Countless books and academic articles have been written on the question of why we memorialize the dead. That question is one that inspires what we do here. We memorialize to preserve lives after death, to share stories and to collectively or privately work through grief. Today people visit some of the world’s largest memorials for any number of reasons. Some have been directly affected by what is being memorialized, many come for the educational aspects and others are simply are curious about what they represent.
Public memorials are visited by millions of people around the world every year. More than 21 million people have visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City since it’s opening in 2011, for example. That number says a lot about what we find important as humans. With that in mind, join us in looking at the World’s Largest Memorials around the world.
The World’s Largest Memorials
7. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Built in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as the Vietnam Wall, is a 3 acre memorial in Washington, DC, which holds the names of 58,000 dead soldiers along it’s black marble surface. This memorial has not only become one of the most visited memorials in the United States, it is easily one of the most visited war memorials in the world. The Vietnam Wall is striking for it’s memorialization of one of the most divisive and controversial wars in American history. As academics Mona Doreen Greenberg and Robert P. Watson state, the Vietnam Wall: “represents a new kind of memorial…: To reflect on controversial and difficult historical events and possibly heal deep scars in American society.”
The Vietnam wall represents not only the debate about war in America but reflects the fears, insecurities and diverse opinions Americans hold.
6. 9/11 Memorial Project
Finished in 2011, the National September 11th Memorial & Museum in New York City is massive. The mission of the memorial is to publicly remember the thousands who died on September 11th, 2001 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and crashed a commercial airliner. One World Trade Center, the tallest sky scrapper in the Western hemisphere not withstanding, the memorial comprises a museum, a park, a performing arts center, 2 large pools and the largest man-made waterfall in the world! 21 million people have visited the memorial since 2011.
5. Monument to the Battle of the Nations
This memorial in Leipzig, Germany is dedicated to the 1813 Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations. While you may not be familiar with this particular battle, this memorial is particularly interesting for being the largest in Europe. The battle was the largest one ever fought before World War I and involved over 600,000 people.
This monument, and the memorial inside of it, are dedicated to the soldiers who lost their lives in 1813. The monument contains a crypt, statues, an outdoor pool and sits at the site of one of the bloodiest Napoleonic battles. The monument and enclosed memorial are dedicated to the spirit of German folk and their resistance to Napoleon’s forces.
4. Korean War Memorial
The Korean War Memorial in South Korea may be the largest war memorial in the world. Dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Korean war, this memorial, park and museum complex is massive. Completed in 1994, the memorial is comprised of several indoor and outdoor spaces and exhibits, and holds roughly 13,000 artifacts and war memorabilia.
There are 6 indoor halls displaying artifacts from the beginning of known warfare through to modern Korean conflicts. The outdoor spaces also hold several monuments, tanks, aircraft, warships and more. This complex is a must see if you are ever in South Korea.
3. Fallen Astronaut
Ever heard of the public memorial only 10 people have ever visited? While not a large memorial by any means (in size or scope), the Fallen Astronaut memorial is a neat piece of history you may not be familiar with. Designed by Paul Van Hoeydonck, the plaque and small statue were kept secret by NASA until after they were placed on the moon. It is dedicated to the 14 people (that we know of) to have died in space since 1971, and was left by the crew of Apollo 15 who photographed it.
The memorial became controversial after Hoeydonck tried selling replicas of it to the public; a direct violation of government rules. He eventually backed down and the memorial now serves as evidence of our desire for adventure, but also the human cost of those dreams.
2. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This Holocaust memorial in Berlin is beyond impressive. This 4.7 acre site covered in 2700 concrete slabs in a testament to the lives lost by the Nazi regime as well as to the possibilities of design in remembering the dead. Walking through this concrete jungle produces a visceral reaction in people. The uneven floors and the wind passing through the alleys of concrete work together to produce an audible low hum and a heavy feeling in the gut.
This is exactly the feeling the designers wanted to produce. Set to look like ordered blocks, this disorienting maze represents a system that has lost touch with humanity. One should not visit Berlin without visiting this memorial.
1. Taj Mahal
We’ll admit: we actually knew very little about the Taj Mahal before putting this list together. It is an architectural marvel and a jewel of India, while also serving as one of the world’s largest mausoleums! Commissioned in 1632, it houses the tomb of Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan’s favorite wife of three, Mumtaz Mahal. It took nearly 20 years to fully complete the structure and cost around 900$ million dollars in today’s currency. It also attracts over 3 million visitors a year!
Don’t let those beautiful images of the gardens and structure fool you, this place is swarming with tourists… but for good reason. Fitted with unique architectural elements, beautiful Muslim art and expansive gardens, this memorial to the dead is one of the most spectacular on our list of the world’s largest memorials.