3D Mountain Monuments

How can we explain our fascination for building on mountain tops?

By Google Arts & Culture

By Frank ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

How do we explain our fascination for building on mountain tops? Over thousands of years and across different cultures all around the world, cities, temples, and monuments have been built on peaks at enormous cost and difficulty. 

The Parthenon (1871) by Frederic Edwin ChurchThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The varying structures built at these heights seem to indicate there are a number of key reasons why people have chosen to try and overcome these challenges. Let's take a closer look at some of the world's most iconic mountain top buildings to gain a better understanding.

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Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Perhaps one of the most recognizable monuments in the world and synonymous with the city itself, this statue of Christ sits on the 700 metre peak of Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city. Built between 1922 and 1931, the statue stands at 30 metres in height.

A symbol of the country's Christian heritage, the statue has been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. However, even non-believers can recognize the work as a symbol of peace and harmony, as well as its inherent beauty and iconic status. 

Equestrian statue of Genghis Khan near Ulaanbaatar (40m high - the largest in the world) - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, From the collection of: HUMAN
'Angel of the North' sculpture, Low Eighton, Gateshead, James O Davies, English Heritage, 2008-05-07, From the collection of: Historic England
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Monuments are often built at height in order to attain the maximum possible visibility. The mountain or hill top location gives the structure a certain prominence in any landscape. 

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore - South Dakota, USA

Sometimes it is the mountain itself that explains the location of a monument. Perhaps none more so than Mount Rushmore in the USA, where the mountain itself has become the structure. 

Featuring busts of four US presidents - Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and T. Roosevelt - the project began in 1927 and took 14 years to finish. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum used dynamite and a process called 'honeycombing' to create the 18 meter carvings out of the sheer rock face.

View from Table Mountain, From the collection of: South African Tourism
view of temple, John W Banagan, 2008-09-23, From the collection of: Getty Images
Zagori, Greece, Edward Lear, 1812–1888, British, 1860, From the collection of: Yale Center for British Art
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The elevated position can be a major tourist attraction, offering superb views in all directions or for religious structures it may be an attempt to get closer to god or the heavens.

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The Parthenon - Athens, Greece

This former temple sits atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Dedicated to the goddess Athena, construction was started in around 447 BCE. It is considered one of the most important remaining buildings from the classical Greek period. 

The decorative features of the building are considered to be one of the high water marks of ancient Greek art and the building itself one of the world's great architectural treasures. Its position on a hill above the city makes it a very visible symbol of worship and devotion. 

Machu Picchu, The Hopper/IC/Sibinacocha Collaborative
The Great Wall, From the collection of: Namhansanseong World Heritage Center
Eurailpass In Europe (Train Travel), Carlo Bavagnoli, 1970-07, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
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There are various other reasons to build on mountain tops, chief amongst them is the fact it provides an excellent defensive position and strategically makes a huge amount of sense. 

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The Alhambra - Granada, Spain

This hill top fortification was primarily built as a defensive position by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the founder of the Emirate of Granada. Work started in 1238 but continued at various intervals over the next few hundred years. As a result, the building is a mishmash of styles.

As one of Spain's premier tourist attractions, the Alhambra is visited by millions each year. But anyone visiting the city of Granada cannot fail to be impressed by this vast hilltop construction. 

Christ The Redeemer (1931) by Heitor da Silva Costa e Paul LandowskiRio de Janeiro Department of Conservation

Want to know more about Christ the Redeemer?

You can find an in depth study looking at this magnificent monument here.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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