Temple of Concordia

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The Temple of Concordia (Concord) is certainly the landmark monument of the entire Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. Its exceptional state of preservation allows us to admire a Doric temple in all its beauty. Like most of the temples, we do not know to whom this sanctuary was dedicated. The dedication to Concordia dates back to the 1500s and is attributed to the theologian Tommaso Fazello, who related this temple to a Roman inscription found nearby. Every year, the Temple of Concordia is the setting for one of the most important events in all of Sicily: the Almond Blossom Festival.

Temple of Concordia: the origin of the name

«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…»

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey.

So wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his 19th century Italian Journey. In fact, although it is now known worldwide as the Temple of Concordia, we do not know exactly to which deity it was dedicated. The attribution was made in the 16th century by the historian and theologian Tommaso Fazello. He related the temple to a first century A.D. Latin inscription found nearby, which read: “Dedicated to the unity of the people of Agrigento”. In reality there was no connection between the two. The inscription is now kept in the Archaeological Museum of Agrigento.

Architecture of the Temple of Concordia

The Temple of Concordia was built in the 5th century BC in the Doric style. The building is peripteral, that is, the colonnade follows the entire perimeter, and hexastyle, that is, with six columns on the short side. The temple stands on a base adapted to the slope of the ground formed by steps (crepidoma). The columns are surmounted by Doric capitals, surmounted by a long architrave that runs around the perimeter of the sanctuary. The two pediments on the east and west sides are also visible, while the roof has collapsed. Inside, the cella (naos), the room where the statue of the deity was kept, also placed higher than the base, an entrance hall (pronaos) and a rear compartment (opisthodomos) are perfectly recognizable. Originally, the temple of Concordia had a magnificent stucco decoration that made it look as if it was completely covered with marble.

The transformation of the temple into the Church of St. Gregory

The Temple of Concordia and the Temple of Juno were built within a short distance of each other. The former, however, has come down to us in an exceptional state of preservation. This is due to the fact that the Temple of Concordia was converted into a Christian religious building in the late 6th and early 7th centuries. As in the case of the Cathedral of Syracuse, modifications were made to adapt the building to its new function, thus preserving the structure over time. According to tradition, there was even a consecration ceremony for the church. Bishop Gregory of Agrigento, after exorcising the demons Eber and Ray, named the basilica after Saints Peter and Paul. The duality of the pagan demons and then the dedication to the pair of saints suggested that the temple may have been dedicated to two Greek deities. Among the various hypotheses put forward is that it was a temple of the Dioscuri, but in reality this cannot be established with certainty. During the 18th century, the Temple of Concordia was restored to its original form as we see it today.

Igor Mitoraj’s “Icarus Fell in Flight” Installation

Not far from the Temple of Concordia is the famous modern art installation Icarus Fell in Flight, created in 2001 by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj. In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus and Naucrates, one of the slaves of Minos, king of the island of Crete. Daedalus was an inventor at the king’s court and was commissioned to design and build a labyrinth. Inside, Minos imprisoned the Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull. According to one version of the myth, King Minos also imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth to prevent them from revealing the Labyrinth’s secrets. But the clever inventor built wings out of wax and bird feathers and managed to escape with Icarus. Daedalus told his son not to fly too high, but in his euphoria, Icarus flew too close to the sun. The wax on his wings melted, and he fell into the sea and died.

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