10 Historic Landmarks Lost to War

FUN FACTS September 26, 2017 By Vincent

War is hell. We know this and it robs us of life and our basic humanity, but it also takes from us our history and culture. When battling through great upheaval or for change, the destruction of iconic buildings and landmarks is probably the last thing on your mind but it still has a marked effect on global culture. Here are just 10 of the landmarks that have been destroyed due to war.

1. Religous Sites - Timbuktu, Mali

The city of Timbuktu has long held cultural relevance due to its Koranic university helping make it an intellectual and spiritual capital and a center for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. The city and its monuments are constantly under threat from creeping desertification but an attack on several sites and shrines in 2012 by Jihadists considering them idolatrous meant they were destroyed before their time.


The 15th century Sidi Yahya mosque was attacked along with mausoleums of Sufi saints and other places of cultural importance and in 2016, this destruction became the subject of the International Criminal Court’s first ever war crime trial for destruction of a cultural monument. Although many of the mausoleums have been rebuilt using traditional methods, the damage remains a shocking act of historical vandalism.

2. Jonah's Tomb - Mosul, Iraq

The Mosque of the Prophet Younis dates right back to the 8th century. As well as being a place of worship it is also supposedly the last resting place of the biblical prophet Jonah hence why it is sometimes referred to as Jonah's tomb.

A place of great importance to both Muslim and Christian worshippers, it was blown up by ISIS militants who thought the site had become a place of apostasy rather than prayer. 

3. Christchurch Greyfriars - London, UK

Built-in 1687 to replace another church that had burned down in the Great Fire of London 21 years prior, Christchurch Greyfriars was designed by legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren. When the Second World War rolled around, German Luftwaffe planes relentlessly bombarded the British capital with bombs during their Blitzkrieg raids and one of the victims of these bombings was Christchurch Greyfriars.

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Post-war it was decided that the structure would not be re-built but it did become a Grade 1 listed building in 1950 meaning it must remain untouched by development. Now a  beautiful rose garden that mimics the church’s former layout, it has become a place of calm serenity within the bustling crowds of the metropolis.

4. Old Summer Palace - Beijing, China

A luxurious palace built within the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Old Summer Palace the primary residence of members of the Qing Dynasty. However, during the 1860s, world powers wanted to open up China's lucrative opium market and made moves to secure preferential treatment or to force the Chinese government's hand.


This resulted in British and French armies burning the Palace down in a show of force and then locals pillaged much of the ruins for their own building materials. Now a beautiful park filled with lakes and a wide variety of plant life where visitors can stroll amongst what is left of this once regal building.

5. Arc of Triumph - Palmyra, Syria

Palmyra is an ancient city located in the middle of the Syrian desert. It dates all the way back to 1AD, being at the cultural crossroads for many of history's greatest empires but when, in 2015, it fell into the hands of ISIS forces, it became a city of ghosts as monument after monument was destroyed leaving little more than skeletal protrusions from the desert sand.

Syrian forces have now recaptured the city and there are plans to rebuild several of the destroyed areas. Earlier in the year, a replica of the Arc of Triumph was made and put on display in London's Trafalgar Square as a sign of defiance and also to show we should not forget history just because its physical remains are gone.

6. Museum of Islamic Art - Cairo, Egypt

A collection of some of the most important Islamic art and artifacts in the world, all housed in a magnificent building in the Egyptian capital. A suicide car bomb attack targeting the Cairo police headquarters next door left the building and many countless artifacts damaged.


It has been estimated that it could take up to $14 million to restore the building back to its former glory with both UNESCO and the United States donating considerable sums towards this figure. 

7. The Former Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall - Hiroshima, Japan

Designed by Czech architect Jan Letzel and constructed in 1915, the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, now often referred to as the A-bomb Dome, was supposed to echo European architecture and was used to hold events and exhibitions. When America dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the building was only 160 meters away from the center of the bast meaning that all inside died.


Due to the nature of the nuclear weapon, the air around the building was vaporized and so it did not collapse despite being so close to the explosion. Now it has become an even more important monument as it sits inside Japan's peace park and represents a desire for world peace, preserved in its current state as a reminder of the destruction humanity can bring upon itself.


8. Royal Opera House -Valletta, Malta

 Opened in 1866, the Royal Opera House was widely considered to be Malta's most beautiful building and became iconic of the work of English architect Edward Middleton Barry. Unfortunately, WWII took its toll on the small island along with its buildings which were mercilessly flattened by the Nazi Luftwaffe including the opera house.

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Post-war, various attempts to resurrect the building have stuttered until 2013 when the ruins were incorporated into an open air theatre called Pjazza Teatru Rjal  that fused history and contemporary design.


9. The Buddhas of Bamiyan - Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Towering high above those who passed through the valley of Bamiyan below, the giant statues of Buddha dated back to the 6th century and were an important testament to the Gandharan school of Buddhist art in the Central Asia. Located on part of the famou Silk Road, these giant representations of Buddhism were seen as an affront to the Islamic faith by Taliban fighters who controlled the region in 2001 and destroyed the carvings over a period of weeks.


Attempts to rebuild the Buddhas have been fruitless due to debate over sourcing and using original materials, leaving the alcoves, where they once stood, empty for the time being.

10. St Michael's Old Cathedral - Coventry, UK

Coventry was at the heart of Britain's industry during WWII and so the Luftwaffe targeted it heavily with bombings and attacks. One of the tragic losses of the city was St Michael's Cathedral which was left gutted after the vicious attacks.


Now, just a husk of its former self, the Gothic cathedral from the 15th century stands next to its far more recent counterpart linking the modern city to its troubled past. 

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