Even today, our ability to protect historical landmarks is limited. When we spend resources on maintenance and upkeep, we can do great things, but we are still powerless or limited in some things, such as our inability to stop earthquakes.
There are many examples of accidental or deliberate destruction of important buildings and monuments in history. Some of them are in the photos, others are in the artist’s renderings, and some are forgotten by time, so that they are not recorded at all.
Her Majesty’s Theatre Sydney
In 1933, a bulldozer drove into Her Majesty’s Theatre at the corner of Pete and Market Street. According to “The History of Australian Theatre”, Her Majesty’s Theatre has three floors, an electric chandelier, a magnificent marble staircase, and can accommodate 2,000 people. The original building was completed in 1887 and rebuilt after the fire in 1902, which lasted until the 20th century.
Unfortunately, the insurmountable disaster for Her Majesty’s Theatre is social progress. In the early 1930s, the theater announced that it would not make money at all. It paid nearly £1,000 for the new entertainment tax. At the same time, as potential customers abandon traditional theaters and choose new “sound movies”, its business also suffered losses. The final performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre was fixed on June 10, 1933.
We are very happy to see that in order to protect this old building, people have made some efforts, but it only took about a day from the formal closure to the demolition of the theater. The theater was demolished to make room for the Woolworth Store. Woolworth Store is actually a grocery store known for its “good quality and low price”.
Alexandria Lighthouse, Egypt
As early as 225 BC, the ancient Greek philosopher Fero wrote the “Seven Wonders”. He defined ancient buildings as “Mata”, which means “visible things”. Today, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only “single seedling” among the seven existing pyramids. The remaining seven wonders have been destroyed (or may never have existed, such as the “Babylon Hanging Garden”).
The Lighthouse of Alexandria is one of the seven wonders. It was built around 283 BC on Faros Island in Alexandria, Egypt. According to the Smithsonian, the lighthouse is 135.6 meters high (although it is a long way from the historical record), and there is also a huge burning brazier that helps guide ships along the dangerous coastline of the Nile Delta. “Egypt Tour” recommended that visitors to the lighthouse can buy food at the observation deck on the first floor of the three-story lighthouse building. History does not seem to remember whether the tourists also ignored the designated garbage storage and threw the wrapping paper everywhere.
The Alexandria Lighthouse was not razed to the ground by an earthquake until the early 14th century. The ruins remained for another century, until finally making room for the fortress that still stands today.
The Great Buddha of Bamiyan, Afghanistan
The Middle East conflict has caused us to lose many historical relics. In 2015, the “Islamic State” militants ransacked the Mosul Museum and destroyed ancient stone statues, precious books and manuscripts. This was an act of deliberate destruction of history. But before that, the Taliban had already targeted the ancient ruins. According to BBC reports, after members of this notorious armed group took control of Bamyan Province in Afghanistan, they forced some locals to carry explosives to blow up the two huge Buddha statues that had blessed Bamyan since the 6th century.
Alexandria Lighthouse, Egypt
The Great Buddha of Bamiyan, Afghanistan
The two Buddha statues-the larger of which is about 55 meters high-are carved on the mountainside and are the largest standing Buddha statues in the world. In 2001, the Taliban identified these statues as idols and ordered their destruction.
The BBC stated that the prisoners spent three days placing explosives around the statue, and then they connected them with wires to a nearby mosque where the explosives were detonated. The initial explosion did not completely destroy the larger statue, so they returned again with more bombs and explosives. It took 25 days for the Taliban to completely destroy the Buddha statue, after which they reveled by firing guns and killing cattle.
Beijing Old Summer Palace
When Britain was still trying to rule the world, it committed some terrible crimes in the name of politics. From the perspective of destroying property, the worst crime was the burning of China’s Old Summer Palace.
According to BBC reports, the Opium War was over and the British wanted the Chinese rulers to open their country to Western countries. Therefore, they sent a British and French coalition army to Beijing. After the end of the fierce attack on rural China, the British commander Lord Elgin sent a delegation to negotiate on China’s surrender, while the British and French forces went to the Summer Palace in Beijing to carry out some looting and looting. But when the delegation put forward their conditions, the Chinese all said “no” and they did not surrender.
After Lord Elgin found out, he ordered his troops to burn down the Summer Palace in retaliation.
Nanjing Porcelain Tower
Nanjing Porcelain Tower is a very tall pagoda and one of the most iconic relics in China. It was built by Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty to commemorate his mother (or possibly his parents) in 1412. The base is octagonal, with a diameter of nearly 30.5 meters and a total height of about 79 meters. The tower wall is actually made of ceramic tiles and looks very beautiful.
This porcelain tower has stood for more than 400 years, but it did not survive the “Taiping Rebellion” that captured Nanjing in 1853. By 1856, the tower had been completely destroyed, although no one seemed to know for sure whether the “Rebel Army” was out of superstition or because the tower was too easy to be used as a commanding height by the enemy and decided to overthrow it. We don’t know how the “rebel army” destroyed it.
Royal Malta Opera
Who doesn’t want to live in Malta, where the average daytime temperature is 22.8 degrees Celsius all year round? Besides, there are endless food, red wine and capers. This sounds great. But Malta is strategically located in the Mediterranean, and many people are targeting it.
The Opera House was completed in 1866. It is a gorgeous neo-Baroque building. It is considered the center of cultural life on the island. It can accommodate nearly 1,100 people and has 200 standing seats. Some of the most famous opera actors performed there at the time, and the building even survived a fire in 1873.
It is reported that on April 7, 1942, the Luftwaffe bombed the Royal Opera House in Malta, and they repeatedly bombed until the building was completely destroyed.
For the next ten years, the ruins of the Royal Opera House were hardly affected. Although people still had hopes of rebuilding this historic building, the remaining buildings were demolished. The opera house was eventually replaced by an open-air theater.
Rhode Island Colossus
The Colossus of Rhode Island is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. According to the “Encyclopedia of Ancient History”, this colossus is a bronze statue of the sun god Helios, which is over 34.8 meters high and guards the most important ancient port in the Mediterranean. The statue was built in 280 BC to celebrate the victory of the Demetrius troops that besieged the city in 305 BC. When Demetrius retreated, he left behind his war machine. The citizens were thinking: “Well, what should we do with these precious war machines?” Later someone came up with a brilliant idea, The bronze melted, and other weapons were sold to fund the construction of a huge statue.
The colossus was designed by Lindos’ sculptor Charles, who stood for more than 50 years and was destroyed by an earthquake. Fortunately, Charles adhered to the ancient anti-seismic design guidelines-according to legend, he died even before the statue was completed, so when this huge statue collapsed, there was no “scapegoat” around.
Great Aztec Temple
The Aztec Empire has been doing well until the arrival of the Spaniards. They said, “Hey, you have good things. Give it to us!” But the Aztecs said “No”, and the entire empire was destroyed within two years. Under the leadership of Hernan Cortes, the Spaniards did not hesitate to kidnap the Aztec leader Montezuma II, forcing him to declare allegiance to the King of Spain and hand over all his treasures.
However, the Aztecs were not particularly loyal to Montezuma, and when they saw Montezuma as a Spanish puppet, they stoned him to death. According to the “Encyclopedia of Ancient History”, the Aztec army used the 45.7-meter-high “great temple”-their central temple-as a staging area and dropped bombs on invading troops. After Cortez finally took control of the “Great Temple”, he decided to burn it down. After the Aztecs were defeated, the Spaniards removed the remaining stones and used these stones to build the “Cathedral of the Assumption” that still stands nearby.
The temple of 1520 may no longer exist, but there are at least six older temples underneath the “Great Temple”. It turns out that Aztec rulers like to own their own temples, so after inheriting power, they usually just build a new temple on top of the old temple.
Temple of Artemis, Greece
Cathedral of the Assumption
Temple of Artemis, Greece
To some extent, angry thugs wrote our history. This is not because angry thugs are usually not good at speech, but because if there are no angry thugs, many historical events will happen. In 1992, angry mobs rioted on the streets of Los Angeles, which caused mainstream white Americans to pay attention to the poverty of African Americans and police abuse (albeit for a short time). On the other hand, angry mobs were behind most of the atrocities of the French Revolution, and about 50,000 people were executed. In both cases, angry mobs changed the course of history.
Unfortunately, angry mobs usually cause collateral damage, whether accidental or deliberate. According to the “Encyclopedia of Ancient History”, in 401 AD, the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was overthrown by a group of mobs. It was rebuilt after arson in 356 BC and again after a brutal attack in 267. Unfortunately, it cannot survive in the Christian world. The temple became a symbol of paganism, and in 401 it fell into the hands of a group of Christian mobs led by St. John Christostrom. This incident earned Kristostom a suspicious title: “Destroyer of Demons and Destroyer of the Temple of Artemis”.
New York Penn Station
Not all landmarks in the world are old—modern history has produced some real architectural marvels, and perhaps it is because these buildings are relatively young that it is so easy for people to demolish them in the name of progress.
It is said that the demolished old Penn Station is one of New York City’s “largest construction losses.” This old building was built in 1910 and covers an area of 49 acres, modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla. The ceiling of the waiting room is 45 meters high, and the train station platform is located under the iron and glass canopy. But the glorious years of Penn Railway Station did not last long. By the 1960s, most passengers chose to travel by plane instead of train, and the station had fallen into disrepair. Only 54 years after the Pennzhou Railway Station was opened, it was planned to be demolished. More sadly, only 150 to 200 people participated in the protest.
The old station was replaced by a transportation hub design. However, bad things sometimes turn into good things. The razing of Penn Station to the ground largely gave birth to the Landmark Preservation Committee, which saved New York’s Grand Central Station and other historical landmarks.
Notre Dame Cathedral, France
Today, we are better at protecting our landmarks, but fire remains one of the most direct and unpredictable threats to the well-being of historic buildings.
In April 2019, a fire broke out in the historic Notre Dame Cathedral, which reminds us of a terrible fact. French officials believe that the cause of the fire may be a short circuit of electricity, but the final result is almost the same as that of the Royal Maltese Opera House and Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney that were destroyed by the fire-the wooden structure and some cultural relics inside were destroyed. According to CBS reports, most of the medieval stone sculptures survived, but the fire destroyed two-thirds of the roofs and spires. An expert estimated that it would take 3,000 large oak trees to completely replace the 13,000 beams on the ceiling. This means that before this work is completed, some ancient forests will have to sacrifice many ancient trees.
Wood is the main part of the loss, but some stone carvings need to be repaired and reinforced, and glass products need to be dismantled and rebuilt. All in all, it may take 20 to 40 years to restore Notre Dame Cathedral to its original appearance. Fortunately, the crown of thorns (believed to have been worn by Jesus during the crucifixion) was rescued from the fire, and the altar, golden cross, and 18th-century large organ also survived.