Seven Wonders

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Yesterday, the New7Wonders Foundation named the new seven wonders of the world after a worldwide Internet/phone poll. The list, which updates the seven wonders of the ancient world, includes the Great Wall of China, the Roman Colloseum in Italy, and the Christ Redeemer statue in Brazil (full list). But this Internet-age poll has angered and disappointed many, with criticisms coming from all corners. UNESCO, which runs the World Heritage program, has taken pains to point out that it has no part in this contest, that the contest in biased, and that it in no way helps preserve ancient sites.

“UNESCO’s objective and mandate is to assist countries in identifying, protecting and preserving World Heritage. Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough … There is no comparison between Mr Weber’s mediatised campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The list of the “7 New Wonders of the World” will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the internet and not the entire world. This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public.”

Egypt, which houses the only surviving ancient wonder, the Great Pyramid of Giza, complained that the contest demeaned their culture and the pyramids. It got so heated that New7Wonders sidestepped the controversy by making the Great Pyramid(s) of Giza an “honorary” candidate.

“After careful consideration, the New7Wonders Foundation designates the Pyramids of Giza—the only remaining of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World—as an Honorary New7Wonders Candidate. Therefore, you cannot vote for the Pyramids of Giza as part of the New7Wonders campaign. This decision has also taken into account the views of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. The Pyramids are a shared world culture and heritage site and deserve their special status as the only Honorary Candidate of the New7Wonders of the World campaign.”

Meanwhile, The Vatican has complained that the lack of Christian monuments included in the running points to an anti-Christian bias.

“Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, who heads the Vatican’s pontifical commission for culture and archeology, said that the exclusion of Christian works of art such as Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel was ‘surprising, inexplicable, even suspicious’ … Monsignor Piecenza said that many other Christian sites had been ignored, from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona to world famous cathedrals. ‘Vatican officials suspect an antiChristian bias’ said La Repubblica yesterday. Francesco Buranelli, the director of the Vatican Museums, said he was also aghast. ‘How they can they possibly exclude from the wonders of the world a masterpiece like the Sistine Chapel, which last year alone had over four million visitors?'”

Aside from those who felt snubbed or offended, were those who lost out. Druids in Britain mourned Stonehenge’s failure to place in the new list, and equated the entire contest to the Eurovision song competition.

“Druid Terry Dobney, who is keeper of the stones at Avebury, said he was disappointed there had not been more support for the Wiltshire monument. ‘It’s a bit like the Eurovision song contest, there’s been block voting around the world so I’m led to believe,’ he said. ‘In South America, they voted for the Christ statue in Rio and they’ve got a million block vote in South America and it’s the same with the Taj Mahal in India. They’re places of intrigue, but we know who built them and why they were built, there’s not a great wonderment attached to them as opposed to Stonehenge which has this great wonderment attached to it.'”

Despite Stonehenge’s loss, the new list does overwhelmingly favor pre-Christian constructions (giving some credence to the Vatican’s complaints). But rather than paint this as some sort of victory for polytheist achievements, I think I’m more in UNESCO’s camp in this instance. Our world is far larger now (culturally and geographically) than it was when the seven wonders of the ancient world world were picked. To arbitrarily pick the “top” wonders by an unequal voting process seems counterproductive to the mission of preserving and recognizing great works in human achievement.