Many of the most significant man-made structures in the world share one thing in common ― limestone.
In this article, you’ll learn all about 7 of the most well known monuments made of limestone around the world.
7 Examples of Limestone Monuments
In use since ancient days, limestone comes in a variety of colors.
Though it is subject to some erosion and weather degradation, limestone is overall very sturdy and remains a sought-after construction material around the world.
A naturally-occurring rock, limestone is very common and has been found on every continent.
Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock formed over many years through both biological and environmental processes.
A biological example would be marine limestone formed from the remains of coral and other small organisms with significant calcium levels being subject to waves of water pressure over time.
A largely non-biological example is limestone found in layers beneath dry land, formed after calcium-rich water evaporated and left sediment deposits behind. Wondering what are some monuments that have limestone?
Below are famous examples from throughout human history.
The Parthenon – Athens, Greece
Constructed between 447 BC and 432 BC as a towering replacement temple for the goddess Athena, the Parthenon still stands today as a symbol of Ancient Greece.
Much of the original building has worn away with time, but the exterior marble (a form of limestone) columns, steps, and center interior wall remain as a testament to the rock’s durability.
In its entirety, the original building had slanted roofs, carved reliefs, and statues gilded in gold leaf.
By modern estimates, a total of 13,400 stones were used to build the Parthenon.
It stands on a 23,000 square foot limestone base, a portion of which belonged to the old temple it replaced.
The Parthenon is one of the most-visited ruins of Ancient Greece in modern times.
The Pyramids of Giza – Giza, Egypt
Of the original ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ (also known as ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’), Egypt’s famous pyramid tombs in Giza are the only ones to have survived thousands of years largely intact in their original forms.
As any ancient construction records were lost or destroyed ages ago, historians and archeologists have argued for years over how the pyramids were built and who was involved.
Nevertheless, one thing everyone does agree on is that their construction materials largely consist of massive limestone blocks from quarries across the Nile River.
The pyramids originally had smooth, polished limestone veneers as well, but most of these outer casings have worn away since their estimated construction between 2589 and 2504 BC.
The Great Sphinx of Giza – Giza, Egypt
While the pyramids tower over the skyline, the Great Sphinx of Giza is just as notable ― and perhaps a bit more mysterious.
Most archeologists believe the Sphinx to have been constructed around 2500 BC, under King Khafre, the same pharaoh who commissioned the second pyramid of Giza.
Shaped like a giant lion with the head of a man in a headdress, it’s unclear what the exact purpose or symbolism of the Sphinx was, but it is largely believed to have been a tribute to the gods.
The original name for the Sphinx is also unknown.
The original Sphinx was carved out of a massive sheet of limestone bedrock, left behind by a prehistoric sea that retreated.
After repairs with cement and gypsum in the 1920s and 1980s accidentally damaged the monument further, extensive improvements began in the 1990s.
Crews still work today to protect the Sphinx’s deteriorating limestone.
The Colosseum – Rome, Italy
Well-recognized around the world from movies like Gladiator (2001), the Colosseum remains one of the best-known monuments built by the Ancient Romans.
Construction began under the Emperor Vespasian in 70 AD and continued under his son, the Emperor Titus, until its completion in 80 AD.
In addition to volcanic rock and concrete, much of the Colosseum’s construction consists of a type of lightweight, durable limestone called travertine.
During its ancient operations, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheater in the world and was used for gladiator fights, theatrical shows, battle reenactments, and other public spectacle events.
Today, the Colosseum is a popular tourist attraction, though large portions of it have been damaged by earthquakes and stone thieves.
The Arc De Triomphe – Paris, France
Built almost 80 years before the Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triomphe is the original icon of modern Paris.
Standing at the center of 12 different avenues that radiate outward, the giant archway honors the soldiers of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wards.
It was constructed over several periods between 1806 and 1836.
Its main material is limestone, complete with multiple carved reliefs.
The limestone was chosen on purpose as a symbol of France’s military fortitude.
Appropriately, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (from World War I) has rested beneath the Arc since it was interred in 1920.
Largely to its scenic appeal, the Arc De Triomphe is one of the most popular tourist spots for photos today.
The Lincoln Memorial – Washington, D.C., United States
Nestled in the heart of the U.S. capital, the Lincoln Memorial has served as an important location for numerous historic events, from presidential speeches to organized protests to Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
As such, it is also a major tourist attraction.
Built between 1914 and 1922 (construction halted during WWI), the monument uses numerous materials from around the country to symbolize a nation that came back together after the Civil War.
The most notable material, however, is limestone.
Indiana limestone makes up the structure’s interior walls and columns, while Colorado marble (a form of limestone) weaves through the upper steps and outside façade.
The floor is Tennessee marble, while the ceiling tiles consist of Alabama marble.
Then there’s the giant statue of Lincoln himself, which was built from 28 pieces of Georgia marble.
The Empire State Building – New York City, New York, United States
Once the tallest building towering over the Big Apple’s famous skyline, the Empire State Building remains one of the most recognized (and most visited) skyscrapers in the United States.
The New York building’s iconic art deco façade is clad almost entirely in limestone sourced from Indiana, which provide a yellow-gray, almost golden hue in the sunlight.
Construction on the 102-stry building began in 1930 and was completed the following year in 1931.
Though the building has undergone various upgrades and renovations since, the limestone façade has remained largely untouched.
Because it can easily be placed and carved, it is quite possible that limestone structures will continue popping up throughout human history.
In the meantime, visiting the world’s limestone monuments that are hundreds or even thousands of years old offer a unique look into past cultures and show how we are still connected with them today.
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