List of destroyed heritage

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One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001

Cultural heritage can be subdivided into two types – tangible and intangible heritage. The former includes built heritage such as religious buildings, museums, monuments, and archaeological sites, as well as movable heritage such as works of art and manuscripts. Intangible cultural heritage includes customs, music, fashion and other traditions within a particular culture.[1][2] This article mainly deals with the destruction of built heritage; the destruction of movable heritage is dealt with in Art destruction.

Deliberate and systematic destruction of cultural heritage, such as that carried out by ISIL, is regarded as a form of cultural genocide.[3][4]


  • A pair of 6th century monumental statues known as the Buddhas of Bamiyan were dynamited by the Taliban in 2001, who had declared them heretical idols.

Excavators at the Buddhist site of Mes Aynak have been denounced as "promoting Buddhism" and threatened by the Taliban and many of the Afghan excavators who are working for purely financial reasons don't feel any connection to the Buddhist artifacts.[5]



  • Most of the mosques, houses, factories, schools, farms, museums and mainly Shusha fortress was destroyed by Armenian aggressors in Qarabagh. (1991-1993)


  • At least 43 Shia mosques, including the ornate 400-year-old Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque, and many other religious structures were destroyed by the Bahraini government during the Bahraini uprising of 2011.



Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Stari Most was destroyed by Croat forces in 1993 but was later rebuilt

Central America[edit]

Destruction of Maya codices by Spanish Priest Diego de Landa.



World War II

450 churches and monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church were destroyed or damaged during the World War II by the Croatian Ustaše, specially in the regions of Dalmatia, Lika, Kordun, Banija and Slavonia.[12]

Croatian War

War damage of the Croatian War (1991–95) has been assessed on 2271 protected cultural monuments, with the damage cost being estimated at 407 million DM.[13] The largest numbers – 683 damaged cultural monuments – are located in the area of Dubrovnik and Neretva County. Most are situated in Dubrovnik itself.[14] The entire buildings and possessions of 481 Roman Catholic churches, several synagogues and several Serbian Orthodox churches were badly damaged or completely destroyed. Valuable inventories were looted from over 100 churches. The most drastic example of destruction of cultural monuments, art objects and artefacts took place in Vukovar. After the occupation of the devastated city by the Yugoslav Army and Serbian paramilitary forces, portable cultural property were removed from their shelters and museums in Vukovar to the museums and archives in Serbia.[13]



Damage to the Pyramid of Menkaure



  • The Parthenon was extensively damaged in 1687, during the Great Turkish War (1683-1699). The Ottoman Turks fortified the Acropolis of Athens and used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine and a shelter for members of the local Turkish community. On 26 September a Venetian mortar round blew up the magazine, and the explosion blew out the building's central portion. About three hundred people were killed in the explosion, which caused fires that burned until the following day and consumed many homes.
  • The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was destroyed in the 226 BC Rhodes earthquake, and its remains were destroyed in the 7th century AD while Rhodes was under Arab rule. In December 2015, a group of European architects announced plans to build a modern Colossus where the original once stood.
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, also a Wonder of the Ancient World, was destroyed in around the 5th century AD, although it is not known exactly when or how.


  • Tikal Temple 33 was destroyed in the 1960s by archaeologists to uncover earlier phases of construction of the pyramid.





During the Battle of Dublin at the beginning of the Irish Civil War in 1922, munitions were stored at the Four Courts building, which housed 1,000 years of Irish records in the Public Record Office. Under circumstances that are disputed, the munitions were exploded, destroying much of Ireland's historical record.



Numerous Albanian cultural sites in Kosovo were destroyed during the Kosovo conflict (1998-1999) which constituted a war crime violating the Hague and Geneva Conventions.[30] In all 225 out of 600 mosques in Kosovo were damaged, vandalised, or destroyed alongside other Islamic architecture during the conflict.[31][32] Additionally 500 Albanian owned kulla dwellings (traditional stone tower houses) and three out of four well preserved Ottoman period urban centres located in Kosovo cities were badly damaged resulting in great loss of traditional architecture.[33][34] Kosovo's public libraries, in particular 65 out of 183 were completely destroyed with a loss of 900,588 volumes, while Islamic libraries sustained damage or destruction resulting in the loss of rare books, manuscripts and other collections of literature.[35][36] Archives belonging to the Islamic Community of Kosovo with records spanning 500 years were also destroyed.[35][36] During the war, Islamic architectural heritage posed for Yugoslav Serb paramilitary and military forces as Albanian patrimony with destruction of non-Serbian architectural heritage being a methodical and planned component of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.[34][37]



The destruction of the Buddhist artifacts by Islamists took place in the aftermath of the coup in which Mohamed Nasheed was toppled as President.[40] Islamist politicians entered the government which succeeded Nasheed.[41][42]

Buddhist antiquities were obliterated by Islamist radicals in the National Museum.[43][44]

The Museum was stormed by Islamists who destroyed the Buddhist artifacts.[45][46]

The non Muslim artifacts of Buddhist provenance were specifically singled out by the attackers.[47][48]

The destruction was caught on camera.[49]

Most of Maldive's Buddhist physical history was obliterated.[50][51]

Hindu artifacts were also targeted for obliteration and the actions have been compared to the attacks on the Buddhas by the Taliban.[52][53][54][55][56][57]

7 February 2012 was the date of the anti-Buddhist attack by the Islamists.[58]


  • Parts of the World Heritage Site of Timbuktu were destroyed after the Battle of Gao in 2012, despite condemnation by UNESCO, the OIC, Mali, and France.


Large neoclassical opera house
Ruins of a neoclassical opera house
The Royal Opera House in Valletta in 1896, and its ruins in 2016. The building was destroyed by aerial bombardment in 1942.
  • A number of buildings of historical or architectural importance which had been included on the Antiquities List[59] were destroyed by aerial bombardment during World War II, including Auberge d'Auvergne, Auberge de France and the Slaves' Prison in Valletta,[60] the Clock Tower,[61] Auberge d'Allemagne[62] and Auberge d'Italie[63] in Birgu, and two out of three megalithic temples at Kordin.[64][65] Others such as Fort Manoel also suffered severe damage, but were rebuilt after the war.[66]
  • Other buildings which were not included on the Antiquities List but which had significant cultural importance were also destroyed during the war. The most notable of these was the Royal Opera House in Valletta, which is considered as "one of the major architectural and cultural projects undertaken by the British" by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.[67]
  • The Gourgion Tower in Xewkija, which was included on the Antiquities List, was demolished by American forces in 1943 to make way for an airfield. Many of its inscriptions and decorated stones were retrieved and they are now in storage at Heritage Malta.[68]
  • Palazzo Fremaux, a building included on the Antiquities List and which was scheduled as a Grade 2 property, was gradually demolished between 1990 and 2003. The demolition was condemned by local residents, the local government and non-governmental organizations.[69][70]
  • Azure Window , was a 28-metre-tall (92 ft) limestone natural arch on the island of Gozo in Malta. It was located in Dwejra Bay in the limits of San Lawrenz, close to the Inland Sea and the Fungus Rock. It was one of Malta's major tourist attractions. The arch, together with other natural features in the area of Dwejra, is featured in a number of international films and other media representations. The formation was anchored on the east end by the seaside cliff, arching over open water, to be anchored to a free standing pillar in the sea to the west of the cliff. It was created when two limestone sea caves collapsed. Following years of natural erosion causing parts of the arch to fall into the sea, the arch and free standing pillar collapsed completely during a storm on March 2017.


The 7.8 Mw Nepal earthquake in 2015 demolished the heritage Dharahara situated at Kathmandu which was a main tourist attraction in Nepal. It also destroyed centuries old temples in the Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar Squares .[71][72]



Swat Valley in Pakistan has many Buddhist carvings, stupas and Jehanabad contains a Seated Buddha status.[73] Kushan era Buddhist stupas and status in Swat valley were demolished by the Taliban and after two attempts by the Taliban, the Jehanabad Buddha's face was dynamited.[74][75][76] Only the Bamiyan Buddhas were larger than the carved giant Buddha status in Swat near Mangalore which the Taliban attacked.[77] The government did nothing to safeguard the statue after the initial attempt at destroying the Buddha, which did not cause permanent harm, and when the second attack took place on the statue the feet, shoulders, and face were demolished.[78] Islamists, such as the Taliban and looters, destroyed much of Pakistan's Buddhist artifacts left over from the Buddhist Gandhara civilization especially in Swat Valley.[79] The Taliban deliberately targeted Gandhara Buddhist relics for destruction.[80] The Christian Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence John Saldanha wrote a letter to Pakistan's government denouncing the Taliban activities in Swat Valley including their destruction of Buddha statues and their attacks on Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus.[81] Gandhara Buddhist artifacts were illegally looted by smugglers.[82] A rehabilitation attempt on the Buddha was made by Luca Olivieri from Italy.[83] A group of Italians helped repair the Buddha.[84]


  • Following the conquest of the Old City of Jerusalem by the Arab Legion in 1948, under the Jordanian annexation, Jewish sites were systematically damaged and destroyed. In particular, all but one of the thirty-five synagogues of the Jewish Quarter were destroyed.[85]


  • The walls, dome and roof of the 7th-century Al-Omari Mosque in Gaza City, Palestine, were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in August 2014,[86] in addition to several other mosques that were completely destroyed in the assault.


The Loon Church before and after the 2013 Bohol earthquake

World War II[edit]

The resulting carnage and the aftermath of the Battle of Manila (followed by the Manila massacre) is responsible for the near total obliteration and evisceration of irreplaceable cultural, and historical heritage & treasures of the "Pearl of the Orient" (an international melting pot and a living monument of the meeting and confluence of Spanish, American and Asian cultures). Countless government buildings, universities and colleges, convents, monasteries and churches, and their accompanying treasures, all dating back to the 16th century and in a variety of style, were wiped out and ruined by both Japanese and inadvertently the American forces battling for the control of the city.

The most devastating damage happened at the ancient walled city of Intramuros, as a result of the assault from 23–26 February, until its total liberation on 4 March, Intramuros was a shell of its former glory (except the church of San Agustin, the sole survivor of the carnage). Outside the walls, large areas of the city had been levelled; Warsaw was also a heavily damaged victim of the second World War, but unlike its European counterpart, Manila never recovered its former pre-War glory.

After the Liberation, as part of rebuilding Manila, most of the buildings damaged during the war were either demolished in the name of "Progress", or rebuilt in a manner that bears no resemblance to the original; replacing European architectural styles during the Spanish and early American era with modern American- and imitation-style architecture. Only a few surviving old buildings remain intact, though even those that remain are continuously endangered to deterioration & neglect, political mismanagement brought on by graft and corruption, rapid urbanization & economic redevelopment, low public awareness & ignorance.

2013 Bohol earthquake[edit]

Several historic buildings were damaged or destroyed during the 2013 Bohol earthquake, including the Loboc Church, the Loon Church, the Maribojoc Church and the Baclayon Church.




The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour being demolished in 1931
Spas-na-boru Cathedral (Cathedral of the Savior in the Woods), built sometime before 1330 and demolished in 1933
The Church of Kazan Icon in Yakimanka District of Moscow, desecrated in the 1930s and gradually reduced into a storage barn, was demolished during a 1972 campaign
This 1890s building in Moscow was demolished in September 2008. The property developer was fined $1,500.[89]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

  • Various mosques and other historic sites, especially those relating to early Islam, have been destroyed in Saudi Arabia. Apart from early Islamic sites, other buildings such as the Ajyad Fortress were also destroyed.





  • Because of the Ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal, secularization of church properties in 1835-1836, several hundreds of church buildings, monasteries, etc., or civil buildings owned by the Church were partly or totally demolished. Many of the art works, libraries and archives contained were lost or pillaged in the time the buildings were abandoned and without owners. Among them were important buildings as Santa Caterina convent (the first gothic building in Iberian Peninsula) and Sant Francesc convent (gothic too, one of the richest in the country), both in Barcelona, or San Pedro de Arlanza Roman monastery, near Burgos, now ruined.
  • Several monuments demolished in Calatayud: the church of Convent of Dominicos of San Pedro Mártir (1856), Convent of Trinidad (1856), Church of Santiago (1863), Church of San Torcuato and Santa Lucía (1869) and Church of San Miguel (1871).[95]
  • In Zaragoza were demolished part of the Palace of La Aljafería (1862) and Torre Nueva (1892).[95]
  • Churches, monasteries, convents and libraries were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.[96]
  • A Virxe da Barca sanctuary, located in Muxia, was destroyed by lightning.[97]

Sri Lanka[edit]

  • The Palace of King Parakramabahu I of Polonnaruwa was set into fire by the Kalinga Magha lead Indian invaders in the 11th century. The ruins and the effect of the fire is still visible.[98]
  • The Library of Jaffna was burned in 1981, which had over 97,000 manuscripts in 1981 as a part of Sri Lankan war.


Minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, destroyed in fighting in 2013.


  • The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was destroyed by arson in 356 BC. It was later rebuilt, but it was damaged in a raid by Goths in 268 AD. Its stones were subsequently used in other buildings, including in Hagia Sophia and other buildings in Constantinople. A few fragments of the structure still survive in situ.
  • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, another Wonder of the Ancient World, was destroyed by a series of earthquakes between the 12th and 15th centuries. Most of the remaining marble blocks were burnt into lime, but some were used in the construction of Bodrum Castle by the Knights Hospitaller, where they can still be seen today. The only other surviving remains of the mausoleum are some foundations in situ, a few sculptures in the British Museum, and some marble blocks which were used to build a dockyard in Malta's Grand Harbour.



United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

See also[edit]


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