Love, they say, lasts forever. Just look at some of the world’s grandest monuments to love. These testaments to eternal love are living reminders that when passion strikes, anything is possible.
1. Boldt Castle, Heart Island, New York: A millionaire’s 120-room gift to his wife
What better place for a love monument than an island shaped like a heart? This Rhineland-style castle was the fancy of millionaire George C. Boldt, proprietor of New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, who built it for his wife, Louise. Beginning in 1900, more than 300 carpenters, stonemasons and artisans worked on the six-storey, 120-room castle, which includes turrets, a drawbridge, gardens and a dovecote. During construction, the Boldt family would summer on the island, holing up in the castle’s Alster Tower. When Louise died suddenly, a devastated George ordered that all construction cease immediately. The family never returned to Heart Island, and the property remained abandoned until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took control and launched a restoration project.
2. Taj Mahal, Agra, India: An iconic memorial built by a crew of thousands
When his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died while giving birth to their 14th child, 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered the creation of this marble mausoleum and surrounding gardens. For 22 years, thousands of craftsmen worked on the Taj Mahal and its intricate inlays, bas-relief and accents of precious and semiprecious stones. Centred on a dome-topped tomb, the structure features Islamic minarets, Persian and Hindu decorative touches and a façade elaborately carved with prayers. The beautifully decorated tombs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are just decoys. According to Muslim tradition, their bodies actually lie together in a plain crypt beneath the inner chamber, with their faces turned towards Mecca. Though the Shah clearly preferred Mumtaz to his other wives, he did acknowledge them (and Mumtaz’s favourite servant) with several smaller tombs, which sit past the vast garden complex.
3. Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan: A wife honours her husband and his love of tea
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a 16th-century warlord, made his name as one of Japan’s great unifiers by consolidating political clans, reforming class structures (including a ban on slavery) and waging war on neighbouring countries. Often on the go, he would exchange letters with one of his favourite wives, Nene, the daughter of a samurai – and a valuable source of strategic advice and connections. After Hideyoshi’s death, Nene built this complex, in what is present-day eastern Kyoto, in his memory. The main temple houses artwork and lacquer furnishings and is surrounded by a memorial hall with carved images of the couple, a mausoleum, a bamboo grove and several formal gardens said to have been designed by 17th-century Zen landscape architect Kobori Enshu. Nene paid tribute to Hideyoshi’s fondness for tea ceremonies by installing two still-functioning tea houses.
4. Kellie’s Castle, Perak, Malaysia: An ill-fated mansion with tunnels and a rooftop courtyard
In 1890, Scotsman William Kellie Smith arrived in northwestern Malaysia to make his fortune in the rubber and tin industries. He settled into a Moorish-style manor on a knoll by the Kinta River with his lass Agnes and their daughter. The couple struggled for years to conceive another child until finally, in 1915, their son Anthony was born. To celebrate, Smith laid the groundwork for an elaborate new brick mansion to be adorned with flourishes like a rooftop courtyard, a second-floor indoor tennis court, tunnels and secret rooms. But the project was plagued by problems from the start, when an outbreak of Spanish flu killed many of the southern Indian labourers. In 1926, Smith himself died in Portugal, where he went to collect his castle’s elevator, which would have been the first in Malaysia. His heartbroken family returned to Scotland, leaving the rambling (and some say haunted) house – which is also referred to as Kellie’s Folly – to become a tourist curiosity.
5. Petit Trianon, Versailles, France: A re-gifted, hedonistic hideaway for many loves
Louis XV originally commissioned this Ange-Jacques Gabriel-designed “little” chateau on the grounds of the Palace in 1762 for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. But the king’s beloved passed away four years before the building was finished, so he presented it to his next mistress, Madame Du Barry. The elegant, neoclassical manse achieved most of its notoriety, however, when young Louis XVI gifted it to his bride, Marie Antoinette. She wasn’t exactly known for her gratitude. From 1774 until the couple’s violent end, the ostentatious queen used the house as an escape from the formality of court life, open only to her inner circle – mostly a circle of rumoured lovers. Marie let her imagination run wild. Notable touches included a table carved with images of her pets, a lantern adorned with paste diamonds and symbols of Cupid, and mirrored shutters in her private quarters to deflect prying eyes. Petit Trianon is open as part of a complete Versailles tour or independently.
Text by Antonius Martono | Photos courtesy of each property