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pale yellow cathedral in a large european square full of colorful buildings
Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

10 Historic Places That Have Been Ruined and Rebuilt

On April 15th, 2019, the whole world watched in shock as Notre Dame burst into flames. Thankfully, much of the cathedral’s structure, including its iconic bell towers and flying buttresses, survived the blaze. It will likely be closed to tourists for years, but a flood of donations has already put restoration plans in motion.

In the future, the 2019 fire and reconstruction will be just another chapter in Notre Dame’s storied history, as is true of the following landmarks. Perhaps you’ve even visited some of these resilient buildings without knowing their past.

Reims Cathedral: Reims, France

the back courtyard of the reims cathedral with lush green grass
Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock

Just north of Paris in the region of Champagne, the Reims Cathedral is about as old as Paris’ Notre Dame. Once totally destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1210, the cathedral suffered even more damage during an English siege a century later, and caught fire again in the year 1481. This most recent fire destroyed the framework, bell tower, and roof, but the cathedral was hastily rebuilt. During World War I, the cathedral suffered again when a German attack took out the windows, damaged the facade, and set fire to scaffolding. But in about a decade it was rebuilt again, and has been standing tall ever since.

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Hiroshima Castle: Hiroshima, Japan

Tall japanese-style castle surrounded by trees showing autumn colors
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

At the end of World War II, Hiroshima lost many of its cultural sites and artifacts when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on the city. The blast took out the foundation of the 500-year-old Hiroshima Castle, which collapsed. In 1957 the main keep of the castle was rebuilt, and today it’s a functioning museum covering Hiroshima’s pre-war history. Walk the castle grounds and you can still find the remains of the other buildings that once stood on the property before the bomb blast.

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The Altstadt: Frankfurt, Germany


After the bombing of Frankfurt during World War II, the city’s downtown center—the Altstadt—was completely destroyed. For decades, it was thought that the medieval charm of the city would be lost forever. But today, thanks to the Dom-Roemer Project, you can again walk through Frankfurt’s Altstadt. This massive project included the reconstruction of over 35 working shops, restaurants, and apartments.

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Ribeira Palace: Lisbon, Portugal

a long yellow building with columns and a large arch in the middle front of huge square
Farbregas Hareluya/Shutterstock

In 1755, the city of Lisbon was almost totally destroyed by one of the deadliest earthquakes in recorded history. Large fissures opened up in the streets, a tsunami overtook the harbor and downtown area, and the city burned in a fire caused by hundreds of candles that had been lit for All Saints Day just moments before the earthquake began. Many lives were lost in addition to culturally significant buildings, like the Ribeira Palace, which housed the royal library and irreplaceable paintings by Flemish and Italian masters. Eventually, as the city recovered, the square was rebuilt and rebranded as the Square of Commerce. Some decorative details were changed and the area served a new purpose for the city, but the plaza was designed in the style of the lost palace.

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Cathedral of Christ the Savior: Moscow, Russia

white church with gold-colored dome in moscow, russia
Sergey Kelin/Shutterstock

In the early days of the Soviet Union, many cathedrals were demolished as the result of Stalin’s anti-religious campaigns, including Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Soviet leaders originally selected the site of the church as the place to build a Palace of the Soviets, an administrative center which would also serve as a monument to the regime—but it was never built because Germany invaded during World War II. After the war ended, an outdoor public pool was built on the site in 1954.

After the fall of the U.S.S.R. in the 90s, the Russian government set out to rebuild many churches throughout Russia, including the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. In 1994, the cathedral was rebuilt according to the exact design of the original architect.

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Fort Manoel: Valetta, Malta

aerial view of the large pale yellow maltese fort
McCarthy’s PhotoWorks/Shutterstock

Originally constructed in the 18th century by the Knights of Malta, Fort Manoel was occupied by the British military for most of its existence. Located on Manoel Island in the capital city Valletta, the fort was largely ruined during World War II, officially decommissioned in 1964, and fell into disrepair until its 2001 restoration began. At time of writing the restoration is still ongoing, but the fort is open to visitors. It’s also popularly known as a filming location for Game of Thrones.

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Frauenkirche: Dresden, Germany

a close-up view of the church at mid-day in dresden
McCarthy’s PhotoWorks/Shutterstock

This 18th-century church was destroyed during the World War II bombing of Dresden, when the foundation collapsed under the weight of its large dome. For fifty years, the ruins of the Frauenkirche were left as they were, as a memorial to the war. Five decades later the city began reconstruction of the church. Completed in 2005, the church is now fully restored, its high dome once again rising 300 feet over the Dresden skyline.

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Yellow Crane Tower: Wuhan, China

a tall multi-storied chinese tower sits at the top of three flights stairs

Dating back to 223 A.D., China’s Yellow Crane Tower has been destroyed (by fire and wars) and rebuilt a total of twelve times. No stranger to the reconstruction process, the tower now sits in a new location, less than a mile from the original site, and was most recently rebuilt in 1985. Considerably more modern than its past iterations, today’s Yellow Crane Tower includes an elevator, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China.

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Stari Most: Mostar, Bosnia

a view of mostar, a city in bosnia overlooking the stari most bridge that flies high above river

During the Croat-Bosniak War of the 1990s, Bosnia’s iconic Stari Most, or Old Bridge, was bombarded by gunfire and crumbled into the river. After the war, reconstruction was made possible thanks to the United Nations Protection Force, which, aided by contributions by many countries, rebuilt the bridge. Local materials were used and stones from the original bridge were recovered for reconstruction. Today, the bridge is most famous not just for its fairy-tale look and Ottoman influence, but also for cliff-diving. Each summer it hosts annual bridge-jumping competitions.

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St. Mark’s Campanile: Venice, Italy

the red-bricked campanile tower rises over the skyline of venice

Originally built during the 9th century, Saint Marks Campanile suffered lightning strikes, earthquakes, and multiple fires in its lifetime. In July of 1902, a large crack appeared in the side of the tower it soon collapsed in a pile of rubble. About 10 years later, the tower was rebuilt to its original state, with the exception of a new elevator. Today, travelers can visit the tower in Saint Mark’s Square for the best views of Venice.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

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