What were the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages?

Stonehenge, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc

Now we are getting into tricky territory. Considerable amounts of subjective opinion has created dozens of potential wonders of the “middle” ages, add to that the seven wonders of the “modern” ages, and let us not forget the seven “natural” wonders of the world. None of these are official however, and aside from being confusing, are highly debatable. Listed below in the table are the ones generally regarded to be the noteworthy candidates for the seven wonders of the middle ages?

The Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages is a list of impressive and noteworthy architectural and engineering achievements that emerged during the medieval period. These structures were recognized for their grandeur, innovation, and cultural significance. Unlike the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, which predate the Middle Ages, this list highlights marvels that were constructed between the fall of the Western Roman Empire (around 476 AD) and the Renaissance era (beginning in the 14th century). Here they are:

  1. Stonehenge (England): Although its origins trace back to ancient times, Stonehenge continued to captivate people during the Middle Ages. This prehistoric monument, located in Wiltshire, England, is known for its ring of standing stones set within earthworks. It remains an enduring symbol of ancient British culture.
  2. Colosseum (Italy): Despite being an ancient structure, the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, remained a marvel during the Middle Ages. Built in the 1st century AD, it was used for various public spectacles and remains one of the most iconic symbols of Roman engineering and architecture.
  3. Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa (Egypt): This complex of underground tombs, located in Alexandria, Egypt, is a testament to the fusion of Roman and Egyptian artistic styles. Dating back to the 2nd century AD, it is a remarkable example of ancient burial practices.
  4. Great Wall of China (China): The construction of the Great Wall of China began during the 7th century BC and continued through the Middle Ages. Its strategic military purpose and sheer scale made it a marvel of ancient engineering.
  5. Hagia Sophia (Turkey): Originally built as a cathedral in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in the 6th century AD, Hagia Sophia is a prime example of Byzantine architecture. Its grand dome and innovative design influenced subsequent architectural endeavors.
  6. Porcelain Tower of Nanjing (China): This pagoda, constructed during the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th centuries), was known for its exquisite blue-and-white porcelain exterior. Standing in Nanjing, China, it was considered a masterpiece of porcelain craftsmanship and architectural innovation.
  7. Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italy): While primarily a product of the 12th century, the Leaning Tower of Pisa continued to capture imaginations during the Middle Ages. Its unintentional tilt has made it one of the most recognized architectural wonders in the world.

These Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages reflect the diversity and ingenuity of human achievement during this period of history, showcasing both the continuity of ancient marvels and the emergence of new architectural feats.

The 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, unlike their ancient counterparts, encapsulate the marvels of engineering, architecture, and artistry achieved during the medieval period, spanning from the 5th to the 16th century. These wonders, although not universally agreed upon like the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, highlight the diversity and innovation of the medieval world across various cultures and continents. Notable among these wonders is the Great Pyramid of Giza, which remarkably is a crossover wonder, being the only one of the ancient wonders to also be frequently included in medieval lists due to its continued awe-inspiring presence and historical significance in Cairo, Egypt.

Another extraordinary marvel often listed among the wonders of the medieval world is the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Built in the 17th century as a mausoleum by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, the Taj Mahal is celebrated for its stunning beauty and intricate craftsmanship, representing the pinnacle of Mughal architecture. Similarly, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, also known as the pagoda, stood as a testament to the technological and artistic achievements in China during the Ming Dynasty. Though it was largely destroyed in the 19th century, its legacy as a symbol of ingenuity and elegance endures in historical accounts.

In the realm of ecclesiastical architecture, the Ely Cathedral in Wiltshire, England, showcases the grandeur of medieval Christian devotion and architectural innovation. With its origins dating back to the 11th century, this cathedral has been a site of pilgrimage and worship for centuries, embodying the spiritual and artistic aspirations of the medieval Christian world. Similarly, Cluny Abbey in France, once the largest church in the world until St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt, played a crucial role in the religious and cultural life of medieval Europe, influencing monastic practices and architectural styles across the continent.

These wonders, along with other marvels such as formidable citadels and mosques, not only reflect the architectural and artistic achievements of the medieval period but also the societal, religious, and cultural values of the times. They are a testament to the human spirit's capacity for creativity and perseverance, transforming raw materials and ambitious visions into structures of enduring beauty and significance. The Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, though they may not all survive to the present day, continue to inspire awe and curiosity, bridging the gap between the ancient and modern worlds and highlighting the continuity of human excellence across ages.

The concept of the Seven Wonders of the World, traditionally reflecting the remarkable constructions of the ancient world, expanded during medieval times to include marvels that captivated the medieval mind, becoming popular only by the 16th century. Unlike the ancient wonders, which were compiled by Greek historian Herodotus and included marvels like the Colossus of Rhodes and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the medieval list celebrates both the spiritual and formidable architectural achievements of a period marked by intense religious devotion and the establishment of powerful empires.

One of the wonders often cited from medieval times is the Cairo Citadel, a fortress on the Muqattan Hill in Cairo, built by Saladin in the 12th century to protect the city from Crusaders. Its strategic location and formidable defenses exemplify the military architecture and engineering advancements of the period. The Citadel has become a popular tourist attraction, showcasing the blend of medieval military might with Islamic architectural beauty.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, whose construction began in 1173 on the soft ground of the south bank of the Arno river, is another marvel that has endured through the centuries. Originally intended as a freestanding bell tower for the nearby cathedral, its unintended tilt has become an iconic symbol of medieval engineering. Despite the precarious lean caused by the settling ground, the tower stands as a testament to the ambitious architectural projects of medieval Europe, drawing visitors from around the globe.

In Cambridgeshire, England, Ely Cathedral, built in the 11th century, represents the pinnacle of medieval religious architecture. Known as the "Ship of the Fens," this massive structure with its unique Octagon Tower soars above the landscape, embodying the height of medieval religious devotion and architectural ingenuity. Its construction, spanning over three stages, showcases the evolution of architectural styles from Romanesque to Gothic, making it a cornerstone of medieval architectural history.

Further east, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, erected during the Ming Dynasty, was a marvel of Chinese architecture, constructed using porcelain bricks that could reflect the sun's rays. Though it was largely destroyed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, historical accounts praise its stunning beauty and intricate craftsmanship. This freestanding structure on the northern borders of the Yangtze river was emblematic of the heights of Chinese architectural and artistic achievements during medieval times.

It's important to note that many of the structures celebrated as wonders of the medieval world, such as the cathedrals and citadels that have become synonymous with the period, were built much earlier than medieval times, some dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Yet, their inclusion in lists of medieval wonders speaks to their lasting impact on human history and their ability to inspire awe and admiration centuries after their construction. These wonders, from the grandiose bell towers and citadels to the spiritual majesty of cathedrals, underscore the rich tapestry of medieval architecture and engineering, marking an era that, though distinct from the antiquities of Greek and Roman times, contributed significantly to the legacy of human achievement.