Mesoporous MgO architectures were successfully synthesized by the direct thermal transformation of the sacrificial oxalate template. The as-prepared mesoporous architectures were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electronic microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and nitrogen adsorption–desorption techniques. The MgO architectures showed extraordinary adsorption capacity and rapid adsorption rate for removal of Congo red (CR) from water. The maximum adsorption capacity of the MgO architectures toward CR reached 689.7 mg g−1, much higher than most of the previously reported hierarchical adsorbents. The CR removal process was found to obey the Langmuir adsorption model and its kinetics followed pseudo-second-order rate equation. The superior adsorption performance of the mesoporous MgO architectures could be attributed to the unique mesoporous structure, high specific surface area as well as strong electrostatic interaction.