Explicit representations of the megalomania, power, and influence of the world’s political and religious leaders, both the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the New Seven Wonders of the World are fascinating in their greatness. They were born from the unquenchable thirst of mortals for immortality, who dared make a bet with Time and defy Nature’s many obstacles. Be it induced or acquired, religious and secular power need legitimacy. What better way to maintain it than by enforcing symbols reminding subjects of the unmatched greatness of gods and kings. While most authority emblems are respected and worshiped only locally, some became renowned throughout the world thanks to their ostentatious, out of the ordinary, colossal sizes. These giant symbols earned themselves a new identity, becoming wonders of the world.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the first list of its kind and includes Antiquity’s most remarkable monuments. A modern replica of the list was announced in June 2007, voted by over 100 million people from a list of 21 selected structures. The initiative of Bernard Weber, the New Seven Wonders of the World is a list of existing monuments, well preserved, the aesthetic works of human hands, built before 2000, that truly deserve to be called wonders, are open books of history, and priceless pieces in mankind’s enormous puzzle of world heritage.
7. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
Dominating Rio de Janeiro from the top of Mount Corvocado, the statue of Christ the Redeemer stands at an altitude of 2,329 feet on a pedestal that also serves as a chapel. Inaugurated in 1931, the idea of building a giant statue on the mountain as a landmark dates from 1921, when the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro decided to commemorate the Brazilian Independence Centenary. The Archdiocese organized an event called Semana do Monumento, “the monument’s week,” to draw donations, mainly made by Catholics. The cost to build the monument amounted to $250,000 in 1931, which would translate into $3.5 million today. Weighing over 1,000 tons, the giant statue can be seen both day and night from any corner of any neighborhood of the city.
6. El Castillo at Chichen Itza, Mexico
Located in the central-northern area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Chichen Itza is a pre-Columbian citadel, once the political and economical center of the Mayan civilization. The citadel was built around 600 AD, and its centerpiece is a Mesoamerican step pyramid, El Castillo, with a total of 365 stairs, the number of days in a year. The square based pyramid served as a temple and was designed so that during all equinoxes, the setting sun would cast a shadow resembling the figure of a snake descending the northern steps of the edifice. The serpent is in fact the allegorical representation of the Mayan god Kukulcan, also known as the Feathered Serpent. The citadel and pyramid were abandoned during the Spanish Conquest, and by the 19th century, the monument was already covered in vegetation. Nowadays, it has been brought back to light for visitors to rejoice in, but the cost to build and its architectural secrets remain a mystery.
5. Machu Picchu in the Andes, Peru
The famous Inca ruins discovered by archeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911 are among the loveliest and most enigmatic in the world. The city of Machu Picchu was built in stone between the wings of two ridges of the eastern mountain chain of the Andes, dominating the narrow and steep valley of the Urubamba River. At an altitude of 8,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by enough agricultural terraces to feed the entire population of the city, irrigated by natural springs, with palaces, baths, temples, barns, and over 150 houses enveloped in clouds, it is impossible to put a price tag on an ancient city. However, the sweat and hard work are definitely hard to beat. Some bricks weigh over 50 tons and are meticulously carved so that the mortar-free joints don’t allow even the thinnest blade to penetrate them. Built around 1450 as a retreat for the Incan emperor, it took almost 100 years to complete it, and was abandoned immediately after the Spanish Conquest.
4. The Ancient City of Petra, Jordan
A fabulous archeological treasure, the reddish city carved in the rocky cliffs at Petra is Jordan’s priceless gem. It laid hidden from the eyes of the Western world for over 2,000 years, until it was discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. The rosy city is 162 miles south of Jordan’s capital Aman, and is built on a terrace near the Valley of Moses. The “rose red city, half as old as time” counts over 2,600 years of history, and continues to fascinate with its massive architecture, large structures, an ingenious complex of water conduit systems, all of which stood the test of time. The legendary capital of the Nabateans, an Arab population which ruled the region until the Roman conquest, is a complex of temples and buildings carved in stone, the most famous of which is the Treasury, where the famous scenes from Indiana Jones and the Final Crusade were shot.
3. The Colosseum in Rome
Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, after Emperor Vespasian’s family name, the Colosseum is the most impressive building of the Roman Empire. Emperor Vespasian began building the Colosseum in the year 72 AD. After seven years of hard work and sweat, the edifice didn’t even reach a quarter of its height. But against all odds, one year later the magnificent edifice was dedicated, after Titus took over the throne. Festivities lasted 100 days. However, it was a couple of years later that his brother Domitian finally finished it. The giant amphitheater was built on the grounds of an artificial lake, part of a park constructed by Emperor Nero in the center of Rome, which included the Colossus, a giant statue of Nero, hence the name of the amphitheater. At first, it hosted battles between beasts, then it came the turn of men to fight the beasts, and finally gladiators who fought for life or death. Seating 50,000 spectators, it cost between $750 million and $1 billion in today’s money to build the colossal structure.
2. The Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal Temple is India’s greatest architectural monument, built by the grieving fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum that would shelter the body of his beloved third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess who died during the birth of their 14th child. Constructions of the fabulous monument began in 1642 and it took 20,000 workers, 1,000 elephants to carry the building materials, tons of sweat, and 22 years to finish. Built in white marble brought from many different countries, the Taj Mahal is decorated in Tibetan turquoise, Yemen agate, Ceylon sapphires, Persian amethysts, Arab corals, Chinese jade, Russian malachite, and pearls from the Indian Ocean. Its color appears to change depending on the time of day and moonlight. According to legend, the project is the work of famous Turkish architect Ustad Isa Khan. Upon completion, the emperor ordered his hand cut off so that he could never be able to create anything as spectacular as the Taj Mahal. Back in 1640, it cost $8 million to build, which would translate into over $1 billion in today’s money for India’s “crown of places.”
1. The Great Wall of China
One of human civilization’s greatest landmarks, the Great Wall of China stretches over deserts, plains, and mountains like a giant dragon. It took over 2,000 years to finish the wall, from the 7th century B.C. all the way to the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), and was meant to protect China from Mongol invasions, its greatest enemy at the time. The first and most remarkable section took 10 years to build. Following China’s unification by the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, between 221 and 206 BC, various sections of the wall were united. The biggest structure in the world, considering its volume, winds down to the north of the country, connecting Shanhaiguan to the east to Jiayuguan to the west, stretching for 3,889 miles. Made from brick, stone, wood, and tamped earth, it is believed that it would cost around $260 billion to build the Great Wall of China today. Back then, the people of China were forced by Emperor Qin Shi Hunag to build the wall without any pay. Many of them died of exhaustion and other diseases, as they had to carry enormous stones. The bodies were buried in pits near the wall, not in the wall itself as many legends imply, which would have led to weak spots that could have destroyed the Great Wall of China.