in Kensington Gardens, London, and is considered one of the most ornate monuments in the city. Adorned with friezes, gilded bronze statues, and marble figures, the memorial celebrates Victorian achievement and architecture, as well as the life, interests, accomplishments, and passions of Prince Albert.

Antinoöpolis, Ancient Egypt

If impressive mausoleums, temples, and memorials weren’t enough for you, how about an entire city? That’s exactly what Roman emperor Hadrian did in 130 AD when he founded the city of Antinoöpolis in honour of his late lover Antinoüs, who had drowned nearby in the Nile earlier that year.

The site of the city already had some history. It was near an Ancient Egyptian village, as well as the location of Pharaoh Ramesses II’s great temple. Everything was raised to the ground, except for the temple, so the new city could be built. It would last until at least the 8th century AD before being abandoned.

Prasat Hin Phimai, Phimai, Thailand

The Prasat Hun Phimai is one of the grandest Khmer historical sites in Thailand. Built during the 11th and 12th centuries AD, Phimai was an important town at the time of the Khmer Empire, a powerful state in Southeast Asia. At the centre of the town sat the impressive temple, built in the same architectural style as Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The reason behind its creation is shrouded in Thai myth and legend about two tragic lovers.

The story goes that Prince Pajitt went in search of a wife, travelling far and wide looking for the future love of his life. He ended up falling in love with a pregnant widow, but the law forbade him from marrying her. Instead, Pajitt vowed to marry the woman’s unborn child, who was to be called Orapima. When Orapima was 16 years old, she married Pajitt and the two fell madly in love.

However, tragedy struck when a woodsman in the forest murdered Pajitt. Orapima took revenge on her husband’s killer before returning to her homeland in Phimai, where she ordered the construction of Prasat Hin Phimai. It was built as a sanctuary dedicated to Pajitt and decorated with scenes of their romance.

Ashton Memorial, Lancaster, United Kingdom

Affectionately known as the ‘Taj Mahal of the North’, the Ashton Memorial was commissioned by Lancaster millionaire industrialist Lord Ashton. Constructed in 1909, the memorial was a tribute to Ashton’s late wife Jessy who died five years earlier.

Sitting within Williamson Park, the folly is the focal point of the surrounding area, dominating the skyline at 150 feet tall and visible from miles around. Built with Portland stone, topped with a copper dome, and decorated with sculptures, the Sir John Belcher design has a claim to being one of the grandest follies in the country.