What Are Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece?

Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece were considered sacred places where people went to worship their deities. These sanctuaries were often located on high ground or near a natural spring, and they were usually enclosed by walls or fences to create a sense of separation from the rest of the world. In this article, we will explore what these sanctuaries were and how they functioned.

The Purpose of Sanctuaries

The primary purpose of Ancient Greek sanctuaries was to provide a space for religious worship and offerings. People would come to these places to pray, make sacrifices, and seek guidance from their gods. These activities were typically led by priests or priestesses who acted as intermediaries between the worshippers and the gods.

In addition to religious activities, sanctuaries served as social gathering places where people could come together for festivals and other events. These events often included athletic competitions, music performances, and theater productions.

Sanctuary Design

The design of Ancient Greek sanctuaries was intended to evoke a sense of awe and reverence in those who visited them. The most important buildings within these sanctuaries were usually located at the center of the complex and included temples dedicated to specific gods or goddesses.

The entrances to these temples often featured grand gateways with intricate carvings and decorative elements. Inside the temples, worshippers would find statues of their deities that had been crafted by skilled artisans.

Surrounding the central temple complex were other structures such as altars for making offerings, fountains for purification rituals, and smaller shrines dedicated to lesser-known gods or local heroes.

Examples of Famous Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece

  • The Oracle at Delphi: This sanctuary was located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus and was dedicated to Apollo. It was famous for its oracle who would give prophesies to those who sought guidance.
  • The Sanctuary of Olympia: This sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus and was the home of the Olympic Games, which were held every four years.
  • The Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus: This sanctuary was dedicated to the god of healing and included a hospital where patients could receive medical treatment.


In conclusion, sanctuaries in Ancient Greece were sacred places where people went to worship their gods and seek guidance. These sanctuaries were designed to evoke a sense of reverence and awe in those who visited them, and they played an important role in the social and religious life of Ancient Greeks. Today, these sanctuaries serve as reminders of the rich cultural heritage of Ancient Greece.