The Top 5 Wildly Lavish Buildings From History

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Buildings can serve many different purposes, and the only limits to what can be built are imagination and ingenuity. Soviet-style apartment complexes were built as simply as possible with form totally subservient to function. Baroque chapels were as ornate as humanly possible to dazzle the senses. Buildings can be the seats of government. Buildings can be created as residences or as prisons. They can be fortresses or concert halls or anything in between. Some buildings, though, were built less to fill a purpose, and more to say “Look at me! I’m special!” And now we’re off to look at five of those …

5 The Forbidden City

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The Forbidden City is not one building; as the name suggests, it is a palace complex and is, in fact, made up of more than 900 buildings, with a total footprint of almost eight million square feet! From the mid-15th century until the early 20th century, this massive palace complex was off limits to most anyone in the empire, save those chosen few whom the emperor allowed in. The entire complex is surrounded by a moat and high walls which can be passed through at the East or West Glorious Gate or the Gate of Divine Might. Inside, visit such spots as the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Palace of Tranquil Longevity and the Hall of Military Eminence.

4 Antilia, Private Residence of Mukesh Ambani

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If you lived in a 400,000-square-foot, 27-story building staffed by 600 fulltime employees and situated in southern Mumbai’s business district, you’d be home by now. You’d also be named Mukesh Ambani, one of the world’s richest men and owner of what is purported to be the world’s most expensive private residence. It’s not publicly known what Ambani spent constructing Antilia, but estimates put the number well north of a billion dollars.

3 The Sistine Chapel

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To stand on the floor of the Sistine Chapel with head tilted back, eyes on the ceiling, is one of the most amazing experiences any lover of art, history and/or Catholicism can have. But when you think about just how much time, money and effort went into decorating that one relatively small space designed initially as a private Papal chapel, it’s also clear why Martin Luther kicked off that whole Protestant Reformation half a decade after the ceiling painting was completed. While it is well-known that Michelangelo painted the ceilings and walls of the Sistine Chapel, it is less well-known that he did so less under the “patronage” of Pope Julius II and more under the threat and coercion of this pope who bore nicknames such as “The Warrior Pope” and “The Fearsome Pope.”

2 The Taj Mahal

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This magnificent building is without a doubt the finest thing ever constructed for someone who could not possibly appreciate it. Why, you ask? Because the Taj Mahal is no palace or hall of government, it is a mausoleum built for and dedicated to one woman, the third wife of the emperor Shah Jahan, and its 20-year construction began after her death in 1631. In one fell swoop, the sorrowful emperor created both a stunning sample of Islamic art and architecture, and also made every single other guy on earth feel like an inadequate partner.

1 Versailles

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King Louis the XIV was not a man who lived life in moderation. The Sun King has become synonymous with extravagant living, and his palace of Versailles is the most outsized, lasting example of Louis’ lavish legacy. The palace sits on hundreds of acres of manicured gardens dotted by more than 200,000 trees and 50 fountains, and the main building itself features well over 2,000 rooms. The building of Versailles largely contributed to the draining of French national coffers, and was an ostensible cause of the French Revolution that would break out a little more than 50 years after Louis’ death in 1715.

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