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10 Heritage Sites That Were Destroyed by Natural Disasters

heritage sites

Even the toughest of things and organisms are vulnerable to the destroying element of nature. In a very absolute sense, every act of precaution and preparedness is just a myth because apparently there is no limit to which nature can go to be disastrous. In the light of this idea, everything that exists is doomed to meet its end. Historic sites are no exception to this, and here is a list of 10 such heritage sites that were destroyed by natural disasters.

1. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, was damaged by earthquakes in the 10th and 14th centuries. Finally, it was demolished in 1480 and the Citadel of Qaitbay was established in its place. Some stones of the lighthouse were used in making the Citadel, but the rest of the remains of the building lay underwater.

Lighthouse of Alexandria
Lighthouse of Alexandria in 2017. Image credit: Mohammed Mahdy via Wikimedia.org

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as “Pharos of Alexandria,” was the most famous lighthouse of its time. It stood as a technological marvel like a mother of all lighthouses.

Lighthouse of Alexandria
Lighthouse of Alexandria in 2020. Image credit: Dalia Abdelhamid Farid Salem via Wikimedia.org

It was built by Sastratus of Cnidus on the island of Pharos in 280 BCE. The 350-foot-tall tower was constructed in three tiers. The base was a square, above it was an octagon, and the topmost part was cylindrical, each one of them sloping slightly inwards.

In 1944, the archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur found the remains of the lighthouse in the waters of Pharos. After research, it was concluded that the parts fell into the water because it was hit by three earthquakes between 956 and 1323 CE.

After its breakdown, the structure became an abandoned ruin but still managed to be the third-longest surviving ancient wonder.

The Egyptian government planned an underwater museum for divers to examine the statues, sphinxes, and the remains of the lighthouse. (1, 2)

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2. The Loon Church in Bohol, Philippines was a Roman Catholic Church whose parish was built by Jesuits in 1753. It was declared as a National Historic Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine authorities. Unfortunately, on 15 October 2013, the entire church building was destroyed by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

Loon Church
Church of Our Lady of Light in Loon, said to be the biggest church in Bohol. Image credit: Malou Buenconsejo via Wikimedia.org

Considered as a crowning glory, the Loon Church’s stone masonry construction commenced in 1855 and lasted for nearly 10 years. It was the grandest, oldest, and largest church in the town of Loon constructed during the Spanish colonial time of the Augustinian Recollect.

The Jesuits were expelled by the Spaniards in the year of 1768. The place was also used as a garrison in 1901 by  American soldiers.

Loon Church
The church was constructed in 1853. Image credit: Malou Buenconsejo via Wikimedia.org, Wikimedia.org

One of the features that distinguished the Loon church from others was the absence of a portico façade.

The earthquake in 2013 completely shattered the building and also hit the central area of Visayas. Along with the Loon Church, it took down churches in Baclayon, Dauis, Dimiao, Loay, Loboc, and Maribojoc.

Nonetheless, the restoration of the completely destroyed church was planned, and the work started and continued for eight years. It was restored in its entirety on 7 September 2021, and the Historic Commission handed over the church to the Diocese of Tagbilaran. (1, 2, 3)

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3. The last surviving of the six destroyed wonders was the Tomb of Mausolus. It was built between 353 and 350 BCE in Bodrum, Turkey. Because of its aesthetic triumph, it was also declared as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon. The tomb was destroyed by successive earthquakes from the 12th to 15th centuries.

Tomb of Mausolus
Old engraved illustration of Mausoleum at Halicarnassus during 1890s (Image to the left), Surviving substructures and ruins of the Mausoleum of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Image credit: Shutterstock

Located in southwestern Asia Minor, the tomb was dedicated to Mausolus, the ruler of Caria. The monument was built by his sister and widow in the city of Halicarnassus.

Also known as the “Mausoleum of Halicarnassus,” it was approximately 45 meters high and was surrounded by sculptural reliefs on all four sides that were created by different Greek sculptors.

The monument was almost like a square with 36 columns and the top consisting of a 24-step pyramid surrounded by a four-horse marble chariot.

Pieces of the monument were discovered in Bodrum Castle in the 19th century and are now kept in British Museum. The museum also stores the fragments of statues of Mausolus that were featured on the monument.             

The Mausoleum vanished because of the earthquakes between the 12th and 15th centuries, but the separated stones were used in making local buildings. (1, 2)

4. The colossal statue of the Sun god Helios in the Greek city of Rhodes named the Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The statue was destroyed in 226 BCE by a Rhodes earthquake followed by the remains being completely destroyed in the 7th century CE by the Arabs. 

Colossus of Rhodes
One of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”, the Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed in 227 BC by an earthquake. In this fanciful and imaginary depiction, the sun god. Image credit: flickr.com

Made of bronze, reinforced with iron, and weighted in stones, the Colossus of Rhodes was created by the sculptor Charles Lyndus. The making of the marvel started in 294 BCE and lasted 12 long years. It was an initiative to celebrate the successful defense of the city of Rhodes against  Demetrius Poliorcetes, of the attackers. The city was besieged by these enemies for a year using their large army and navy forces.

It is said that the statue stood 105 feet tall beside Mandrakion Harbor which is roughly the height of the Statue of Liberty from its feet to the crown. The statue of Rhodes was the tallest statue in the ancient world.

The colossus was toppled by an earthquake in 225 or 226 BCE, but it lay there until 654 CE. This is when Arabian forces infiltrated the city and completely broke it into pieces and sold its bronze for scrap. It is supposed that the fragmented Colossus of Rhodes filled up more than 900 camel loads. (1, 2)

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5. The Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch, New Zealand was one of the finest examples of church architecture in Australasia. It was also listed as a Category One Heritage Building. The cathedral faced heavy damage from the Canterbury earthquakes in 2010 and again the following year. It was finally ordered to be demolished in 2021 by Bishop Paul Martin.

Christchurch
DEC 06 2015:Damaged building, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, in Christchurch. Image credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

The foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid on 10 February 1901, and it took the contractors four years to completely build it. It was one of the largest churches in New Zealand and was opened on 12 February 1905.

Christchurch
May 06, 2016: Damaged Christchurch Cathedral demolished by an earthquake in February 2010 seen from Cathedral Square, New Zealand. Image credit: Hizor/Shutterstock

The architect, Francis William Petre, designed the church by mixing the old Roman basilicas style, neo-classical style, and took some inspiration from 18th-century French structures.

A distinctive feature of its interior was that it featured mosaic tiling in the sanctuary and ceilings of embossed zinc.

The first earthquake struck in September 2010, and the second in February 2011. The consequences were damage to the two west towers, the collapse of the south tower, and the north one losing its top. Also, the dome was shifted from its masonry and the façade also collapsed.

The cathedral was closed in September 2010. It was publically announced it would be demolished in August 2019, and the demolition was completed in 2021. (1, 2)

Also read: 10 of the Oldest Places From Around the World

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