Bagan

Someone must have been really dedicated to building all those temples at Bagan.

  • Bagan is a highly religious, historical city located in central Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia, in the region of Mandalay.
  • ‘Bagan’ was also known as ‘Pagan’, both pronunciations of the native term ‘Pugan’, and the site is formally known as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’.
  • Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Empire (which covered most of modern day Myanmar) until 1297, as well as a centre of Buddhist thought and activity, and it was visited by many scholars from other civilisations.
  • At least 2200 temples and pagodas can be found in Bagan today, although it is thought more than 10,000 once existed, with each monument dedicated to Buddha.
  • The historical record known as the ‘Burmese chronicles’, documented that the Bagan civilisation was established circa 100 AD, although many historians refute this source and rather cite 800 AD as the founding century, as evidence for a kingdom prior to this time is scarce.
Bagan, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Buildings, Temples, Buddhism, Horizon, Ancient
Bagan
Image courtesy of Dieter Timmerman/Flickr
  • The total zone of Bagan covers an expanse of around 104 square kilometres (40 square miles), and at its peak, the city had a population of between 50,000 to 200,000 individuals.
  • The construction of the temples of Bagan were authorised by various kings of the Pagan Empire, and they were mostly built of stone, between 1044 and 1287 AD.
  • Bagan’s collapse occurred in 1287 AD, after Mongols invaded the Kingdom of Pagan for political reasons, which resulted in a drastic decrease of the number of residents living in the city.
  • Among other factors, a large number of earthquakes have contributed to the destruction of Bagan’s many temples, including the devastating 2016 Myanmar Earthquake.
  • In 1996, Bagan was considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to be listed as a World Heritage Site, however it was declined, said to be due to the poor and inaccurate restoration of many temples; though a resubmission date in 2018 is planned, at which time it will be reconsidered.
Bibliography:
Bagan, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagan
The Many Thousand Temples of Bagan, Myanmar, 2013, Amusing Planet, http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/04/the-many-thousand-temples-of-bagan.html
The Temples of Bagan, 2016, Pegu Travels Company Limited, http://www.go-myanmar.com/the-temples-of-bagan

 

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Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel would have been a terror of a fortress.

  • Mont Saint-Michel is an islet that contains a monastery, a village, and a fortification, situated roughly 600 metres (0.4 miles) away from the coast of France’s Normandy, in Europe.
  • Mont Saint-Michel sits at the mouth of the Couesnon River, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, as well as the surrounding area, and due to its unique location and historical significance, it is visited by around 2.5 million people each year, making it the most popular tourist site in France outside of Paris.
  • ‘Mont Saint-Michel’ is also known as ‘Mont St-Michel’, and ‘Le Mont St-Michel’ in French, and is translated into English as ‘Saint Michael’s Mount’; and the island is now mainly a tourist attraction and includes accommodation, restaurants, shops, and other facilities for visitors, though it still houses a community of nuns and monks.
  • Originally, Mont Saint-Michel was the site of a Gallo-Roman settlement from 500s to 600s AD, and was called ‘Mont Tombe’ at the time, and in the 1840s and 1850s it was home to more than 1,000 people, while in 2015, its population was 50.
  • Legend says that the first church of Mont Saint-Michel was built under the orders of the bishop Saint Aubert, early in the 8th century, but only after ignoring the instructions of Archangel Michael on a number of occasions, who is said to have commissioned the building, and subsequently had a hole burnt into his skull.
Mont Saint-Michel, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Monastery, France, Island, Castle, Sunset, Tide
Mont Saint-Michel
Image courtesy of Mike Norton/Flickr
  • Before modern times, Mont Saint-Michel was of strategic importance as it was only accessible at the quick-changing low tide, which meant that most attacking garrisons would drown or be forced to retreat.
  • In later centuries, due to a number of reasons including the building up of a causeway, silt began to mound around Mont Saint-Michel; however in 2006 a project was initiated by the government to restore the site using a hydraulic dam, and ridding the area of unnatural impediments, to enable the tides to flush out the silt naturally.
  • A bridge was completed in 2014, which connects the mainland to Mont Saint-Michel, and during a supertide in March 2015, the bridge became fully submerged.
  • To reach the top of the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which was built and expanded upon from the 11th to the 16th centuries, one is required to ascend approximately 900 steps.
  • The island of Mont Saint-Michel covers an area of approximately 5 hectares (12.6 acres), with a natural height of around 80 metres (262 feet).
Bibliography:
History, 2010, Mont Saint Michel, http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/histoire.htm
Mont Saint-Michel, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint-Michel
Mont St-Michel, Pontorson, 2016, Sacred Destinations, http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/mont-st-michel

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Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih is a place for pilgrims.

  • Pura Besakih is a group of temples found in Indonesia’s Bali, in South East Asia, and they sit part way up the side of Mount Agung, at approximately 1000 metres (1093 yards) above sea level.
  • Pura Besakih is also known as ‘Besakih Temple’, and ‘Bali’s Mother Temple’, and the name ‘Besakih’ is said to be derived from the original name for the place ‘Basuki’ which is a reference to a dragon deity said to dwell on the mountain.
  • Twenty-three temple complexes make up the precinct of Pura Besakih, and this encompasses more than 80 temples, while Pura Penataran Agung is the largest and most significant of them all.
  • Pura Besakih is used by the Hindu religion throughout Bali, and is among the most sacred and important Hindu sites on the island.
  • Many of the temples of Pura Besakih appear to be like a step pyramid in shape, and stone is commonly used in the construction of the buildings.
Pura Besakih, Bali Indonesia, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Temples, Asia, Horizon
Pura Besakih
Image courtesy of Juan Antonia F. Segal/Flickr
  • Pura Besakih is a notable location for numerous festivals and events, numbering 70 different ones, or more, every year.
  • Pura Besakih is considered an ancient religious site, however it is not known when the first temples were built, although it is suspected that some were built in the 700s AD, and others built up until the 1340s.
  • Over 100,000 people visited Pura Besakih in 2013, however, many people do not rate their experience highly due to the unrestrained locals who are said to harass visitors for payment of various services and access to the temple complex.
  • Pura Besakih can be very busy during the day, due to the many visitors and local vendors, so it is best visited early morning or evening, and a sarong is required to be worn at all times.
  • Mount Agunga is a stratovolcano that erupted in 1963, spewing lava that narrowly dodged the temples of Pura Besakih; an event often considered a miraculous sign by the Hindu community.
Bibliography:
Besakih Temple in Bali – Pura Besakih, 2015, Bali, http://www.bali-indonesia.com/attractions/besakih-temple.htm
Pura Besakih, 2015, Bali, http://www.bali.com/temple_Pura-Besakih_83.html
Pura Besakih, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pura_Besakih

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Hagia Sophia

Nothing can tear down Hagia Sophia.

  • Hagia Sophia is a building located in Turkey’s city of Istanbul, in Europe, initially built as an Eastern Orthodox church, and the UNESCO World Heritage Convention included it as part of the ‘Historic Areas of Istanbul’ World Heritage Site in 1985.
  • ‘Hagia Sophia’ translates as ‘holy wisdom’, and it is also known as the ‘Church of the Holy Wisdom’ in English, as well as ‘Sancta Sophia’ in Latin and ‘Ayasofya’ in Turkish.
  • Two churches were previously constructed on the site of Hagia Sophia, in 360 and later in 415, however both were destroyed by arson due to riots.
  • The third and existing Hagia Sophia building was built from early 532 until late 537, under orders of Emperor Justinian I, and in excess of ten thousand people are said to have contributed their work to the construction of the church.
  • Hagia Sophia is made primarily of stone and brick, with marble low relief work and pillars common throughout the building.
Hagia Sophia, Temple, Place, Constantinople, Istanbul, Turkey, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Musuem
Hagia Sophia
Image courtesy of Dennis Jarvis/Flickr
  • A dome tops the construction of Hagia Sophia, which spans 31 metres (102 feet) in diameter, and the dome has been reconstructed or renovated on a number of occasions, which has caused its originally spherical shape to be a little skewed.
  • A number of disasters have been inflicted onto Hagia Sophia, particularly during its earlier years, from earthquakes to fires, though the current building has survived over 1400 years.
  • Hagia Sophia was used as an imperial mosque from 1453, and in 1935 it was turned into a museum after orders by the then Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
  • The paintings, mosaics, and other artwork in Hagia Sophia have become increasingly jeopardised by water from leaks, as well as increased humidity.
  • Hagia Sophia reaches a total height of 55 metres (180 feet) and has the base dimensions of 73 by 82 metres (240 by 270 feet).
Bibliography:
Hagia Sophia, 2015, Encyclopaedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/topic/Hagia-Sophia
Hagia Sophia, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagia_Sophia
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, 2015, Sacred Destinations, http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/istanbul-hagia-sophia

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Potala Palace

Potala Palace is quite high up.

  • Potala Palace is a historic Buddhist building located on Red Mountain, Red Hill, or Marpo Ri as it is known, in Tibet’s Lhasa, in Asia.
  • The construction of the Potala Palace began in 1645, taking three years to build the outside structure, and it was completed in the 1690s.
  • Potala Palace was created due to the recommendation of the adviser of the Head of State and fifth Dalai Lama, Lozang Gyatso, and it was suggested that the location would be advantageous for political reasons.
  •  A smaller palace originated on the site of Potala Palace, which was built in the 600s, while sections of the older building are still evident in some parts.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage Convention designated Potala Palace a World Heritage Site in 1994, which was expanded to include other surrounding historical buildings in 2000 and 2001.
Potala Palace, Temple, Buddhist, Side, Construction, Building, Structure, Ten Random Facts, Taiwan, Trivia
Potala Palace
Image courtesy of Will De Freitas/Flickr
  • Since 2003, numbers of tourists that can enter Potala Palace each day have been limited, so as to reduce damage to the building, however it remains a popular tourist attraction.
  • Potala Palace is split into two differently purposed buildings, or palaces, as they are called – one for general living and one for religious purposes, marked via white and red colours respectively, and known as Potrang Karpo (White Palace) and Potrang Marpo (Red Palace).
  • Potala Palace extends to an area of more than 130,000 square metres (1.4 million square feet) and is 110 metres (161 feet) in height.
  • To prevent destruction caused by earthquakes, the base of Potala Palace is said to have been reinforced with copper during the original construction.
  • The palace, officially ‘Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace’, has been known as ‘Bùdálā Gōng’ in Pinyin, and the name ‘Potala’ is a reference to a sacred mountain in India.
Bibliography:
Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa, 2015, UNESCO World Heritage Convention, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/707
Potala Palace, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potala_Palace

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