cella

WHITE TEMPLE, URUK, 3200-3000 BCE

Using only mud bricks, the Sumerians erected temple platforms called ziggurats. The construction of monumental shrines without stone says a great deal about the Sumerians’ desire to provide grandiose settings for the worship of their deities.

The White Temple (whose white-washed walls suggested its modern nickname) stands atop a high platform, or ziggurat, 40 ft above the street level of the city center. A stairway on one side leads to the top but does not end in front of any of the temple doorways, necessitating two or three angular changes in direction. The bent-axis plan is the standard arrangement for sumerian temples. The corners of of the temple are oriented to the cardinal points of the compass. It is probably dedicated to Anu, the sky god.

The temple had several chambers. The central hall, or cella, was the divinity’s room and housed a stepped altar. The Sumerians referred to their temples as “waiting rooms”, a reflection of their belief that deity would descend from the heavens to appear before the priests in the cella.

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