Temple of Hera II – Santa Venere, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Temple of Hera II

Paestum
Santa Venere, Italy

Also known as the Temple of Poseidon, this is one of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. 

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Hidden away deep in the Italian Mezzogiorno, on the periphery of the unassuming municipality of Capaccio in Campania, lies a breathtaking marvel of the ancient world. Paestum (originally known as Poseidonia, its original Greek name) was a Greek colony. It is best known for its three temples, which are some of the the best surviving examples of ancient Greek architecture.

The Temple of Hera II dates back to the time of the first Greek settlements in Italy. It stands tall over the grassy expanse that used to host the ancient city of Poseidonia, and it is housed within an archaeological site along with two other Greek temples and a Roman Forum.

Made of golden colored travertine, the Temple of Hera II towers about the ruins of the ancient city with its double order of Doric columns that would have supported a roof, and and now seem to hold up the sky. Archaeologists consider it an unparalleled example of Doric architecture.

The temple stands on a large base and has three main areas: a central cell, now lost, and two naves marked by rows of columns that give this imposing construction a harmonic and unexpectedly delicate appearance.

The double order of columns is unique. This is the only temple in the western Greek world with such a design. It recalls the structure of another important religious building, the famous temple of Zeus in Olympia, built around the same time. The foundations and its original altar are still visible, but the walls of the cell have been lost, probably since the Middle Ages when materials from the Temple were like taken for construction needs.  

While 18th century historians assigned the Temple to Poseidon (or Neptune to the Romans), more recent research has shown that this temple was more likely devoted to Hera. Regardless of the deity, the Temple casts a preternatural hold over its visitors, transporting them back in time.