Founded in the 10th century, the ornate religious complex known as Fountains Abbey remained in active use for over 400 years and miraculously continues to stand in much its original form despite being denounced in the 1500’s.
The 70-acre site known collectively as Fountains Abbey was originally nothing more than some wooden church buildings resting on a verdant field.
The abbey was slowly expanded and converted to stone materials across its centuries of use, experiencing fires and destruction from religious opponents, each time rebuilding the abbey a bit greater.
At its height, the church complex was the largest and richest abbey in all of England, yet it was so large that it was also known to be in varied states of disrepair as no one seemed to be able to keep up the maintenance of the aging complex.
It wasn’t until Henry the VIII ordered the dissolution of all monasteries in the 1500’s that the abbey finally shut down.
After the mandated abandonment, portions of the site were destroyed, but the majority remained and over the ensuing centuries, a water garden was built around the ruins which would become almost as famous.
Despite the abandonment, the ruins ended up being fairly well maintained thanks to the care of the garden in which is was now simply a massive feature.
Thanks to this, the Fountains Abbey is the largest remaining abbey from its time and also the most well preserved.
While it is a popular tourist spot, it is also often used in television and film projects.
What was likely a wondrous metropolis of ornate, gleaming temple spires ritual artistry, the former city of Bagan on the plains of central Burma is possibly even more beautiful and mysterious now that it is a jaw-dropping ruin.
During its hey day around the 12th century, the city of the capitol of the kingdom of Pagan containing well over 10,000 Buddhit temples, stupas, and pagodas.
Eventually the city was brought to ruin by natural disasters and hordes of rampaging mongols who made light work of the Buddhist inhabitants of the city. Down the centuries thousands of the temples and pagodas crumbled under their own weight or were destroyed leaving only a little over 2,000 of the structures today.
However this has done little to diminish the scope of the city’s grandeur.
“Bagan, Burma” by Corto Maltese 1999 – Originally uploaded to Flickr as View over the plain of Bagan. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.
The almost impossibly ornate temples that remain rise up out of the overgrown foliage bursting from the plains look like the creations of a lost civilization, and while that is not strictly true as many of the inhabitants of Bagan would sire the generations that created modern Myanmar, a sense of mystery still pervades the city.
Still covering 26 square miles of land, the thousands of remaining temples and religious monuments are now a protected historical site. while some of the structures have fallen into complete ruin, many others look almost as if they haven’t aged a day thanks to modern restoration efforts.
Bagan can be toured on foot giving one impressive perspective to the old city although the preferred method of experiencing the ruins (technically known as the Bagan Archaeological Zone today) is via hot air balloon.
Balloon rides are offered that bring visitors to a vantage point where they can view the thousands of temples at once.
Photo by mastahanky on Flickr | Copyright: Creative Commons
Contributor: Eric Grundhauser (Admin)
Not far outside of the city of Ubud in Indonesia is a fantastical archeological site known as Goa Gajah, or “Elephant Cave,” although visitors could be forgiven for finding this name confusing given the wild-eyed demon maw that serves as a front door.
The ill-fitting monicker comes from a complicated trickle down of translations relating to the temple cave throughout history that may have alluded to elephants at one point.
However there does not seem to be any actual pachyderm imagery anywhere on the site. Instead the facade of the cave is carved into a surprisingly menacing devil’s face with wide eyes staring over the doorway that acts as its screaming mouth.
All around the monster’s face is what seems to be a boiling sea of flames.
Flanking the frightening frieze are smaller sculptures of creatures that have eroded with time.