The Fascinating Tales of Three of the World’s Tallest Buildings That No Longer Exist
The world is filled with an ever-growing number of giant buildings. Yet, a look back in time reveals some fascinating structures that were once among the tallest on the planet but that no longer exist.
Old St Paul’s Cathedral in London
This cathedral once sat on the same site that is now occupied by the current St Paul’s Cathedral. It took workers some 200 years to build this massive church. When its spire was added in the mid-13th century it briefly became the world’s tallest building, at 149 metres in height.
This title was taken away by Lincoln Cathedral and St Paul’s eventually fell into decline. A lightning strike in 1561 destroyed the spire, melted the bells and damaged the roof. Sir Christopher Wren was asked to restore it but called it such a “heap of deformaties” that it was best demolished.
Despite Wren’s concerns, scaffolding was erected in the 1660s to carry out the restoration work. However, the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed the cathedral, with the wooden scaffolding helping to spread the flames.
With no modern security measures such as fire extinguishers or a fall protection post, it is just as well that no workers were present when the disaster occurred. With no fire brigade in place either, the enormous blaze was finally controlled when the Navy blew up the houses in its path.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt
This is one of the most enigmatic buildings ever constructed, as we don’t even know how tall it actually was. The best estimates suggest that it was maybe 100 metres in height. As it was built around 280 BCE, this height would certainly have put it among the biggest structures on the planet at that time.
It is regarded as one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, and one of those that survived for the longest period of time. A series of devastating earthquakes finally damaged it substantially from around AD 956 onwards, causing it to be abandoned.
It is believed that the ruins of part of the structure remained in place until the end of the 15th century. More recently, archaeologists found some remains on the seabed, giving rise to the idea of including them in an underwater museum. Over the years there have also been suggestions of building a replacement in its site.
Hwangnyong Temple in South Korea
Until the 20th century, most of the planet’s tallest buildings were religious structures. Many of them were cathedrals in Europe, but the mighty Hwangnyong Temple in South Korea was a nine-story temple made entirely of wood without iron nails.
At 68 metres tall, the temple was the tallest structure in all of eastern Asia and almost certainly the biggest wooden structure on the planet when it was built in the seventh century. It took 17 years for 200 hundred skilled workers to build the entire complex.
The pagoda still holds the claim to fame as being the largest ever built in Korea. Some of the foundation stones remain in place to this day, letting us imagine the giant size of the whole thing in its glory days. Sadly, it was burned to the ground by Mongolian invaders in the mid-13th century.