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Perched dramatically on the edge of a 120 feet tall cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Mussenden Temple near Castlerock, in the north-western coast of Northern Ireland, is a curious building. It was built in 1783 by Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, who took great pleasure in building splendid mansions at Downhill and Ballyscullion, and then filling them with precious art he procured from Italy and elsewhere. His home at Downhill was once adorned with Rembrandts, Rafaels, Titians, Durers, and Carravagios.

The story goes that once while on a vacation to Italy, Frederick Hervey fell in love with a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Vesta. Hervey wanted to buy the temple and ship it back to Ireland to be re-erected on his property. But the Pope refused—the temple was at least 2,000 years old and one cannot simply walk into Rome and buy off its historical buildings.


Aerial view of Mussenden Temple. The ruins in the distance is Downhill House. Photo credit: Ballygally View Images/

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