Portals of epiphany. Doors in Greek temple architecture

    Activity: Talk and presentationProfessional or public presentationProfessional


    While not every place of cult in the Greek world included a temple, those that did were largely dominated by them. Monumental temples were magnets of desire and are the features most often portrayed in ancient descriptions of sanctuaries, with Pausanias as prime example. Temples have long been considered a luxury that primarily expressed the wealth and pride of their communities, objects largely to be admired from the exterior, while access to their interior, with the cult image and often treasury, was assumed to be restricted to priests. Only recently have scholars begun to examine temples as ritual spaces, with a reassessment of the degree of access by the public at large. This new approach requires a further reconsideration of temple doors. Obviously doors had the practical function of allowing people in or shutting them out. However, they were also among the sculptural jewels of temples -often made of gold and ivory, or bearing sculpted panels- and possessed a style of ornamentation that was initially exclusive to sacred architecture. Why were they so elaborate? In this paper I examine the use of temple interiors, then proceed to explore ways that the cult image was perceived and the crucial role of doorways in facilitating the transition of movement and light. Drawing on a wide variety of examples, I argue that temple doors were critical in mediating encounters between a community and the deity that protected them.
    Event titleTijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie symposium – ‘Public Works’
    Event typeConference
    LocationGroningen, Netherlands


    • Greek temples
    • Ancient Greek religion
    • Ancient Greek architecture
    • Doorway effect