Temple of Concordia, Agrigento, Valley of the Temples

The Temple of Concordia (Italian: Tempio della Concordia) is an ancient Greek temple in the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) in Agrigento (Greek: Akragas) on the south coast of Sicily, Italy. It is the largest and best-preserved Doric temple in Sicily and one of the best-preserved Greek temples in general, especially of the Doric order. It is still unknown to whom this temple was dedicated.

This temple is of the peripteral type with double cell in antis. Together with the Parthenon, it is considered the best preserved Doric temple in the world.

The name of the temple is due to the discovery in the vicinity of a Latin inscription with a dedication to the concord of the Agrigento people who in reality has no other links with it. The name of “Temple of Concordia” is documented by one of the first Sicilian historians: Tommaso Fazello.

The temple was built c. 440–430 BC. The well-preserved peristasis of six by thirteen columns stands on a crepidoma of four steps (measuring 39.42 m × 16.92 m (129.3 ft × 55.5 ft), and 8.93 m (29.3 ft) high) The cella measures 28.36 m × 9.4 m (93.0 ft × 30.8 ft). The columns are 6 m (20 ft) high and carved with twenty flutes and harmonious entasis (tapering at the tops of the columns and swelling around the middles).

It is constructed, like the nearby Temple of Juno, on a solid base designed to overcome the unevenness of the rocky terrain. It has been conventionally named after Concordia, the Roman goddess of harmony, for the Roman-era Latin inscription found nearby, which is unconnected with it.

If still in use by the 4th-and 5th century, it would have been closed during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire. The temple was converted into a Christian basilica in the 6th century dedicated to the apostles Peter and Paul by San Gregorio delle Rape, bishop of Agrigento and thus survived the destruction of pagan places of worship. The spaces between the columns were filled with walling, altering its Classical Greek form. The division between the cella, the main room where the cult statue would have stood in antiquity, and the opisthodomos, an adjoining room, was destroyed, and the walls of the cella were cut into a series of arches along the nave. The Christian refurbishments were removed during the restoration of 1785. According to another source, the Prince of Torremuzza transferred the altar elsewhere and began restoration of the classic building in 1788.

On April 25, 1787 Goethe, visiting Agrigento, lingers on the Valley of the Temples where he spends great words for the temple of Concordia but also criticizes the poor quality of the restoration carried out on the stone:

«The temple of Concordia has lasted for centuries; its slender line approximates it to our concept of beauty and agreeable, and compared to the temples of Paestum we would say it the figure of a god in front of the appearance of a giant. There is no need to deplore the lack of taste with which the recent, laudable attempts were made to preserve these monuments, filling the faults with a dazzling white plaster, so much so that the temple presents itself, to a considerable extent, as a ruin; and yet it would have been so simple to give chalk the color of corroded stone! Of course, to see how easily the limestone tuff of the columns and walls crumbles, it is no wonder that it could have endured so long. But precisely for this reason architects, hoping for equally capable continuers,
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Journey to Italy)

According to authors of a 2007 article, it is “apart from the Parthenon, the best preserved Doric temple in the world.”

The so-called Temple of Concordia is one of the best preserved temples of Greek antiquity.
The building owes its traditional name to a Latin inscription dating to the mid-first century BC which mentions the “Concordia degli Agrigentini”. The inscription was erroneously attributed to the temple by the historian and theologian Tommaso Fazello in the mid 1500s.

The building, constructed in the Doric order, was built around the second half of the fifth century BC and features a base of four steps upon which stand six columns on the short sides and thirteen on the long sides. It is a quadrilateral of 19.758 meters by 42.230, little more than a double square that occupies an area of 843.38 m² and develops a height of 13.481 meters. It is unique among the temples in the Agrigento area in that it has retained almost all of its entablature and the two capitals on the east and west sides.

This temple has a peripteral type plan, since in addition to the central double cell in antis (with the presence of nao and pronaos) there is also a perimeter colonnade.

This temple, built on a massive base destined to overcome the unevenness of the rocky ground, for the state of conservation is considered one of the most remarkable sacred buildings of the classical era in the Greek world (430 BC).

On a crepidoma of four steps (39.44×16.91 m) stands the well-preserved peristasis of 6×13 columns (portico surrounding the naos), high m. 6,67 and characterized by twenty grooves and harmonious entasi towards 2/3 (curvature of the vertical section), surmounted by an epistle, frieze of triglyphs and metopes and frame with mutuli; the eardrums are also fully preserved. The cell, preceded by a pronao in antis (like the opisthodomos) is accessed through a step; well preserved are the pylons with stairsAccess to the roof and, on top of the cell walls and in the blocks of the entablature of the peristasi, the business for the truss wooden cover. The exterior and interior of the temple were covered with stucco with the necessary polychrome.

The sima showed eaves with lion-like protomes and the covering provided for marble tiles. Its structure was strengthened due to the transformation into a Christian church (6th century) which first of all led to a reversal of the ancient orientation, whereby the back wall of the cell was demolished, the intercolumns closed and twelve arched openings were made in the walls of the cell, so as to constitute the three canonical naves, the two lateral ones in the peristasis and the central one coinciding with the cell. Then the classical period altar was destroyed and the sacristies were placed in the east corners, the building became a virtually perfect basilica organism. The pits dug inside and outside the church refer to high-medieval burials, according to custom placed in close relationship with the basilica.

The temple’s interior is divided into the portico at the entrance, the naos and the opisthodomos, the rear room, with the portico and opisthodomos framed by two columns. The door to the naos is flanked by two pillars which contain a carved service staircase leading to the roof.
According to the tradition, the temple was converted into a Christian church towards the late sixth century AD when Gregory, Bishop of Agrigento, exorcised the pagan demons Eber and Raps and dedicated the ancient temple to the Apostles Peter and Paul.

The twelve arches in the walls of the naos bear testament to the building’s time as a Christian church, a purpose to which it owes its exceptional state of preservation.

Finally, the duality of the pagan demons and its dedication to two Christian saints has led to the theory that the temple was originally devoted to two Greek gods (one such theory refers to Castor and Pollux). However, with the absence of any archaeological evidence or epigraphs the truth as to which god or gods the temple was originally built to honour is unknown.

Alignment archaeoastronomical
Like almost all Greek temples, it is aligned according to the east-west direction. In particular, studies have been carried out in the past on its alignment with the rising of the sun during the spring equinox.

Valley of the Temples
The Valley of the Temples is an archaeological park in Sicily characterized by the exceptional state of conservation and by a series of important Doric temples from the Hellenic period. It corresponds to the ancient Akragas, monumental original nucleus of the city of Agrigento. Today it is a regional archaeological park.

The Valley includes remains of seven temples, all in Doric style. The ascription of the names, apart from that of the Olympeion, are a mere tradition established in Renaissance times. The temples are:

Temple of Concordia, whose name comes from a Latin inscription found nearby, and which was built in the 5th century BC. Turned into a church in the 6th century AD, it is now one of the best preserved in the Valley.
Temple of Juno, also built in the 5th century BC. It was burnt in 406 BC by the Carthaginians.
Temple of Heracles, who was one of the most venerated deities in the ancient Akragas. It is the most ancient in the Valley: destroyed by an earthquake, it consists today of only eight columns.
Temple of Olympian Zeus, built in 480 BC to celebrate the city-state’s victory over Carthage. It is characterized by the use of large scale atlases.
Temple of Castor and Pollux. Despite its remains including only four columns, it is now the symbol of modern Agrigento.
Temple of Hephaestus (Vulcan), also dating from the 5th century BC. It is thought to have been one of the most imposing constructions in the valley; it is now however one of the most eroded.
Temple of Asclepius, located far from the ancient town’s walls; it was the goal of pilgrims seeking cures for illness.
The Valley is also home to the so-called Tomb of Theron, a large tuff monument of pyramidal shape; scholars suppose it was built to commemorate the Romans killed in the Second Punic War.

Since 1997 the whole area has been included in the list of world heritage sites drawn up by UNESCO. It is considered a popular tourist destination, as well as being the symbol of the city and one of the main ones on the whole island. The archaeological and landscape park of the Valley of the Temples, with its 1300 hectares, is the largest archaeological site in the world.