The Great Temple in Petra, Jordan.

© Gabor Kovacs Photography/Shutterstock

Great Temple

The Ancient City

A major Nabataean temple of the 1st century BCE, this structure was badly damaged by an earthquake not long after it was built, but it remained in use (albeit in different forms) until the late Byzantine period. A theatron (miniature theatre) stands in the centre. The temple was once 18m high, and the enclosure was 40m by 28m. The interior was originally covered with striking red-and-white stucco.

The first set of stairs was fronted by a monumental propylaeum (gateway) while the courtyard at the top of the first stairs marked the lower temenos, flanked by a triple colonnade. The upper level housed the temple’s sacred enclosure, with four huge columns (made from stone discs and clad in marble) at the entrance.

Archaeologists debate the function of this so-called temple, some suggesting that it may have been used by the Nabataeans as a royal audience hall. The Romans appear to have used it in later times as a civic centre.

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Nearby The Ancient City attractions

1. Lower Temenos

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The lower section of the Great Temple, with its stepped enclosure, is thought to have been a sacred part of this major monument, the whole of which…

2. Colonnaded Street

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Downhill from the Theatre, the Colonnaded Street marks the centre of the Ancient City. The street was built around AD 106 and follows the standard Roman…

3. Upper Market

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Shops would have lined the Colonnaded Street along the front side of this colossal and as yet unexcavated building.

4. Upper Temenos

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It is worth climbing to the upper part of the Great Temple to gain a sense of the enormity of a structure that would once have occupied 7000 sq m. It is…

6. Temenos Gateway

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Built in the 2nd century AD, the gateway originally had huge wooden doors and side towers. It marked the entrance to the temenos (sacred courtyard) of the…

7. Royal Palace

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In making your way up to the Temple of Winged Lions, you might wonder what the old pile of stones opposite represents. Spread over a broad platform, this…

8. Pharaun Column

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A good landmark and the lone surviving column of a Nabataean temple.