Our Evolving Culture

A short history of four simple ideas and how they changed the way we dream, travel, learn and walk


11th century San Marco, Venice. The Doge's chapel was modeled on a now destroyed church in the rival--and more splendid--metropolis Constantinople. But as it prospered, Venice both updated and preserved San Marco's splendor: five shallow Byzantine brick domes were covered over by metal ones. The 320-ft. campanile, foreground, raised in 912, collapsed in 1902. It was rebuilt in 1912--on its 1,000th birthday.

1113-1150 Angkor Wat, Cambodia (213 ft. tall). Part holy mountain, part city, the sprawling temple built by King Suryavarman II was intended to be proof of his divinity.

1224-1424 Notre Dame de Chartres (112 ft.). Again and again,...

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