With Valentine’s Day upon us, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at a few romance-inspired buildings and monuments around the world. Whether built for a loved one, in remembrance of a love lost too soon, or to spite a love gone wrong, the world is full of monuments – both majestic and quirky — to love!
Boldt Castle in New York State
Heart Island, New York is home to Boldt Castle, which was bestowed by millionaire George Bolt upon his wife Louise on Valentine’s Day in 1905. If giving your beloved a castle is out of the question this Valentine’s Day, a trip to Heart Island is a good alternative. Ontarians near the St. Lawrence River’s 1000 Islands can visit Boldt Castle relatively easily with one of the several tour operators running boat tours from Southern Ontario.
Dobroyd Castle in Todmorden England
Dobroyd Castle serves as a cautionary tale, despite its romantic beginnings. In the mid 19th Century, John Fielden Jr. fell in love with a local weaver, Ruth Stansfield, and proposed to her. Legend has it that she refused the proposal, and would marry him only if he built her a castle. In 1857, the two married, and the two-storey castle was built between 1866 and 1869 at a cost of over £70,000 (over £3 million in today’s money).
Despite John acquiescing to Ruth’s somewhat Kardashian-esque demands for a castle, the couple’s love didn’t last, and soon after the castle was built, the couple started living separately within the grounds. Ruth apparently spiraled into the depths of alcoholism, and passed away in 1877.
Heart-Shaped Meadow in South Gloucestershire, England
A rather more romantic tale is that of Winston and Janet Howes. In 1995, when Janet passed away unexpectedly at the age of 50, her husband of 33 years, Winston, decided to build a tribute to her. Over the course of just about one week, he filled a six-acre field, save a heart-shaped area in the centre, with thousands of oak saplings. The opening can’t be seen from the road – only from the air – and was in fact discovered by the outside world only several years ago. The most touching part? The point of the heart sits in the direction of Janet’s childhood home of Wotton Hill.
Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Most Canadians have seen the iconic images of India’s Taj Mahal, but the story behind the Taj — arguably the world’s greatest dedication to love — is as remarkable as the Taj’s beauty.
The Fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan ruled India between 1628 and 1658, and is considered to be one of the greatest of the Mughal rulers. Shah Jahan had seven wives, but his third wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal, became his favourite.
Mumtaz Mahal was not her birth name; Shah Jahan gave her the name, which means “chosen one of the palace,” following their marriage. Mumtaz was widely admired for her beauty, and traveled throughout the Empire with her husband, serving as his closest and most trusted confidant. Tragically, Mumtaz died in her thirties while giving birth to their thirteenth child. In response to her death, Shah Jahan did what any reasonable widow would do: he spent the next 22 years overseeing the Taj’s construction as a mausoleum for his most beloved wife.
Torrechiara Castle, in Parma Province, Italy
Torrechiara Castle, in Italy’s Parma Province, is a monument to the great love shared between Pier Maria II Rossi, Count of San Secondo, and his mistress and lover, Bianca Pellegrini. Theirs was an illicit love: both Pier Maria and Bianca were married to other people. As the story goes, they had an undeniable connection, and Pier Maria built Torrechiara as a summer home for Bianca, so she could escape the heat of the plains below.
One of the most famous rooms in the castle is the Camera d’Oro, or Golden Chamber, which features beautiful frescos detailing the story of these two lovers. When Bianca died, she was buried at Torrechiara, and when Pier Maria died in 1482, his body was interred next to that of his true love.
Fernwood Castle/Layton Castle near Layton, Utah
This self-proclaimed castle is a private residence near Layton, Utah. Depending on which story you believe (you can find a collection of stories about the home here), the castle may have been built for the original owner’s cancer-stricken wife out of love, or to spite his ex-wife!
The story of spite goes something like this: the first owner built the castle after his wife divorced him. His wife’s mother never liked him, and was constantly encouraging her daughter to leave him and find a more successful man to marry. Eventually, the wife agreed and the two were divorced. As luck would have it, the husband came into a fortune shortly after the divorce, and built the castle within view of his ex-wife’s new home to serve as constant reminder of what a terrible mistake she had made!
These are just six of the many monuments to love around the world. Have you been to see any of these? Which love-inspired buildings did I miss?