Standing tall

The Great Pyramid of Giza was, by reputation, and probably by intention, the tallest building in the world, back when it was completed around 2560 BC. Oldest of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, it stood about five hundred feet high, when its smooth limestone casing stones were still in place — taller than the much later Lighthouse of Alexandria. But unlike the latter, the Pyramid is still there, and may be attracting tourists until the Islamists finally blow it up. (They’ve been promising to do this for decades.) If gentle reader is somehow able to visit, eluding Batflu restrictions, he may be as impressed as I was, some twenty years ago. I can attest that it is big.

Until 1311 AD, it retained the height distinction, according to the Wicked Paedia. Then it was supplanted by Lincoln Cathedral, in England. But when Lincoln’s central spire collapsed, shortly after the accession of Edward VI, it was (like Charles I) considerably shortened; and the spire was never restored. I believe the Rouen Cathedral, in Normandy, thus overtook it; but maybe it was Cologne. I haven’t checked; my understanding is that the mediaeval plan for Cologne wasn’t completed until the 19th century. I think the Lutherans set out to top its height, at Ulm. However, there were many similarly tall Gothic spires, across Europe.

Had the spire of Lincoln not fallen, however, it might have retained the title of tallest until the Eiffel Tower was erected, in 1887. Since, the engineers have been busy, and the Burj Khalifa now stands a half mile high, at Dubai. Modern narcissism will soon exceed that.

The tallest elsewhere in Asia was once the 7th-century pagoda of Hwangnyongsa, in Korea. It was less that half the height of the Giza pyramid, and a good hundred feet shorter than the Alexandria lighthouse. Only the foundations remain; but give it points for having been constructed entirely of wood, without nails, in nine majestic tiers. (Today, some dozens of office towers in Seoul have doubled it, or better.)

For a thousand years, Hagia Sophia at Constantinople was the largest church in Christendom (in volume, though not in height); until converted to a mosque by the Infidel Turk, upon his conquest of old Byzantium in 1453.

He has done it again. Recep Erdogan, the unspeakable tyrant and savage, gave the order to have its Christian icons once again covered, just a few days ago. It will no longer be the secular “museum,” that was by far modern Turkey’s most popular tourist destination. We can hope the more monied and jet-setting Christians will still be let in to gape, upwards into its magnificent vault, in the intervals between Mussulman prayers.

Monuments and wonders of this world all come down, eventually — those of noble construction and high art equally with the monuments to greed, envy, shallow pride, and high finance. We must not take their conquest or destruction to heart, but instead build new and better.