Explore our guide to the world's most famous mausoleums
The Mausoleum throughout History
The mausoleum is one of the most fascinating constructs in history. Whilst usually defined as a large, stately tomb, there is no single type of mausoleum. In fact, from China’s Ming Tombs to the streets of Argentina’s La Recoleta Cemetery and beyond, history has provided us with an incredibly diverse variety of these burial sites.
Yet, what all mausoleums have in common is their grandeur and sense of history. Not only does this bind them together, but it also makes them popular tourist sites around the globe. Here, we’ll be looking at some of the world’s most famous mausoleums and their backgrounds.
Famous Mausoleums: Editor’s Picks
Mausoleum of Mausolus
Whilst little is left of this once majestic burial site in Turkey, it holds a special place in history as the first ever mausoleum. That’s not to say that this was the first time a stately tomb had ever been built, but rather that the term “mausoleum” comes from the name of the Caria ruler who was buried here, Mausolus. The site is often better known as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Photo by bazylek100 (cc)
Giza and the other Pyramids of Egypt
Whilst it is rare to hear one of Egypt’s pyramids described as a mausoleum, there’s little doubt that this is exactly what they are. After all, when it comes to tombs, it does get much grander than these vast and well-defended burial sites of Ancient Egypt’s pharaohs. The most famous pyramids are definitely those in Giza but there are several other fantastic examples including those of Saqqara and Dahshur. Photo by anaru (cc)
With its vibrant colours and picturesque dome, the mausoleum of Guri Amir is the final resting place of the legendary Mongol military and dynastic leader known as Timur or Tamerlane. Photo by Stefan Munder (cc)
Located in Russia’s Red Square, this is the mausoleum of the first leader of Soviet Russia and one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century. Inside, visitors can file past the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin and debate the controversial issue of whether they are seeing his original corpse or a fake. Photo by eimoberg (cc)
It’s hard to think of a more iconic or magnificent or more famous mausoleum than the Taj Mahal. Famed for its grandeur and stunning symmetry, Emperor Sha Jahan’s testament to his favourite wife is truly spectacular. Photo by Raphaël Fauveau (cc)
When China’s First Qin Emperor was laid to rest, he wasn’t alone. In fact, as irrefutable proof of his power, this military and imperial leader was accompanied by a vast army of terracotta soldiers, carts, horses and infantry. Today, this incredible mausoleum is listed by UNESCO and is truly a magnificent spectacle to behold. Photo by jshansen (cc)
Mausoleums around the World: By Country
Mausoleums in Argentina
La Recoleta Cemetery
Virtually a whole city of tombs and opulent burial sites, La Recoleta Cemetery is where many of Argentina’s most prominent figures are interred. Yet, within its vast web of streets, its most famous mausoleum is the black marble burial site of Eva Perón, better known as “Evita”.
Buenos Aires’ eighteenth century cathedral is home to the mausoleum of General San Martin, who played an important role in the nation’s battle for independence from Spain.
Mausoleums in Austria
The origins of these rock-hewn mausoleums are uncertain, but they are believed to have been the creation of early Christians.
Mausoleums in Azerbaijan
Visitors to this medieval royal palace in Baku can see the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs.
Mausoleums in China
The Ming Tombs house not just one mausoleum, but thirteen, each one the final resting place of an emperor on the Chinese Ming Dynasty. Most of these are closed to the public, but visitors can enter the mausoleum of Wanli, the longest surviving emperor of this imperial house.
The Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum
Located in the Purple Mountains outside Nanjing, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum is the burial site of the “father” of the nation of China, the first leader of its Republic. There is also a nearby museum about his life.
The Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum
This mausoleum belongs to Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty and better known as the Hongwu Emperor.
Mausoleums in Cuba
The Che Guevara Monument
Set in Santa Clara - ofte known as the City of Che - the Che Guevara Monument is a memorial to, museum and the mausoleum of this iconic revolutionary together with those who died with him.
Mausoleums in France
The Pantheon - Paris
Whilst really more of a crypt than a mausoleum, the Pantheon of Paris is well worth a mention. After all, while this great building was initially meant to glorify Paris’s patron saint, the onset of the French Revolution turned it into a shrine and burial place of prominent Frenchmen of the time including Voltaire and Moulin.
Nestled amidst the remains of the once thriving Roman settlement of Glanum is the Mausolée des Jules. Also known as the Mausoleum of Glanus, this well-preserved first century family tomb rises to an impressive height of almost 60 feet.
Mausoleums in Hungary
Christian Necropolis of Pecs
This World Heritage site is a two-tiered mausoleum with a history dating back to the 4th century, when the Roman town of Sopianae was in existence.
Mausoleums in India
Humayun’s tomb is the UNESCO-listed garden mausoleum of the second Mughal emperor as well as several other members of this imperial house.
Mausoleum of Emperor Akbar
Burial site of Abu Akbar, third emperor of the Mughal Dynasty, this mausoleum is a pretty mix of Islamic and Indian architectural influences.
Mausoleums in Italy
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
While this little known 5th century mausoleum was once thought to have housed Roman Emperor Theodosius I’s daughter, Galla Placidia, as well as two other emperors, the three graves in this ornately decorated tomb are no longer thought to have belonged to these prominent Romans. Nevertheless, it remains a UNESCO World Heritage site as one of the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna.
San Lorenzo Church
Within the walls of this externally unassuming church lies the mausoleum of one of Italy’s best known and most influential dynasties, the Medicis. Indeed, it was this prominent family who commissioned the rebuilding of San Lorenzo in the 15th century.
Castel Sant Angelo
Part of Rome’s Aurelian Walls, an emergency shelter for successive popes and now a great museum, Castel Sant Angelo has served many functions. Yet, whilst it has acted as a stronghold and looks like a fortress, the first role of this imposing site when it was built - probably in the second century - was a the mausoleum of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
Mausoleum of Augustus
Sadly the mausoleum of Rome first Emperor is currently closed to the public, but you can just about grab a peek of this fantastic historic site from the adjacent streets.
Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella
The Roman tomb of an aristocratic Roman woman turned medieval fort, the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is externally well preserved and, whilst there is little to see inside, this is now a nice picnic spot on the outskirts of Rome.
Via Appia Antica
From opulent tombs to catacombs, the road known as Via Appia Antica is the place to see the burial sites of early Rome. The main reason for this is its status as one of the oldest roads to Rome
This Rimini church, later transformed into a Renaissance church was transformed into the lavish mausoleum of Rimini’s once ruling Malatesta family.
Mausoleums in Morocco
Mausoleum of Mohammed V
This royal Moroccan mausoleum was built for sultan Mohammed V, who is interred there together with his two sons.
The Saadian Tombs
Marrakesh’s Saadian Tombs are where over sixty of Morocco’s Saadi Dynasty were laid to rest. Thought to have been established in the 16th century, these colourful mausoleums remained hidden for many years before being discovered in 1971 and are now open to the public.
Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
Notorious for destroying the architectural gems of others to build his own, Moulay Ismail’s mausoleum seems to be further proof of this sultan’s infamous extravagance.
Mausoleums in Peru
As well as its cemeteries, Machu Picchu has the remains of a great and beautifully decorated mausoleum, which would also have been used for ceremonial functions.
Royal Sipan Tombs
Said to have challenged the tomb of Tutankhamen in terms of its wealth and grandeur, the mausoleum of the Moche warrior king, the Lord of Sipan, is sadly closed to the public. However, those who want to view the riches that were contained inside - including jewels, silver, gold and quite a few animal skeletons - can do so at the Sipan Tomb Museum, which even bears the unusual shape of the original site.
Mausoleums in Romania
The Marasesti Mausoleum
Bearing the names of those who died in the World War I battle at this location, the Marasesti Mausoleum is one of Romania’s most important military memorials.
Mausoleums in Tunisia
While the former Numidian capital of Dougga is generally renowned for its excellent state of preservation, it is its multi-tiered Punic-Libyan Mausoleum which attracts the most praise. After all, with its estimated year of origin being as early as the third century BC, Dougga’s oldest site has survived remarkably well.
Mausoleums in Turkey
Istanbul Archaeology Museum
This well-renowned museum is home to an impressive collection of funereal artefacts, including the fourth century BC Alexander Tomb from Sidon and pieces from the Ancient Wonder known as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Mausoleums in the UK
Ten British monarchs are buried at Windsor Castle, amongst them the famous Henry VIII and Queen Victoria, the latter of whom shares a mausoleum here with Prince Albert.
Mausoleums in the US
This is the stately burial site of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, who is interred here with his wife and three of their four sons.
Mausoleums in Uzbekistan
This complex of holy shrines, mosques and tombs is thought to be the location of the famous mausoleum of the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin Kusam ibn Abbas and, like other structures in this UNESCO-listed site, is beautifully decorated.
Mausoleums in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Housing the body of North Vietnam’s former president and situated on the site in Hanoi where this famous leader declared Vietnam’s independence from Japan, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum offers visitors the opportunity to gaze upon the body of the man known by some as Uncle Ho. Those who want to learn more about Ho Chi Minh can do so at the Ho Chi Minh Museum.