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In southern Sicily, near the city of Agrigento (ancient Akragas), lies the "Valle dei Templi," the Valley of the Temples. The number of temples in the area makes it seem as though there is more Grecian architecture here in Sicily than can be found in Greece itself.


The Concord (or Concordia) Temple was built about 430 B.C.E. Its front and rear elevations have six columns, with thirteen running along the sides. There is a lot remaining, due to the fact that the Grecian temple was converted to a Christian church in the late 6th century C.E. Interestingly, it was transformed back into its original condition in 1748. Apparently, it is the best preserved of all the temples in the valley.

We could enter into an arguable area here: Vincent Scully has criticized the post-Parthenon temples for having lost their individual identity, and uses this Temple of Concord as a prime example, since no one knows to which Greek deity it was dedicated. He has further stated in his book Architecture: The Natural and the Manmade that the building is "...stiff, linear, and dried out, though still exquisite, like good American Greek Revival work...." That is sardonic, worse than sarcastic. Others argue that the refinements of several centuries of design have finally come to fruition, citing the ever-so-slight yet graceful entasis of the columns, and the greater spacing between those columns - evidence of mature design and construction. In fact, in their book Architecture: from Pre-History to Post Modernism, Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabel Hyman say the following: "Despite its weathered limestone surface, the Temple of Concord presents an architectural image of jewel-like perfection."

I cite the above references because architectural history to me is not a science but an art, and we all know about the "eye of the beholder." It is how your senses react to a building, a place, and a certain ambiance. Take some knowledge, throw in some perception, and see how you relate and react.

Looking into the cella of the Temple of Concord. Apparently, the remaining walls as seen are the original height. The opening in the upper wall appears to be an arch, but further examination reveals corbelled construction. Remember that there is no evidence of the pre-Alexander Greeks having built an arch in anything other than mechanical plumbing.

The Doric order with the abacus and echinus forming the column capital. The triglyphs appear; the metopes (assuming they existed) would have been long removed.

Greek Doric columns had no base. The entire Temple is, however, lifted onto a base, which appears to be of three or four risers. It is sometimes difficult to tell just how many risers actually did exist, since the paving stones surrounding the platform are gone. The tradition seems to indicate three risers, but whether or not this was universal, mandated by custom or the rule of the "orders," is speculative. A research project could be developed, because the raising obviously elevated the temples to a slight position of awe. Contrast this modest rise with the truly "awesome" Roman platforms, which really created a scale distinction between normal mortals and the mighty Roman Empire headquartered in and embodied by those structures.

Note carefully the positioning of the individual stones in this post and lintel construction. Triglyphs are centered on columns, but often the end columns were placed closer to those adjacent, causing the triglyph to go off center, actually forming the perimeter edge above the architrave. Supposedly, the Greeks placed end columns closer to visually “fortify” the corner of a building in the eye of the viewer.

View down the side of the temple, with an attempt to determine if the upward camber so famous in the Parthenon in Athens was also accomplished here, in a Grecian colony. Time, reconstruction, modifications, and erosion do not really allow for any conclusion. A research topic would be to find writings of the original Greeks themselves, to determine just how widespread (if at all) was the practice of designing those cambers.

Inside the Temple of Concord. This image is followed below by a view of the upper section of the columns in the foreground.

The upper view of the image above, in the Temple of Concord.

Some wonderful shade and shadow of fluted columns – or, at least, a suggestion of such. And so we end our Grecian odyssey, which began on the Italian mainland, continued on the Greek mainland, and ends here in Sicily.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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