398328_10100550921955150_1151653220_nDominating the forum of Ostia Antica, the main harbour town supplying ancient Rome, the brick-built Capitolium can be seen from almost every part of the 2,500-year-old site. Built in the 2nd century AD to honour the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva), the temple’s walls, still standing to a height of more than 17m (56ft), were originally lined with marble. It must have been an imposing sight. Having recently returned from visiting the town – an easy 25 minute train journey outside Rome – here are 7 more tremendous temples from all over the world.


1. Mnajdra Temple, Malta

IMG_1979-Mnajdra doorwayMalta’s Neolithic temples are as mysterious as they are celebrated. Built 5,000 years ago, without the aid of metal tools, these ancient buildings represent the oldest surviving free-standing stone buildings in the world. Mnajdra comprises three temple units, arranged in a semi-circle around a curved courtyard.

Did you know?

Mnajdra’s southernmost temple is thought to have been built as an observatory. At the Summer Solstice a finger of sunlight hits a pecked stone at the back of the main apse, while 6 months later, it strikes a stone on the other side of the structure. On the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, the sun shines directly through the temple door, flooding the whole building with light.

2. Temple of the Night Sun, Guatemala
MaskFind_BrownUniv5Today known as ‘The Devil’s Pyramid’, this 1,600-year-old temple overlooks the Maya City of El Zotz. Along its facade, excavations have uncovered monumental stucco masks depicting the sun god, which glow red when hit by the light of dusk.

Did you know?

El Zotz takes its name from the inhabitants of its many caves – zotz is Maya for ‘bat’.

3. Templo Mayor, Mexico

bonesThis was the main temple of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, whose ruins now stand in the centre of Mexico City. Recent archaeological work has uncovered a number of enigmatic finds here, including the burial of a young woman, surrounded by a jumble of almost 2,000 human bones.

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One of the most recent discoveries from Templo Mayor was 50 human skulls arranged around a sacrificial stone – the largest number to be found in a single deposit at the Aztec temple. Some of these had been pierced on both sides, suggesting they had been hung on a display rack or tzompantli.

4. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

ANGKOR WAT 8Built in the mid-12th century as a funerary temple for Suryavarman II, ruler of the prosperous Khmer Empire, Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world. It measures 1500m (0.9 miles) from east to west, and took an army of 50,000 workers 37 years to complete.

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Featuring exquisite galleries of bas-relief carvings, Angkor Wat is an awe-inspiring sight, but in its hey-day it would have been even more beautiful. Inscriptions on the temple’s walls boast that the structure was once clad in gold.

5. Temple of Demeter, Selinunte, Sicily

Figure_13Selinunte is famed for its monumental temples, including the grand Temple of Hera, but recent archaeological research has uncovered another structure dedicated to the goddess’ sister, Demeter – one of the earliest Greek temples to be discovered so far to the west.

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The temple is thought to have been dedicated to Demeter because of the discovery of a terracotta bust depicting a woman wearing polos – a kind of headdress associated with the goddess and her daughter, Persephone.

6. Luxor, Egypt

1.Luxor TempleNo list of temples would be complete without a visit to Egypt. Luxor’s walls – still standing up to 20m (66ft) high and decorated with lavish carvings – contain elegant sandstone colonnades and monumental statues of Ramesses II, approached along an avenue lined with stone sphinxes.

Did you know?

The cartouches of Amenhotep III decorating the temple’s walls have blank patches where letters have been chiselled away. This is the handiwork of Amenhotep’s son, the ‘heretic king’ Akhenaten, erasing references to the god Amun (to whom the temple is dedicated), even from his own father’s name.

7. Virupaksha Temple, Hampi, India

Virupaksha temple2 CREDIT UNESCO and Niamh BurkeFounded as a place of worship in the 7th century AD, by the Medieval period the temple had evolved from a small number of shrines to a sprawling complex with pillared halls and towering gateway. Virupaksha Temple stands in the heart of Hampi, the last capital of the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar.

Did you know?

Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, Virupaksha Temple is still a centre of pilgrimage today, attracting an estimated 50,000 religious visitors every year.


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