FROM THE HEART
10 Lavish Monuments to Love
Who said it's the thought that counts? Throughout history, romantics have constructed elaborate monuments to show just how much they cared—though the love-story endings weren't always so happy.
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Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfries, Scotland: A widow's heartfelt shrine
This tale is unmistakably medieval. Noble-born Devorgilla of Galloway's response to her husband's death was to embalm his heart and place it in an ivory casket, which she then carried around with her at all times. Devorgilla performed many charitable acts in memory of her late husband, including founding this Cistercian monastery—named Dulce Cor, Latin for "Sweet Heart"—in 1273. Originally spread over more than 20 acres, the Abbey complex included a large, English-style church with carved columns, a 92-foot-high bell tower, and residential quarters for the brothers. When the widow died in 1289, she was buried in front of the abbey church's high altar, still holding on to her husband's enshrined heart. Over the centuries, the Abbey changed hands and purposes, until it fell victim to the Protestant Reformation of the mid-1500s. Today, visitors come to roam the elegant, well-kept ruins, which include the red-sandstone shell of the church and its lovely arch-lined nave, and a stone effigy of Lady Devorgilla clutching her beloved's heart. Abbey grounds are open year-round, $4.75 for adults, $2.90 for kids. 011-44/1387-850-397, historic-scotland.gov.uk.
Taj Mahal, Agra, India: An iconic memorial built by a crew of thousands
When his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died while giving birth to their 14th child, 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered the creation of this marble mausoleum and surrounding gardens. For 22 years, thousands of craftsmen worked on the Taj Mahal and its intricate inlays, bas relief, and accents of precious and semiprecious stones. Centered on a dome-topped tomb, the structure features Islamic minarets, Persian and Hindu decorative touches, and a façade elaborately carved with prayers. The beautifully decorated tombs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan are just decoys; according to Muslim tradition, their bodies actually lie together in a plain crypt beneath the inner chamber, with their faces turned toward Mecca. Though the Shah clearly preferred Mumtaz to his other wives, he did acknowledge them (and Mumtaz's favorite servant) with several smaller tombs, which sit past the vast garden complex. Open Saturday through Thursday, and at night during the full moon; $16.50, incredibleindia.org.
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Boldt Castle, Heart Island, N.Y.: A millionaire's 120-room gift to his wife
What better place for a love monument than an island shaped like a heart? This Rhineland-style castle was the fancy of millionaire George C. Boldt—proprietor of New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel—who built it for his wife, Louise. Beginning in 1900, over 300 carpenters, stonemasons, and artisans worked on the six-story, 120-room castle, which includes turrets, a drawbridge, gardens, and a dove cote. During construction, the Boldt family would summer on the island, holing up in the castle's Alster Tower. When Louise suddenly died, a devastated George ordered that all construction cease immediately. The family never returned to Heart Island, and the property remained abandoned until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took control and launched a restoration project. Open daily from May 7 to October 16, $7 for adults, $4.50 for kids 6–12; boat tours from the U.S. and Canada also stop at Heart Island, and docking for private boats is available, too, 315/482-9724, boldtcastle.com.
Kellie's Castle, Perak, Malaysia: An ill-fated mansion with tunnels and a rooftop courtyard
In 1890, Scotsman William Kellie Smith arrived in northwestern Malaysia to make his fortune in the rubber and tin industries. He settled into a Moorish-style manor on a knoll by the Kinta River with his lass Agnes and their daughter. The couple struggled for years to conceive another child until finally, in 1915, their son Anthony was born. To celebrate, Smith laid the groundwork for an elaborate new brick mansion to be adorned with flourishes like a rooftop courtyard, a second-floor indoor tennis court, tunnels, and secret rooms. But the project was plagued by problems from the start, when an outbreak of Spanish flu killed many of the southern Indian laborers. In 1926, Smith himself died in Portugal, where he went to collect his castle's elevator, which would have been the first in Malaysia. His heartbroken family returned to Scotland, leaving the rambling (and some say haunted) house—which is also referred to as Kellie's Folly—to become a tourist curiosity. Open daily, admission $1.30, 011-605/365-1336, tourism.gov.my.