Monuments to monumental love: Incredible landmarks with the most romantic histories

Built as the symbols of undying commitment, these architectural marvels around the world live on to share their tales riddled with romance, lifelong love, and loss.

How far would you go to express your love? A bouquet of roses, a handwritten letter, a surprise trip to Paris to pop the big question? When it comes to love, no gesture is too small to not be counted, and none grand enough to seem over-the-top. There are a million ways to celebrate your love, each special in its own way. Having said that, building an far-flung estate or an extravagant mansion to swoon your sweetheart is definitely making sure that the world stops and takes notice.

True, the Taj Mahal in India’s Agra is the first one to pop up when it comes to architectural gems built in the name of love. The marble mausoleum was built by emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal in the 17th century and still stands as the ultimate epitome of love. You can witness the magnificent World Heritage site in all its glory during the upcoming Taj Mahotsav scheduled from February 18 to 27, 2022.

Tread farther, and you’d realise there are a good number of incredible landmarks born out of love and sometimes, tragic endings. This Valentine’s Day, we bring to you the best architectural gems with the most monumental romantic histories.

5 architectural gems built in the name of love

Boldt Castle, New York

Boldt castle on the heart island
Boldt Castle on the Heart Island has a tragic story. Image: Shutterstock/BeatoAerialPhotography.

Sprawling like a dream across the Heart Island in upstate New York, Boldt Castle tells a tale of love and tragedy. George C Boldt, a well-heeled hotelier commissioned a team of over 300 workers to build a 120-room castle in 1900, as a gift to his beloved wife, Louise. No expense was spared in terms of design, including the construction of a network of tunnel systems, Italian gardens, and a drawbridge, as Boldt wanted his gift to be magnificent in every way. But before she could see it complete, Louise passed away suddenly, leaving Boldt heartbroken and the construction half-way. Devastated, he swore to never return to the site. For 73 years, the structure remained an unfinished memorial to his lost love, falling into ruin. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority finally resorted the castle to its intended glory and opened it to the public.

Swallow’s Nest Castle, Ukraine

Swallow's nest castle | ukraine
Swallow’s Nest Castle sits beautifully on a cliff’s edge. Image: Shutterstock/Freephotographer.

Sitting 130 feet above the serene waters of the Crimean Sea, Swallow’s Nest Castle looms over the edge of Aurora Cliff near Yalta. Originally built as a wooden structure called The Castle of Love, it was transformed into a neo-Gothic stone fortress in 1912 by a German noble. Baron von Steinhel visited the site on his honeymoon, and decided to build a romantic escapade when he got homesick for his love later in life. The sturdy structure has gracefully survived the test of time, including an earthquake in 1927. Since the ’70s, it is been operated as an Italian restaurant, making it the perfect setting for a romantic evening.

Petit Trianon, France

The petit trianon | france
The Petit Trianon was based on the already existing Grand Trianon. Image: Shutterstock/Jacky D.

Nestled on the verdant grounds of Versaille, the Petit Trianon takes inspiration from the Grand Trianon, one of the French palace’s most refined landmarks. Erected in 1762 at the request of King Louis XV, the structure was originally built as a gift for the king’s mistress and longtime love, Madame de Pompadour. But as fate would have it, the lady died few years before the neoclassical building could be finished. It was finally ready in 1768, and given to her successor, Madame du Barry until Louis XV’s death in 1774. His successor, the new King Louis XVI gave the Petit Trianon as a gift to his extravagant wife, Marie Antoinette, who quickly ordered an extensive redesign to suit her tastes and kept it to distance herself from the monarchial lifestyle.

Kellie’s Castle, Malaysia

Kellie’s castle, malaysia
Kellie’s Castle remains in a state of despair today. Image: Shutterstock/Tuah Roslan.

Originally constructed as a family home by William Kellie Smith for his wife, Agnes, the eponymous fortress sits in Batu Gajah. The couple moved to the Malaysian neighbourhood in 1900s, but a pregnant Agnes remained unhappy with their home here and missed their homeland in Scotland a bit too much. In an attempt to please his love, William decided to erect a hilltop castle. But the Kellie’s Castle was abandoned halfway through in 1926 when William died unexpectedly of pneumonia. Although the far-flung structure lies in ruins today, it is still reminiscent of Scottish architectural style, and of course, their love.

Kodai-Ji Temple, Japan

Kodai-ji temple, japan
Kodai-Ji Temple in Kyoto. Image: Shutterstock/cowardlion.

The brainchild of a woman in love, Kodai-Ji Temple in Japan’s Kyoto was built in 1606, originally named as Kodaiji-Jushozenji Temple. The ornate structure was established by Kita-no-Mandokoro in the loving memory of her late husband, Toyotami Hideyoshi, who died in 1598. Mandokoro later turned into a priestess by the name Kodaiin Kogetsuni, and continued to stay at the temple until her death in 1624. Complete with verdant gardens and the Otama-ya — a sanctuary with shrines dedicated to the couple, the main building was rebuilt in 1912 followed by a massive fire.

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