Here’s what these abandoned palaces once looked like

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What is a palace, and how is it distinct from a castle? Because both buildings serve as royal residences, the words are often used interchangeably. However, castles are military buildings first and homes second. Palaces are primarily homes — opulent homes, to be sure, but homes nevertheless.

The modern homeowner — fretting over wear-and-tear — doesn’t have to worry about roving armies, rival dynasties, and rebellion. History can be crueler to royal residences. Thus, we teamed up with some amazing graphic designers to reconstruct seven impressive palaces from around the world.

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1. Sans Souci, Haiti today

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Revolutionary general Henry Christophe declared himself king over northern Haiti in 1811. According to one perspective, Henry I was a tin-pot dictator who forced his fellow Haitians back into virtual slavery and plunged the nation into a 13-year civil war.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

According to another, he was a brilliant lawgiver who forged a colony of former slaves into a nation influential enough to force concessions from the great empires of Europe.

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

While Henry’s legacy is somewhat debatable, the beauty of his palace is not. Called the ‘Versailles of the Caribbean’, the palace’s majestic steps and terraces are an impressive monument to Haitian independence.

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2. Qal’eh Dokhtar, Iran

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Qal’eh Dokhar was built by Ardašīr I as a “barrier fortress” during his 3rd century founding of the Sasanian Empire in Iran. The fortress’s third floor housed his royal residence but was eventually supplanted by a greater palace he built nearby.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Because it is fortified, Qal’eh Dokhtar is technically a castle, not a palace. However, in the face of its stunning walls, who would quibble over labels?

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Qal’eh Dokhtar boasts perhaps the earliest example of an Iranian chartaq—a square of four arches supporting a dome—which became an important feature of traditional Iranian architecture.

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3. Knossos Palace, Greece

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

The oldest palace on this list by two millennia, Knossos, was constructed circa 1700 BC. In addition to its political function, it also was designed as an economic and religious centre for the mysterious Minoan civilization.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Knossos was destroyed circa 1375 BC—surviving invasion, fire, and earthquake nearly a century longer than similar Minoan complexes.

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Without a way to decipher Minoan writings, the ruin’s many striking frescoes are key to understanding Minoan culture. For instance, one depicts the sport of bull-leaping. This sport may have given rise to the legend of the Minotaur—a cannibalistic half-man/half-bull from later Greek mythology.

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4. Ruzhany Palace, Belarus

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

The Sapieha family—power-brokers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—built Ruzhany Palace in the late 1700s over the site of their earlier castle. In its heyday, Ruzhany’s famed theatre employed 100 performers. The palace also possessed a famous library and picture collection.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

In 1831, the palace was leased to the Pines family as a textile factory, bringing wealth to the local Jewish community.

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Ruzhany’s palace, Jewish community, and political independence all came to a violent end during World War II. Today, the region is controlled by Belarus, which has begun restoring Ruzhany to its former glory.

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5. Dungur Palace / “Palace of the Queen of Sheba,” Ethiopia

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Dungur Palace is in the Ethiopian village of Aksum—once the bustling capital of an African empire that stretched from southern Egypt to Yemen.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

The 6th-century mansion contains approximately 50 rooms, including a bathing area, kitchen, and (possible) throne room.

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Little is known about the history of the building itself. It’s nickname—“the Palace of the Queen of Sheba”—is wishful thinking. However, the discovery of a carving of a “beautiful woman” during excavation has fueled hope that remains of the queen’s real residence may hide beneath Dungur.

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6. Clarendon Palace, UK

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Despite the composition of a very significant English legal document within its halls, this 12th-century palace is nearly forgotten.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

The ‘Constitutions of Clarendon’ were Henry II’s attempt to gain legal authority over church clerks, but he instead exacerbated a feud with his friend Thomas à Becket. This feud eventually led to Archbishop Beckett’s martyrdom.

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Henry III expanded the palace, commissioning a carved fireplace and stained glass chapel. By the 1400s, Clarendon was a sprawling royal complex. It remained a favourite retreat of monarchs until the Tudor era, when the high cost of upkeep resulted in its rapid decline. Today, only a single wall remains above ground.

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7. Husuni Kubwa, Tanzania

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

The island of Kilwa Kisiwani was one of the most important sultanates in the “Swahili Coast’ trade network, linking East Africa to the Arabic world.

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Blueprint

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

For over 300 years, gold and ivory passed out of its ports, while Chinese silk and porcelain flowed in. The 14th-century palace at Husuni Kubwa is just one of many coral stone ruins that dot the island.

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Reconstructed

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

Husuni Kubwa was built by Sultan al-Hasan ibn Sulaiman. It had over 100 rooms, an octagonal swimming pool, and a staging area for loading goods onto ships. Husuni Kubwa, along with other elite Kilwa dwellings, was also equipped with indoor plumbing.

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Home Sweet Home…

Here's what these abandoned palaces once looked like

…or so they say. From constitutional crisis to world war, economic eclipse to struggles against slavery, one wonders how much sweetness the dynasties of history really obtained from their luxurious residences. There’s reason to be grateful for the modern person’s more modest dwelling.

Then again, when Edward III governed from Clarendon to escape a 14th-century plague, one might also say he was working from home. Perhaps our humble homes share some functions with a royal palace after all.

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This article originally appeared on BudgetDirect.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

SOURCES

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Shepperson, T. (2012). The Constitutions of Clarendon and the Becket AffairHistoryofLaw.co.uk

Place and See. (2021). Clarendon Palaceplaceandsee.com.

Noain Maura, J.M. (2020). This abandoned East African city once controlled the medieval gold tradenationalgeographic.co.uk.

Fleisher, J. (2012). Geophysical Survey at Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzaniaresearchgate.net.

World Monument Fund. (2021). Historic Sites of Kilwawmf.org.

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Cartwright, M. (2019). Kilwaancient.edu.

Manneh, E. (2021). What’s the Difference Between a Castle and a Palacefamilyhandyman.com.

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