Temples of Love
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.
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, 120room 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.
Thornewood Castle, Lakewood, Washington: Built with three shiploads of treasures from Europe
When his wife expressed a desire for a castle of their own, early-20th-century millionaire Chester Thorne – one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma – didn’t need to think twice. He commissioned noted architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter to indulge his bride’s wish and sought out the finest European materials. The resulting 54-room Tudor-Gothic manor brings together three-inch-thick solid oak doors and a grand staircase from a 16th-century English manor; red-brick facing from Wales; stained glass from the collection of an English duke; and Florentine marble for the fireplaces. Three supply ships transported the precious cargo to Washington state via Cape Horn. But Thorne’s ambitions went beyond the castle walls. He enlisted the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm (of Central Park fame) to design a formal English garden complete with wisteria and climbing hydrangea – and then hired a staff of 28 gardeners for the upkeep.
El Beso (“The Kiss”), Lima, Peru: Attached like your kiss
What better way to capture the spirit of love than with a kiss? That’s exactly what they have done in the Miraflores district of Lima with a larger than life sculpture titled El Beso, meaning “The Kiss.” Framed by spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean behind wavy mosaictiled walls, this monument to love, which depicts sculptor Victor Delfin and his wife in a lusty embrace, was unveiled during the park’s opening on Valentine’s Day in 1993. According to local tradition, the mayor of the district holds a kissing contest here each year with the couple that holds the same pose as the sculpture the longest the winners.
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 stillfunctioning tea houses.
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.
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 Moorishstyle 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.
Petit Trianon, Versailles, France: A regifted, 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.
Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfries, Scotland: A widow’s heartfelt shrine
This tale is unmistakably medieval. Noble-born Devorgilla of Galloway’s response to her husband’s death was to embalm his heart and place it in an ivory casket, which she then carried around with her at all times. Devorgilla performed many charitable acts in memory of her late husband, including founding this Cistercian monastery – named Dulce Cor, Latin for “Sweet Heart” – in 1273. Originally spread over more than 20 acres, the Abbey complex included a large, English-style church with carved columns, a 92-foothigh bell tower and residential quarters for the brothers. When the widow died in 1289, she was buried in front of the abbey church’s high altar, still holding on to her husband’s enshrined heart. Over the centuries, the Abbey changed hands and purposes, until it fell victim to the Protestant Reformation of the mid-1500s. Today, visitors come to roam the elegant, well-kept ruins, which include the red-sandstone shell of the church and its lovely archlined nave, and a stone effigy of Lady Devorgilla clutching her beloved’s heart.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens, Salzburg, Austria: An ornate mansion that inspired a couple’s 15 babies
This baroque mansion and its accompanying gardens were a lavish gift from Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau to his mistress, Salome Alt (hence the original name, Altenau Palace, or Schloss Altenau). After working its magic on those lovebirds – who eventually had 15 children – the place was passed down to subsequent Prince Archbishops, each of whom made his own changes to the site. The massive Salzburg fire of 1818 prompted another round of rebuilding. While the current palace bears little resemblance to von Raitenau’s original, visitors can still spy an 18th-century staircase replete with carvings and sculptures, an elaborate marble grand hall, ornate stucco work and the gorgeous gardens. The main building now houses government offices, while concerts, weddings and other events are regularly held on the grounds. You may recognize the gorgeous gardens, filled with topiary, statues and fountains, from the “DoRe-Mi” number in “The Sound of Music.”
Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House), Verona, Italy: Where true love began
When it comes to love stories there could be none greater than that of Romeo and Juliet. First conceived by Luigi da Porto in 1524 and later immortalised by William Shakespeare, the sad tale of the star-crossed lovers has pulled at heartstrings the world over. The romantic city of Verona in Italy lays claim to not only being the setting for this story of woe but also the home of “Juilet’s House” and the famous balcony where Romeo and Juliet’s love first blossomed. More marketing ploy than historical fact, Casa di Giulietta is in fact a restored 13th-century inn with no proven link to the lovebirds. But that hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands of tourists from queuing up to be photographed on the balcony or touching the right breast of Juliet’s statue for good luck.
Taj Mahal - India Tourism
Boldt Castle Media
Mirabell Palace and Garden
Kodai Ji Temple