In the Americas, there is La Danta Temple (built c300 BC, 230 ft / 70.10m) in modern-day Guatemala. In Asia (Far East and South Asia), there is the Ruwanwelisaya (built c300 BC, 300 ft / 91.44m) in Sri Lanka. What is there in Europe?

The Wikipedia page History of the world's tallest buildings makes no mention of anything between the Great Pyramids and Lincoln Cathedral (1300). The List of Greek and Roman architectural records doesn't come up with anything more than the Pont du Gard at 160 ft / 48.77m (or 155 ft / 47.24m, depending on which Wiki article you believe). The Colosseum is another possible candidate at 157 ft / 47.85m (or 159 ft / 48.46m according to The Colosseum.net)

Pont du Gard, Colosseum The Pont du Gard and the Colosseum.

To clarify, by 'ancient times' I mean any time up to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. However, I'd also be interested in anything taller than the examples above which was built before 1000 AD i.e. Early Medieval.

I'm only interested in man-made structures which are still standing, even if not in their entirety.

  • Tallest structures in Europe
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 9:19
  • 14
    I know there is no obligation to do so but it would be useful if the downvoter could explain why this question deserves to be downvoted. Criticism which is constructive is welcome and can help the OP to make improvements. Criticism with no explanation / reason serves no purpose. Please be constructive. Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 10:27
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    This question just makes me sad that they never rebuilt the Colossus of Rhodes.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 11:48
  • 1
    The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was built in the 430's and its campanile is 75 meters (246 ft) tall. But I haven't found if rhrme tower was built in the 5th century or not.
    – Spencer
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 22:33
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    Please, add standard length units (meters) to parenthesis. It's really hard to read for anybody who is not used to dealing with imperial system.
    – Sulthan
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 7:35

9 Answers 9


I'll put in the Hagia Sophia, which reached the height of 182ft (55.6 meters) in the year 562: enter image description here

...The emperor ordered an immediate restoration. He entrusted it to Isidorus the Younger, nephew of Isidore of Miletus, who used lighter materials and elevated the dome by "30 feet"[18] (about 6.25 meters or 20.5 feet)[clarification needed] – giving the building its current interior height of 55.6 meters (182 ft).[22] Moreover, Isidorus changed the dome type, erecting a ribbed dome with pendentives, whose diameter lay between 32.7 and 33.5 m.[18] Under Justinian's orders, eight Corinthian columns were disassembled from Baalbek, Lebanon, and shipped to Constantinople around 560.[23] This reconstruction, giving the church its present 6th-century form, was completed in 562.

Not before the fall of the western Roman Empire, but (as per comments) early medieval.

  • Some more technical info on the engineering involved can be read here {Thanks @RomaH !}
  • 2
    …and that's on the inside only.
    – Bergi
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 3:17
  • Yes, inside top of dome.
    – justCal
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 3:21
  • This article claims the dome is approximately 2.5ft or 0.8m thick. maa.org/sites/default/files/pdf/meetings/minis/…
    – RomaH
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 14:16
  • @RomaH Thanks for the link! Some good info in there. I'll add it to the answer so others can read it if the comment is lost.
    – justCal
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 21:06
  • This is a good answer which falls within the parametres of the question (not sure why someone downvoted it...) Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 3:27

I suppose that the Neolithic Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, built about 2470 - 2350 BC, is probably a contender for any list of the tallest European structures from ancient times.

At 39.3 metres (129 ft) high, I'm pretty sure it is the tallest prehistoric structure in Europe.

Photo of Silbury Hill
Photo by Greg O'Beirne, CC BY-SA 3.0, unchanged

  • 1
    An interesting prehistoric example. Strange I've never heard of it before, but then prehistory has never been my forte... Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 12:58
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    @LarsBosteen It may have been much taller when built, but natural erosion, medieval building work, and 18th-century excavations have destroyed the evidence of what might have originally been on top of the mound. Still, surviving to a height of almost 40m after almost four-and-a-half millennia is pretty impressive. :) Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 13:04
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    @T.E.D. Er, that would be a different hill, in a different county. :) Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 17:12
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    Hobbit skyscraper?! Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 10:02
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    @T.E.D. Two letters off, nothing crazy. :-)
    – EKons
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 17:25

Possible currently existing candidates after the Colosseum and the Nimes Aqueduct.

at 91 feet, the aqueduct of Ferreres, tarragona, Ic B.C. enter image description here

at 89 feet, the aqueduct of Segovia.

enter image description here

The Hercules lighttower, Galicia. 118 feet of roman building, 72 more feet added in the 1600's during a rebuild process.

enter image description here

a "detailed" plan of the roman stone structure ( no details added, no ornaments, no wood, only the stone plans as discovered): enter image description here

The Alcántara bridge, 90 A.D. , 147ft height , thanks to @njuffa enter image description here

  • 1
    Not quite competitors but worth mentioning :) Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 13:02
  • @LarsBosteen not competitors, but yes "standing" and mostly unbroken.
    – CptEric
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 13:28
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    To this list of "still standing but not quite the tallest" structures one could add the Alcantara bridge in Spain with a height of 45 m (~= 147 ft).
    – njuffa
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 18:19
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    Well, they're definitely the longest!
    – John Dee
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 5:30
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    The Romans were amazingly good engineers and what's even more amazing is that these aqueducts were everywhere in the Roman empire, not just single buildings like the Pyramids.
    – Byte11
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 0:00

What about the Pantheon in Rome, finished circa 126 AD?

It is 142 feet to the inside of its oculus, and the dome adds another 1.2 metres (3.9 ft).

Pantheon with dimensions

(shared from engineeringrome.com via CC 3.0, attibuted to Lancaster, 2005).

Not only that, it is still is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, and the only one surviving from the time of the Empire.

Pantheon interior from Wikipedia

  • 1
    @LarsBosteen I thought the Pantheon wasn't getting enough love, either, so I added some images. If Martigan feels I've done too much, they should feel free to revert the edit once it's peer reviewed.
    – Spencer
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 18:22

Borsippa was a city that was closely connected to Babylon. It had a Ziggurat built by Nebbuchadnezzar II, on the site of an older building. It belonged to the god Nabu. Originally standing at 70 meters, the remains of the ziggurat are now 52 meters tall. Medieval people thought that it was the tower of Babel. Its known as the "the tongue tower" because of its distinct shape.

enter image description here

Dur Kurigalzu was a city during the Old Kassite period. It was named after King Kurigalzu, c. 1375 B.C., who made it the capitol of Babylon. Bricks on the ziggurat bear the inscription of Kurgalzu II, c. 1332 B.C. The remains of the ziggurat are about 52 meters tall. The surrounding platform was rebuilt in the 90's, and its a popular destination for people in Baghdad.

I'm not sure if the OP was asking about Mesopotamia, but it is technically a part of the Near East. There was nothing in Europe close to this size until the Roman Empire.

enter image description here


The Temple Mount in Jerusalem

From http://www.jerusalem-insiders-guide.com/temple-of-jerusalem.html

The dimensions for the Temple of Jerusalem were staggering: 460 meters to the east, 315 m to the north, 280 m to the south, and the western wall was 485 meters long.

The walls above ground rose 30 meters (ten stories tall), and their foundations were as deep as 20 meters in some places in order to reach bedrock. Each layer of the wall was recessed about 3 centimeters from the layer beneath it. This was to avoid the optical illusion created whenever you look up a tall, straight object, that it is about to fall over you.

Some of the quarried stones used in the Western Wall are so large that, to this day, archaeologists have trouble understanding how they could possibly have been transported. The smallest stones weight between 2 to 5 tons and the largest stone of them all – possibly the largest building stone in antiquity – is 13.6 meters long, 4.6 meters thick and 3.3 meters high, and is estimated to weigh 570 tons. The builders used dry construction – there is no cement between the stones. In fact, there’s nothing holding the stones together except their own weight.

Today, the highest point in the exposed section reaches a height of 40 meters above the bedrock

  • Interesting, I especially like the parts about altering construction to create the illusion of straight walls. Since this question is concerning the height of the ancient construction which survives to today, can you include that information? It seems this information is mainly concerning the size when it was constructed (perhaps I misunderstand though).
    – justCal
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 17:25
  • from english.thekotel.org/kotel/about/facts_and_data: In the past, the Western Wall rose to a height of 60 meters. Today, the highest point in the exposed section reaches a height of 40 meters above the bedrock.
    – Davidides
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 17:32
  • Downvoted because it doesn't answer the question.
    – John Dee
    Commented Nov 23, 2017 at 18:18

The Jetavanaramaya in Sri Lanka, a Buddhist Stupa, is 400 feet tall. It was built between 270 and 301 AD. As the exact height of the Lighthouse of Alexandria is unknown, the Jetavanaramaya may have been taller.

  • 4
    Sorry if I didn't make it clearer in the question (I'll edit) but I'm only interested in man-made structures in Europe and the Near East that are still standing, even if not in their entirety (but thanks for your answer anyway). :) Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 8:05
  • It was still standing there last time I checked (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jetavanaramaya). I'm not sure if Sri Lanka counts as Near East, tho.
    – Ape
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 12:35
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    @Ape Near East is a Euro-centric expression meaning the region starting at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and extending into roughly Iraq. There is also the Far East, which is roughly China, Japan, Korea etc. These expressions are a bit dated nowadays and don't make much sense if you live in Australia or Alaska. Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 13:18

Perhaps the Lighthouse of Alexandria at an estimated height of 120 meters (423 ft).

  • 3
    Sorry if I didn't make it clearer in the question (I'll edit) but I'm only interested in man-made structures in Europe and the Near East that are still standing, even if not in their entirety (but thanks for your answer anyway). :) Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 8:06
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    maybe because it's no longer standing?
    – user69715
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 10:08

Newgrange - Neolithic burial grounds at Newgrange are older than the Egyptian Pyramids, pre-dating Stonehenge by 1,000 years. One of Europe’s most important prehistoric clusters.

enter image description here

  • 9
    But how tall is it?
    – Null
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 15:02
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    According to the wiki page for this location, the height is up to 12 meters.
    – justCal
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 17:18
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    This is an answer to an entirely unrelated question.
    – Mast
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 20:36

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