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Monuments



The Taj Mahal, India, commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, as a mausoleum for his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum.

A monument is a statue, building, or other edifice created to commemorate a person, event or as an artistic object. They are frequently used to improve the appearance of a city or location. Cities that are planned such as Washington D.C., New Delhi and Brasília are often built around monuments. The Washington Monument's location (and vertical geometry, though not physical detail) was conceived to help organize public space in the city before it was ever connected with George Washington. Older cities have monuments placed at locations that are already important or are sometimes redesigned to focus on one. As Shelley suggested in his famous poem "Ozymandias" ("Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"), the purpose of monuments is very often to impress or awe. In English the word "monumental" is often used in reference to something of extraordinary size and power. The word comes from the Latin "monere," which means 'to remind' or 'to warn.'

Functional structures made notable by their age, size or historic significance can also be regarded as monuments. This can happen because of great age and size, as in the case of the Great Wall of China, or because an event of great import occurred there such as the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France.


The Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, Portugal, celebrates Portuguese explorers.

Monuments are also often designed to convey historical or political information. They can be used to reinforce the primacy of contemporary political power, such as the column of Trajan or the numerous statues of Lenin in the Soviet Union. They can be used to educate the populace about important events or figures from the past, such as in the renaming of the old General Post Office Building in New York City to the James A. Farley Building (James Farley Post Office), after former Postmaster General James Farley.


Column of Trajan

Monuments have been created for thousands of years, and they are often the most durable and famous symbols of ancient civilizations. The Egyptian Pyramids, the Greek Parthenon, and the Easter Island Moas have become symbols of their civilizations. In more recent times, monumental structures such as the STATUE OF LIBERTY and Eiffel Tower have become iconic emblems of modern nation-states. The term monumentality relates to the symbolic status and physical presence of a monument.


Great Pyramid of Khufu


Easter Island Moas

The Tower at sunrise.
Eiffel Tower

Until recently, it was customary for archaeologists to study large monuments and pay less attention to the everyday lives of the societies that created them. New ideas about what constitutes the archaeological record have revealed that certain legislative and theoretical approaches to the subject are too focused on earlier definitions of monuments. An example has been the United Kingdom's Scheduled Ancient Monument laws.

Types of monuments

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Buildings designed as iconic landmarks - e.g. the Empire State Building

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Church monuments to commemorate the dead, above or near their grave, often featuring an effigy

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Cenotaphs and memorials to commemorate the dead, usually war casualties - e.g. Vimy Ridge Memorial and India Gate or The Cenotaph in London.

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Columns, often topped with a statue - e.g. Nelson's Column- Trafalgar Square  in London


Grave stones constitute small monuments to a dead person


Mausoleums and tombs to inter the dead - e.g. the Great Pyramid and Taj Mahal.


Monoliths erected for religious or commemorative purposes - e.g. Stonehenge


Obelisks usually erected to commemorate great leaders - e.g. the Washington Monument

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Statues of a famous individual or as a symbol - e.g. STATUE OF LIBERTY


Triumphal arches, almost always to commemorate military successes - e.g. the Arc de Triomph

Entire areas can also be used as memorials, usually to commemorate wartime atrocities or notably bloody battles - e.g. Oradour-sur-Glane or the battlefields at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Borodino.

On occasion, areas of special natural beauty are also referred to as monuments.

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Arch of Constantine, Rome, Italy commemorating a victory by Constantine I in AD 312