Love has moved us for centuries to create works of art and remembrance that capture the soul with breathtaking beauty.
For many, a simple grave marker or headstone isn't enough. Throughout the centuries, mausoleums have been built to commemorate the loss and lives of those dearest.
Mausoleums are often large, sprawling, and ornate structures found in cemeteries around the globe. While many of us may think they are built solely to house the remains of the deceased, this is surprisingly not always the case. Many mausoleums are elaborate structures meant to be memorials or elegant buildings that designate an area for family plots.
But where did the word mausoleum come from? The tomb of Mausolus was built at Halicarnassus for Mausolus, a governor in the Persian Empire. The structure at the time was considered to be such a triumph that Antipator of Sidon identified it as one of his Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While the word has been associated with many grand tombs, we would love to share today the most beautiful mausoleums in the world.
Unfortunately, the tomb of Mausolus was damaged by an earthquake and eventually disassembled by European Crusaders during the 15th Century.
The Taj Mahal
Located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares or 42 acres in the Agra District in Uttar Pradesh is the famous Taj Mahal.
Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, construction began in 1632 AD and was completed in 1648 AD, with the mosque, the guest house, and the main gateway on the south, the outer courtyard, and its cloisters were added and completed in 1653.
Contemporary court chroniclers described Shah Jahan's grief at her death as so immense that he became inconsolable and withdrew from court, going into private mourning for a year. When he emerged, it is said that his hair had turned completely white, his back had bent, and his face had worn and aged years. Mumtaz's eldest daughter, Jahanara Begum, gradually brought her grieving father out of his shell.
The Taj Mahal is counted as the most significant architectural achievement in the entire range of Indo-Islamic architecture. The Taj is also one of the most well-preserved, most beautiful tombs in the world and a great wonder of India. Called "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity," the monument has several integrated structures, reflecting pools and lush gardens with flowering trees and bushes.
Standing within the Latin Quarter in Paris, France, atop the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, is an edifice called the Panthéon within the center of the Place du Panthéon (which it was named after.)
Constructed between 1758 and 1790 at the behest of King Louis XV of France and designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, the king initially intended the building to be a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve, Paris's patron saint.
When it was complete, the French Revolution had begun. The National Constituent Assembly voted in 1791 to transform it into a mausoleum for the remains of distinguished French citizens, modeled on the Pantheon in Rome.
It is an impossible piece of architecture to miss in the 5th Arrondissement, with towering spires and ancient Roman pillars that provide a stunning scene among Parisian buildings. Prominent French writers, philosophers, and even filmmakers are laid to rest within its walls, including Victor Hugo of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alexandre Dumas, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, and Emile Zola. Combining neoclassical and Gothic architecture creates impressive and dramatic interiors that have delighted and stunned millions.
General Grant National Memorial
The final resting place of President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, is the largest mausoleum in North America. It is a testament to the people's gratitude for the man who ended the bloodiest conflict in American history as the Commanding General of the Union Army and then as President of the United States. Known as Grant's Tomb by locals, the president's and his wife's remains lay within two red Montello Granite Arcophogi in the center of the round crypt, watched over by five busts of the Union Generals that served under Grant.
Inspired in part by Napolean's Tomb in Les Invalids and Helicarnassus in Ancient Greece, this gorgeous structure is rendered in an eclectic neoclassical style and adorned by Doric columns on the lower level with a circular cupola above. The tomb has stunning reliefs such as the tree of life, emblems and figures of the war, civilian life, and symbols of death, strength, and eternity largely created from Carrara and Lee marble from Italy.
Of course, our list of exquisite mausoleums is by no means exhaustive. Monuments that have been captured and held our imaginations for centuries exist all over the world. Still, these are just a few which we love that reflect deep respect, love, admiration, and artistry rarely found elsewhere.
While mausoleums are testaments to lives and love lost, they hold unparalleled beauty and history and deserve to be cherished and observed—helping the memory of those lost continue in memory.