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Ravaged, ruined and removed – the lost buildings of the world


Across the globe our lands are littered with the remnants and memories of lost and ravaged buildings. But where exactly are these buildings we’re now missing? And why were they torn down? 

Today, property and cultural heritage protection is paramount, meaning that the mere idea of ripping down a building of historical significance isn’t a fathomable possibility. That landlords would tear down houses, politicians bulldoze gothic-spired churches or army officials blitz beautiful buildings isn’t something that threatens the architecture of today. Yet throughout history we see patterns of buildings subject to the whims of irrational landowners or the destruction of war – with no protection in place to assure their reconstruction. 

Shakespeare’s home in Stratford

The well documented and visited birthplace of Shakespeare plays stage to an influx of thousands of foreign and domestic visitors each year. As the most notable wordsmith in history, it’s little wonder that tourists find this small middle-England town of interest.

Yet very little is written, or even said, of the house which Shakespeare owned during his adult life; the home in which he eventually retired and died in 1616.

New Place was purchased by Shakespeare for the sum of £60 back in 1597 and housed his wife and children before he eventually retired there in 1610. After his regrettable death and the subsequent passing of his wife Anne, the house moved into several different hands before eventually becoming the property of Reverend Francis Gastrell. Gastrell quickly tired of the number of visitors stopping outside to gawk at the house where Shakespeare lived, and after a few squabbles with local townsfolk, tore the place down in 1759.

As very is little known about how the house would have looked at the time, the space has been left empty, and those who visit the site are required to envision “the forms of things unknown” via the power of imagination.

The library of Alexandria

From what we are able to understand today, The Library of Alexandria was built to be the greatest collection of knowledge in the ancient world; a place where our great thinkers gathered to study, to wander in the gardens and to peruse the stacks of papyrus scrolls that lined the walls of the reading rooms.

The damage inflicted upon this elaborate structure is still considered symbolic for the burning of public knowledge, and has gone down in history as a tragedy for modern historians who have lost the chance to explore the reading list of our ancestors.

The precise details of how this historic building fell are blurry; popular theories tend to point the finger at Julius Caesar, the army of Amr ibn al ’Aas and Emperor Theodosius separately. All we do know is that the building was wiped out by fire, and the scrolls which were salvaged eventually suffered subsequent damage in their various new homes.

Nowadays a new library exists in its space in Egypt, in memory of the building we’re missing.

King Minos’ labyrinth

As children we’re told tales of Ancient Greece, and most often the nightmare-inducing tale of the infamous Minotaur kept by King Minos of Crete. As the legend tells it, King Minos kept this half man, half bull creature inside a complex set of corridors known at the labyrinth, where the beast would capture and feast on the King’s victims. The Minotaur was eventually slayed by cunning Prince Theseus.

Although the story we’re told is fictitious, King Minos and his palace did actually exist. The Palace of Knossos has been excavated by archaeologists many times, who believe that perhaps the complex and haphazard structure of the palace provided inspiration for the mythical labyrinth.

Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed – potentially by a fire – and rebuilt on a grander, yet smaller, scale in 1700 BCE. Though what’s left of this palace today is just remnants of the magnificent building it once was, visitors can still explore this legendary structure – nearby the popular town of Malia.


As far as cities which underwent brutal bombings during the Second World War go, Dresden takes the crown. Thousands of explosives blitzed this beautiful baroque town, rendering it a mass of crumbled brick and mortar.

Yet not all of Dresden’s buildings suffered from the plights of war. In a town brimming with baroque architecture, the sole gothic inspired church – the Sophienkirche – managed to survive relatively unscathed, with minimal, reparable damages to the building’s structure.

Yet in 1962, the words of one architecturally-insensitive politician brought the Sophienkirche crashing down, after he commented ‘a socialist city does not need gothic churches’.

The Postplatz area in which the Sophienkirche stood is now a rather unattractive 1990s office building – and no traces of the great, twin-spired church survive.

By Hollie Mantle. Hollie is a travel writer who now lives in London after three years of writing and teaching in Japan.

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