From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

A cella (plural cellae) is the inner chamber of a temple in Classical architecture. It is the most sacred part of a temple, housing the cult image or statue of the temple's deity. The term "cella" is often used interchangeably with naos in Greek architecture. It is enclosed by walls and usually lacks windows, making it a secluded and private space. The cella is distinct from the temple's outer portico and other surrounding structures, emphasizing its importance and sanctity.

Design and Function[edit | edit source]

The design of a cella varies according to the architectural order (Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian) and the specific traditions of the culture building the temple. However, its primary function as the home of the deity's representation remains constant across different civilizations, including the Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans. The size and complexity of a cella can range from a small, simple room to a large, elaborate chamber with an apse or multiple rooms.

In many temples, the cella is oriented to align with certain celestial events, such as the rising of the specific god's star or other astronomical occurrences significant to the deity's mythology. This alignment underscores the connection between the divine and the cosmos, a key aspect of many ancient religions.

Access and Rituals[edit | edit source]

Access to the cella was typically restricted to priests or temple officials, who performed daily rituals, offerings, and maintenance of the cult image. In some cases, during special festivals or days of significance, the general public might be allowed to enter the cella or view the deity's image from the entrance.

The rituals performed within the cella were central to the religious life of the community. These could include libations, animal sacrifices, prayers, and the singing of hymns. The specific practices varied widely depending on the deity worshipped and the local customs.

Architectural Evolution[edit | edit source]

Over time, the design and significance of the cella evolved. In early temples, the cella was often the only enclosed space, but as architectural techniques advanced, temples became more complex, with additional rooms for storage, smaller shrines, and areas for priests. The development of the peristyle, a columned porch surrounding the temple, further distinguished the cella as the most sacred and protected space.

In the Roman period, the concept of the cella was adapted for use in basilicas and public buildings, where it could serve as the location for the statue of the emperor or as a court of law. This adaptation reflects the broader cultural and religious shifts within the Roman Empire, including the blending of civic and religious functions.

Preservation and Archaeology[edit | edit source]

Many ancient cellae have been preserved, providing valuable insights into the religious and architectural practices of the past. Archaeological excavations of temple sites often focus on the cella, as it can contain artifacts, inscriptions, and other evidence crucial for understanding the temple's history and function.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD