Monu-mental Marvels: Exploring the World’s Largest Monuments

The world's biggest monuments are colossal testaments to human ingenuity and creativity. From ancient wonders to modern marvels, they’re staggering to behold. Here are some of the most iconic monuments in the world, as well as the planet’s largest obelisk and the largest religious monument in the world.

Building Big Engineering
2 February 2024

Throughout history, the world’s civilisations have expressed their greatest achievements, deepest beliefs, and most significant events through the creation of monumental structures. The world’s largest monuments are more than astonishing feats of architectural prowess, beauty and wonder. They’re also powerful symbols of the civilisations that built them.

The fascination with the biggest monument in the world and the pretenders to its throne goes beyond sheer size or aesthetic appeal. Each extraordinary construction tells a unique story, a narrative woven from the threads of history, culture, and art.

Whether built as places of worship, symbols of political power, or memorials to great leaders or events, the largest monuments – including the largest religious monument in the world and the world’s largest obelisk – are truly remarkable feats of design and construction.

However, it’s difficult to rank these colossal constructions. Some are incredibly long, others are incredibly tall. Some are thousands of years old, others are, in the tapestry of time, quite new. Therefore we’ve put together a list which includes a selection of the largest, most prominent, and most iconic monuments in the world.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China, in Hebei Province, China. (Credit: Qiang Zhong via Getty Images)

One of the most staggeringly impressive, awe-inspiring architectural feats in all of human history, the Great Wall of China is one of the largest monuments in the world. It was originally built as a defensive wall to protect China against invasion from the Eurasian Steppe, but has also been used to control emigration and immigration, as well as for border control, garrison stations and a corridor for transportation.

Some of the earliest sections were built in the seventh century BC and building continued into the reign of the Ming Dynasty emperors between the mid-fourteenth, and the mid-seventeenth centuries AD. The wall, which stretches a quite remarkable 21,196 kilometres (13,170 miles) is made up of hundreds of different courses and tributaries but, broadly speaking, the Great Wall of China stretches from Liaodong in northeastern China to Lop Lake in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the northwest.

The Statue of Unity

The Statue Of Unity, the world's tallest statue (Credit: SAM PANTHAKY / Contributor via Getty Images)

Some of the world’s largest monuments represent significant religious, societal and cultural importance, including Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, atop the Corcovado mountain watching over Rio de Janeiro, and the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York. At 30 metres and 46 metres respectively, they’re both impressive, but are dwarfed by the tallest statue in the world. Inaugurated in 2018, the Statue of Unity in the Indian state of Gujarat is a depiction of Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, India’s Deputy Prime Minister from 1947 to 1950 and the 49th president of the Indian National Congress. The steel-framed statue was designed by Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar and is 182 metres tall.

The Pyramids

The great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. (Credit: Kitti Boonnitrod via Getty Images)

Two of the world’s biggest monuments are pyramids, one is perhaps the most famous man-made structure on Earth, the other, as colossal as it is, may not be as instantly recognisable.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Cheops, stands as the oldest among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Constructed around 2570 BC, it served as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu. With a height of 138.5 metres, it not only holds the title of the tallest pyramid in the world but also maintained the record as the world’s highest structure for nearly 4,000 years following its construction.

While nowhere near the tallest pyramid in the world, the Great Pyramid of Cholula in the central Mexican city of Puebla has been described by Guinness World Records as the biggest monument ever built. It has a base of approximately 94,500 square metres – about the same as 13 football pitches – and a volume of 4.45 million cubic metres. It was built in stages between the third century BC and the ninth century AD by the Toltec-Chichimec people who named it Tlachihualtepetl, or ‘made-by-hand mountain’.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, United States. (Credit: Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd via Getty Images)

One of the largest monuments in the world, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is nothing short of an American icon. Staring out over the Black Hills of South Dakota are four intricately carved granite sculptures of some of the most famous American presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

The 18 metre tall sculptures were created by American sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln between 1927 and 1941, and the memorial attracts over two million visitors a year.

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal at dawn. (Credit: Ed Freeman via Getty Images)

Described by UNESCO as ‘the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage’, the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra is one of the world’s biggest monuments, as well as one of the most beautiful and ornate.

It was commissioned by Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, to house the tomb of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It was designed by court architect Ustad Ahmad Lahori and built between 1631 and 1653.

The 73 metre high mausoleum is the centrepiece of a 42 acre complex of gardens and other buildings. In 2022 it attracted around 3.3 million visitors from all over the world.

The Largest Religious Monument in the World

Sunset at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Credit: Pakawat Thongcharoen via Getty Images)

Built by the twelfth century Khmer Empire King Suryavarman II as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, Angkor Wat – translated as ‘City of Temples’ – is a 1.6 million square metre complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The largest religious monument in the world, it was changed to be used as a Buddhist temple complex by the end of the twelfth century. The largest temple at the complex is known as Angkor Wat – the other two main temples are called Bayon and Ta Prohm – and it has been described as ‘the ultimate statement of Khmer architectural ingenuity.’ Full of imposing sculptures, intricately-carved bas-reliefs and perfectly preserved deities known as asparas, Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s most visited tourist destination.

The Largest Obelisk in the World

The Washington Monument, Washington, DC (Credit: J. David Ake via Getty Images)

From the ancient Greek obeliskos, meaning ‘nail, or pointed pillar’, an obelisk is generally described as a four-sided monument with a pyramid on top.

Some of the most famous obelisks in the world come from ancient Egypt, including the largest obelisk in Italy – the 3,400 year old, 300-tonne Lateran Obelisk, which was made in the Egyptian city of Karnak. Standing 45.7 metres tall, it was brought to Rome around the start of the fourth century by Emperor Constantius II. It now stands across from the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome and the seat of the Bishop of Rome, known around the world as The Pope.

However, the largest obelisk in the world, one of the world’s largest monuments, and believed to be the world’s largest stone structure, is the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was built to commemorate George Washington, the first President of the United States. It stands 169 metres tall and is made of granite, marble and bluestone gneiss. Construction started in 1848 and lasted for six years when building was suspended until 1879. It was finally completed in 1889. According to the National Parks Service, the Washington Monument weighs almost 91,000 tonnes.

A Timeless Tale: The Largest Monuments in the World

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK (Credit: Captain Skyhigh via Getty Images)

The world’s biggest monuments, each with their own story and significance, stand as silent, eloquent witnesses to the ingenuity, creativity, and determination woven throughout the rich tapestry of civilisation across the ages, and leave an indelible mark on the world as a whole.

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