The Landscape Guide

Sanctuary -400 

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Use: Egyptian temples owned areas of woodland, known as sacred groves. When civilization became concentrated in high density walled cities, as in Ancient Greece, sanctuaries and sacred groves took on a wider social role. They lay outside the city walls and could be used safely during times of peace. If there was a spring in the grove it would be a natural place to site an alter to a local god or to build a temple in his or her honour. In time, these places came to be used for discussion, education and physical exercise. The Greeks ran and wrestled without clothes. When exercise was a dominant use they took the name ‘gymnasium’, deriving from the Greek gumnos (meaning naked) or ‘palaestra’, from palaio (meaning to wrestle). As works of art and places of spiritual enlightenment, sacred groves were related to the temple gardens of Egypt.

Form: A cave in a wood with a natural spring of water was an ideal location. The cave became a grotto with a statue of the god and other architectural embelishments. A roofed colonade (peristyle) was used to enclose a rectangular space for athletics or wrestling. Seats were placed in alcoves (exedra) attached to the peristyle and used for discussion or teaching. The sacred grove became a public place with specialised enclosures, seats, pools, rooms for philosophers and courtyards for wrestling and exercise. Groves developed into large temple complexes for education and sport.

Delphi, Plato Academy, Athens, Temple of Olympia,