Mausoleums. For some people, having a ‘regular’ headstone simply doesn’t do the job. Some need to be remembered with prestige. Their final resting place has to be a grand mausoleum. An entire building which is made simply for the purpose of housing their remains – and sometimes some of their treasures and things of use in the afterlife as well.
They might be built to be a grave, but when it comes to honoring the dead inside, they are elaborately decorated and the finest architectural masterpieces. No doubt they will forever ensure the individuals and their legacy buried here will always be remembered.
When Mausolus, governor of the Persian Empire, died, his people built The Tomb of Mausolus in Halicarnassus. Antipater of Sidon was beyond stunned by the aesthetic superlative of the structure, so that he named it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ever since then, the term mausoleum has been used for all grand and famous tombs.
Mausoleums are way more than just pretty buildings, so make sure you remain respectful at all times.
Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is undeniably one of the most breathtaking buildings this world has to offer. It was built between 1632 and 1653 on the order of the 5th Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. What many people don’t know is that the story behind this architectural masterpiece is actually very sad.
Shah Jahan ordered this building to be built as a mausoleum for his favored wife Mumtaz Mahal. He promised her on her dying bed to build her the most beautiful grave in all of history. The Taj Mahal is an edifice of love. If you visit during sunrise or sunset, the white marble exterior reflects the sunlight in a wonderful way. No doubt you won’t feel love when visiting the most visited tourist destination in India.
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor Xi’an, China
Credit: Manoj kumar kasirajan / Unsplash
The mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor Xi’an is also referred to as the Qinshihuan Mausoleum. It was constructed over a time span of 38 years and was finished in 208 BC. The Qin capital Xianyang was divided into inner and outer cities, which is exactly what this mausoleum looks like as well.
It wasn’t discovered until the 1970s when farmers wanted to dig a well. They found the complex by accident, which seems nearly impossible since it stretches over an area larger than the Pyramids of Giza.
In the mausoleum itself, archaeologists found the so-called ‘Terracotta Army’. It is an army of over 8,000 stone soldiers, 130 chariots with over 520 horses and 150 calvary horses. They stand beneath a dome-shaped tomb and are supposed to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
The exterior of the Shah-i-Zinda (“The Living King”) in Uzbekistan includes mausoleums and many more ritual buildings. The construction process took over eight centuries, from the 11th to 19th, and the complex covers over 20 buildings.
The actual Shah-i-Zinda building is connected to a famous legend. Qutham ibn Abbas, who was the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, is supposedly buried here. He came to Uzbekistan during the Arab invasion in the 7th century and preached Islam.
It holds the remains of many unknown people, but also several known people, which is why some visitors come here to make a pilgrimage. Make sure to always remain respectful and modest.
Mausoleum of Hadrian, Italy
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, also called Hadrian’s mole, in Italy was built from 117 to 138 AD. It is a burial place for the Roman emperor Hadrian. It once was the tallest building in Rome and overlooked all other architecture. His ashes were buried one year after his death with those of his wife and first son. To continue the tradition, many more remains of following emperors were also buried here.
This building has lived second (and third) lives as well. It was later on used as a fortress and castle by the popes. This is how it came to its second name, “Castel Sant’Angelo”. Today, it is an art and history museum, and is open to the public.
Tomb of Jahangir, Pakistan
The Tomb of Jahangir dates back to the 17th century and is home to the remains of Mughal emperor Jahangir. He ruled the Mughal Empire from 1605 to 1627 CE.
It is most famous for its exceptionally decorated interior with frescoes and marble, but also its richly decorated exterior with pietra dura.
Moreover, many surrounding gardens give a calming atmosphere and were a favorite spot of Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan. The mausoleum of Nur Jahan is close by, so they are not far from each other, even in death.
Btw: His son, succeeding the Mughal Emperor, was Shah Jahan. Yes, you’ve read that name before. Shah Jahan was the one who ordered the Taj Mahal to be built.
Lenin Mausoleum, Russia
The Lenin Mausoleum in Russia is located in Moscow’s Red Square. Obviously to be recognized by its name, it holds the remains of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was the first and founding head of Soviet Russia and of the Soviet Union. It was under his reign that Russia (and the Soviet Union) became a one-party socialist state. He was a Marxist, but developed the communist ideology called Leninism.
The mausoleum holds his actual preserved corpse on display in a coffin, since his death in 1924. They actually have an embalmers team to ensure his corpse looks as lively as possible at all times.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
Who doesn’t know The Great Pyramid of Giza. It’s not a question, it’s a fact. It is the oldest of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the oldest and largest of all the pyramids in Giza. It reaches up to 481 feet and was the tallest man-made structure for nearly 4,000 years. Nobody knows how this could have been built in 2560 BC.
Egyptologists conclude that its purpose was a mausoleum for the 4th Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. It houses three main chambers. One was cut into the bedrock but was never finished. The Queen’s and King’s Chamber contain the sarcophagus and are higher up.
Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, China
The Mausoleum of Mao Zedong acts as the final resting place of Mao Zedong. He was the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party from 1945 until his death in 1976. Zedong was the leading political figure of the communist party.
Although he wanted to be cremated, his body was embalmed and is now on display in a crystal coffin. The construction of the mausoleum began immediately after his death. You must dress modestly and cannot bring a camera.
Imam Husayn Shrine, Iraq
The Imam Husayn Shrine is incredibly large and colorful. The site is decorated with gold and painted tiles and incredible to look at, especially when it’s illuminated at night. It is the burial site of Husayn Ibn Ali, who was the third Imam of Islam, and the grandson of Muhammad. For those of you who don’t know what an Imam is, it is a description of the person who leads prayers in a mosque. Especially for those who succeeded Muhammad as the leader of Shi’ite Islam.
This mausoleum is located in Karbala, Iraq, and it is one of the holiest sites for Shi’ite Muslims, besides Mecca and Medina. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but have to make sure to behave in a respectful way to the religious significance of the Imam Husayn Shrine.
Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Morocco
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is located across from the Hassan Tower in Morocco and contains the remains of Moroccan king Mohammed and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. Vietnamese architect Cong Vo Toan designed this complex in modern Alaouite dynasty architecture.
The interior is made of white marble and the exterior shows white walls with a green-tiled roof. Rich materials and historical crafts were used to pay tribute to Mohammed V, but also to his efforts in encouraging traditional craftsmanship.
Artigas Mausoleum, Uruguay
José Gervasio Artigas Arnal was a famous politician, military general, statesman and hero in Uruguay. He fought the Spanish Empire in the Latin American wars of independence, to name one of the most famous ones. People refer to him as the Libertador of Latin America and the ‘Father of Uruguay’.
The Artigas Mausoleum is a monument built to praise José Artigas. It opened in 1977 and houses the remains underneath the statue.
Lincoln Tomb, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln was undeniably one of the most significant presidents of the United States of America. He was the first republican president and the first to fall victim to an assassination. Lincoln was an opponent to slavery, which caused 11 states to create the confederate States of America. He successfully led the rest of the states through the civil war and enforced the restoration of the Union. Afterwards, he abolished slavery once and for all.
It was due to his work, that the US embarked on a path of becoming the modern and industrial superpower they are today and have been for many years.
The Lincoln Tomb in the Oak Ridge cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, and his sons Edward, William, and Thomas. It is a building of granite and is a National Historical Landmark since 1960.
Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, Algeria
You can find The Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania on the road between Cherchell and Algiers in Algeria. It allegedly holds the remains of King Juba II and Cleopatra Selene II. They were the last king and queen of Mauretania, a tribal kingdom which nowadays is Morocco.
“Allegedly” is the right word to use. The actual human remains have not been found yet, but this could also be due to tomb raiding.
Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, China
Genghis Khan was the founder of the Mongol Empire and came to power because he united nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. He started the Mongol invasions, which then increased the Empire up west Poland and south until Egypt. His campaigns caused significant geographic changes and an immense decline in the population. He died in 1227 and his body was buried in a secret place.
The cenotaph (coffin that contains no body) only displays the Khan’s headdress and accessories.
Bourguiba Mausoleum, Tunisia
The Bourguiba Mausoleum is in Monastir, Tunisia. It is of great significance to the Tunisian. Habib Bourguiba is the “father of independence”. He was prime minister and then the first president of Tunisia. During this time, he led the nation of Tunisia to independence from France and earned the title of “Supreme Combatant”.
It was built when he was still alive and follows a modern Arab-Muslim style. The mausoleum is flanked by two 25-meter-high minarets and is topped with a golden dome surrounded by two green domes.
The Pantheon in Paris is a tribute to the Pantheon in Rome. Pantheon is the Greek word for temple to all the gods. You can find the Paris Pantheon in the Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement of Paris) in the center of the Place du Panthéon.
It was originally a church, but after many changes it now combines many liturgical functions with being a burial place. And not just any burial place. The French Pantheon houses the remains of many well-known French people. Some of them include Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, and Zola.
The Anitkabir is the final resting place and mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He was the leader of the Turkish independence war and became the first president of the Republic of Turkey. His mausoleum was finished in 1953 in Ankara.
It is not only the last place for Atatürk, but also for Ismet Inönü, the second president of Turkey. The mausoleum includes several towers which all have different meanings. For example, the Freedom Tower shows an angel with a sheet of paper and a horse next to it. The angel obviously symbolizes the holiness of freedom, which has become Turkish reality with the piece of paper representing the declaration of freedom.
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Russia
The Peter and Paul Cathedral was the first landmark in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was built between 1712 and 1733. It is the highest Orthodox church in the world. Its tombs hold the remains of almost all Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II. The graves of the rulers and families are enormously extravagant and lavishly decorated.
Feature image credit: Einar Storsul / Unsplash